Bromley 4-2 Ebbsfleet United - It means everything! We're starting 2018 in the play-offs, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Monday 01st January 2018
Bromley 4 – 2 Ebbsfleet United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 01/01/2018 19:45

BROMLEY  4-2  EBBSFLEET UNITED
Vanarama National League
Monday 1 January 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he wants his side to stay in the Vanarama National League Play-off zone after impressing live on television.

The Ravens welcomed the BT Sport cameras for only the second time at home in their three year stay in the top flight of non-league football and they impressed the viewers sitting at home with a thrilling 4-2 win over Ebbsfleet United in one of those special nights at Hayes Lane.

Bromley raced into an emphatic three-goal lead with goals coming in a clinical 19 minute spell, courtesy of central defender Jack Holland, striker George Porter and winger Luke Wanadio.

Ebbsfleet United pulled a goal back through Andy Drury’s drilled strike to join Holland and Porter on five goals for the season.

The Fleet then pulled a goal back nine minutes into the second half through impressive winger Sean Shields drilled finish, which set-up a nail biting second half, a game that was watched by 1,302 fans.

But Louis Dennis produced another superb trademark finish from just inside the box late on to give Bromley the three points as they claimed back the bragging rights after losing 2-1 at Stonebridge Road on Boxing Day.

Ebbsfleet United manager Daryl McMahon was asked for an interview, accepted, but he went back into his dressing room before escaping through a fire exit inside the away dressing room before getting in his car.

Bromley completed a league double over Leyton Orient with a 1-0 win at Brisbane Road on Saturday and tonight’s win puts them in sixth-place in the table on 44 points from 28 games, while Ebbsfleet Untied remain in tenth-place with 39 points from 27 games.

“Fantastic, another win, two wins on the spin, Leyton Orient away and then tonight, I can’t ask for any more from my players,” said a delighted Smith.

“Whenever you’re on tele you want to put it out there this is how good we are. We did it last season against Macclesfield away from home but to do it at home, I don’t think it’s been done, so for us to win at home with the tv cameras here, a good crowd, it couldn’t have been any better!

“It’s just nice for the club to show people how far we’ve come in the short time we’ve been in this division.  The backers, the chairman and the directors have been very supportive, so it’s a nice reward for them.”

Bromley’s age-long problem at Hayes Lane is letting the away side start the game on the front foot and that is exactly what Ebbsfleet United did.

But Bromley created the first opening inside the opening seven minutes.

Porter cut the ball back to right-back Luke Woolfenden, who whipped in a cross towards Dennis at the near post and the ball was cleared out to Adam Mekki but the former Tranmere Rovers winger hit his left-footed volley harmlessly wide from 20-yards.

Sam Magri bombed down the right and cut the ball back for Danny Kedwell, who sold a dummy and Drury took too many touches and Bromley were able to make a block from inside their penalty area.

Ebbsfleet United struck the crossbar in the tenth-minute when Shields’ curling cross from down the left-channel sailed over David Gregory’s left-shoulder and kissed the top of the far post.

“We knew they were going to come out quick but we knew we had to be defensively solid and we weren’t,” said Smith.

“We were a bit nervous, we looked nervous, I think the TV cameras might have had a part to play but I thought we grew into the game and I thought as soon as we got that goal, I think there was only one team in it.”

Ebbsfleet United squandered an excellent chance to open the scoring when Jack Powell’s dink played in Luke Coulson, but he couldn’t get the ball out from underneath his feet and dinked his shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from eight yards.

“There was a few, they’re a good side. If you look at the players they’ve got, they’ve played in the League and we’ve got players who were playing in National South last season so for us to be in and amongst it is fantastic,” said Smith.

The lively Mekki drove a deflected shot past the foot of the left-hand post and Bromley grabbed the lead, against the run of play at the time, from the resulting corner, with 16 minutes and 44 seconds on the clock.

Frankie Sutherland swung in the ball from the left, the ball was cleared out to Dennis, who played the ball to Porter, who fed Dennis, who cut across the box to reach the right by-line.

He whipped in a cross towards the near post for Holland to stroke his volley into the bottom right-hand corner from four-yards.

“We’ve been working on our set-pays and it was the second phase of it that we got the goal from so what we’ve always said is to stay alive. If you don’t win the first one, you might get the second bite and Jack Holland was there to put it away.”

Bromley doubled their lead with 27 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock, courtesy of Porter’s cheeky back-heal.

Wanadio played the ball into Josh Rees and Mekki’s low drive took a deflection and fell kindly for Porter, who only had goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore to beat.

Porter took a few moments to steady himself and from a tight angle, with Ashmore on the deck, struck the base of the near post before back-healing the ball into the bottom near corner from three-yards out.

Smith said: “I don’t know what George Porter was doing! I was closing my eyes! I thought just go and finish it and he’s hit the post and he’s tried to back-heal it.

“George was immense today. I’m glad he’s got his goal because he’s worked so hard for this team doing all the unseen stuff and for him to get the goal today is fully deserved, he’s worked his socks off.”

Porter threw the ball into the box and it came out to Sutherland, who hit a right-footed volley from 20-yards, which rolled into Ashmore’s hands for a comfortable save.

Dennis will take credit for Bromley’s third goal, when it arrived with 35 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Tyrone Sterling and Sutherland linked up down the left and Wanadio whipped in a right-footed cross from the left.  Dennis made a run in to put off the keeper and the ball curled around the keeper into the far corner.

It was Wanadio’s sixth-goal of the season and League One neighbours Charlton Athletic are interested in the former Dartford striker.

“I’ve been saying, put the ball in an area and if Louis doesn’t run across the keeper, doesn’t take his eye off the ball, if he hadn’t made that run across him, it would just go straight into his hands so without Louis’ run that doesn’t go in.  Louis done well today.”

When asked whether there has been any interest from Football League clubs, Smith replied: ”Not at this moment but I haven’t been picking my phone up to many people! There might be now the (transfer window is open) you might get a few people and I wouldn’t be surprised with people that I have got in this team.  They have shown exceptional quality since the start of the season and it’s now making sure they continue that.”

Bromley proved just why they are an entertaining side to watch and that BT Sport should be more regular visitors to Hayes Lane.

Ebbsfleet United grabbed a lifeline when they pulled a goal back with 38 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.

It came courtesy of a rare mistake from Holland, who allowed Magri’s header drop in behind him and Drury controlled the ball inside the box before drilling his left-footed volley past Gregory into the bottom near corner from 10-yards.

Smith said: “Jack Holland just got caught flat-footed with a ball over his head, which is very rare!  That’s why we took our eye off the ball really and when you’ve got somebody like Drury, Druy’s not going to miss those chances!

“They’ve got fantastic players and if you give them a chance and that’s what we said, don’t give them a chance, they’re going to take it.  I was disappointed coming in at half-time with that goal if I’m brutally honest.”

When asked about his thoughts at the break, Smith said: “When you’ve got a team like that and they’ve just got a goal just before half-time, don’t give them another lift! Stifle the game, slow it down, just be professional and win the game – not us!  We go and give them another goal!”

Bromley started the second half on the front foot and created several chances inside the opening exchanges.

Dennis drove over the halfway line and once inside the Ebbsfleet penalty area his right-footed drive was comfortably caught by Ashmore after only 63 seconds.

Mekki was then left in acres of space out on the right wing and his speculative dipping cross-cum-shot was pushed over by a backpeddling Ashmore.

Wanadio then sped past Dean Rance down the left wing, cut in towards the edge of the penalty area and his shot rolled into the keeper’s hands for a comfortable save.

Rees then played the ball out to Mekki, who cut into the box before slicing his shot wide.

“We’re going to create chances with the players I’ve got in the side, when you’ve got Louis Dennis, when you’ve got Luke Wanadio, got Adam Mekki, George Porter, you’re going to cause problems.

“We’re still top goalscorers (46) in the league now. I’ve got to make sure when we haven’t got possession, we get in a position where we don’t give goals away and that’s what happened.”

Ebbsfleet United scored their second goal of the night with eight minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

The ball was worked out to Shields out on the right.  He dominated Sterling in the second half.  Shields cut into the box and drilled his right-footed angled drive from 14-yards which flashed past the keeper at his near post.

Smith said: “He’s in there now apologising, that is so unlike Gregory. He’s been so good. He won us three points (at Leyton Orient) on Saturday with one of the saves he did.  I’m not going to knock him for it because he’s been outstanding this season so one effort that he’s turned round and said ‘I should have done better,’ he’s held his hands up, so we’ll take that.”

Shields swung in Ebbsfleet’s second corner of the night, which was headed away by Roger Johnson and Kenny Clark’s shot was blocked and Dave Winfield flicked his looping shot wide.

Dennis issued Ebbsfleet a warning in the 65th minute when he raced at their defence and played the ball into Wanadio, who teed up Dennis who hit a right-footed drive from 20-yards, which was held by Ashmore going to his left.

Draw-specialists Ebbsfleet United squandered an excellent chance to deservedly equalise inside the final 20 minutes.

Shields whipped in a cross from the right and Gregory rose high to his right to palm the ball onto Danny Kedwell’s head but the Ebbsfleet striker headed wide of the left-hand post from four-yards out.

“Nervy? Of course it is, it’s Bromley, it’s what we do,” said Smith.

“We then start defending deep. We did it on Saturday! We start going in the box and anything can sort of happen and again Greggor’s showing his character, came out for a couple of crosses, took a couple of corners and all off a sudden slowed it down a little bit and we got our confidence back and our shape.”

Reflecting on Kedwell’s miss, Smith added: “I know they’re going to have chances, they’re an outstanding side! Some of their players have played in the League. Kedwell and Drury have been at the top end of it as well.  All the players they’ve got are very experienced at this level. We’re still a new side and we’re still learning but we’ve got to learn fast!”

Shields then whipped in another cross and Kedwell laid the ball out to Weston, who drove in a low angled drive, which was spilt by Gregory at his near post and the ball bounced off Holland and trickled just past the foot of the near post for another corner.

Bromley were desperate to find a fourth goal from somewhere inside the final 10 minutes to kill the game off to wrap up their 12th league win of the season.

Gregory launched a big kick down the field, Dennis flicked the ball on, substitute striker Bret Williams teed up Rees, who struck a right-footed dipping volley screaming just over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Drury floated in a free-kick into the Bromley box and Kedwell steered his header comfortably into Gregory’s hands.

Ten-goal midfielder Rees went close again when he cracked a right-footed drive from 25-yards, which screamed across Ashmore and curled around the far post.

“I think he should do more of that, I think he’s got it in his locker to do it but he just held back, I’m pleased with Josh,” added Smith, who explained why he took off Wanadio, Mekki and Porter.

“I brought Jordan Higgs on, who done extremely well when he came on and Frankie Raymond in midfield.

“I took my wide players off because I just felt George had run himself into the ground, I needed to give him a rest. The game against Leyton Orient took a hell of a lot out of us, it was a heavy pitch, the occasion and everything else and we only had a day’s recovery. I’ve got a small squad and I had to use it to the max.”

But Bromley grabbed a much-needed fourth goal with 39 minutes and 44 seconds on the clock.

Substitute holding midfielder Jordan Higgs cut the ball back to Porter, who was now deployed on the left-wing and he sliced his clearance across the penalty area, which came out to Dennis, who produced a trademark finish, chesting the ball before hooking in a shot towards goal from 16-yards, which deflected off Rance and looped over Ashmore into the top left-hand corner.

“As soon as it hits someone you know you’ve got the dip on it, you know it’s going to go over the keeper and go in the back of the net,” said Smith.

“Just all off a sudden then the relief comes on and you know you’ve won the game and when you’ve got someone like Roger Johnson at the back as well shoring it up, you’re not going to give another goal away.”

This Bromley team are special and delivered on their big night and are more than capable of surprising many people – including their own fans – by winning promotion at the end of this season or next.

Macclesfield Town lead the table with 54 points on the board from 28 games.

The play-off places are occupied by Aldershot Town (48 points from 28); Sutton United (46 points from 28); Dover Athletic (45 points from 28); Wrexham (45 points from 27); Bromley (44 points from 28) and Tranmere Rovers (43 points form 27).

“It just means everything! I’ve said to the boys they were starting 2018 and we’re in the play-offs and I don’t think anyone gave us a chance!  I think everyone though we’d be 18th-19th something like that and the boys have worked extremely hard to achieve that. 

“Now you’re in there you want to stay in there but first and foremost our target was to get those 51 points as soon as we can, we’re not far off now.

“We want to stay in the play-off zone for as long as we can, take it right to the end if we can. We know it’s going to be difficult. We’re halfway through the season but I’ve got a squad of players that everybody wants to play and be in that team. That’s all I ever wanted. I don’t want people to think they’ll always be selected, they’re going to have to earn their place now.

“Alan Dunne is the only injury (knee) I’ve got. Kieron Campbell and Ben Wynter are out on loan (to Hampton & Richmond Borough and Bognor Regis Town) and Iffy Allen has got to fight for his place if he wants to stay here.  He’s going to have to fight. He’s got two players who are in front of him.  You either give up or you work even harder!”

Bromley: David Gregory, Luke Woolfenden, Tyrone Sterling, Josh Rees, Roger Johnson, Jack Holland, Luke Wanadio (Jordan Higgs 67), Frankie Sutherland, George Porter (Frankie Raymond 88), Louis Dennis, Adam Mekki (Brett Williams 74).
Subs: Dan Johnson, Dominic Vose

Goals: Jack Holland 17, George Porter 28, Luke Wanadio 36, Louis Dennis 85

Ebbsfleet United: Nathan Ashmore, Sam Magri, Sean Shields, Dave Winfield, Chris Bush (Marvin McCoy 77), Kenny Clark, Jack Powell (Myles Weston 46), Dean Rance, Danny Kedwell, Andy Drury, Luke Coulson (Bradley Bubb 72).
Subs: Aaron McLean, Jonathan Miles

Goals: Andy Drury 39, Sam Shields 54

Booked: Sam Magri 47, Bradley Bubb 89, Kenny Clark 90

Attendance: 1,302 (259 away)
Referee: Mr Sam Purkiss (Highbury, London N5)
Assistants: Mr George Byrne (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) & Mr Daniel Simpson (West Drayton, Middlesex)
Fourth Official: Mr Jacob Miles (Peacehaven, East Sussex)

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EMAIL STEPHEN McCARTNEY:
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