The pressures on Eastleigh, whereas we’re trying to better what we did last year, says Bromley boss Neil Smith
BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says the pressure is all on Eastleigh when the two sides meet at Hayes Lane on the opening day of the new Vanarama National League season.
The Ravens completed their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace a couple of days ago.
Neil Smith (centre, holding bottle) guided his home-town club Bromley to their highest ever finish last season, tenth-place in
the Vanarama National League.
Photo: Ed Boyden - http://www.edboydenphotos.co.uk
Louis Dennis, who has been converted from a winger to a striker, opened the scoring in a first half where Bromley were the better side against a Crystal Palace side that contained Jonny Williams, who played in Wales’ Euro 2016 Semi-Final defeat to Portugal last summer.
Crystal Palace grabbed an equaliser in the 64th minute through substitute Giovanni McGregor.
A low tempo game turned ugly when Palace striker Andre Coker and Bromley’s former Millwall full-back Alan Dunne clashed in an off-the-ball-incident late on in the game.
Bromley striker George Porter was sent-off for throwing a punch in the melee at Coker, who was also sent-off, while Dunne escaped any form of punishment.
Bromley sealed a deserved victory shortly afterwards through former Gillingham and Cambridge United striker Ben Williamson, who Smith will sit down with and discuss a deal ahead of next Saturday’s League opener.
Bromley opened their new 3G pitch at Hayes Lane, where a crowd of 1,774 watched the local derby as the Ravens celebrate their 125th anniversary.
However, before the game, the main stand was almost packed with people watching an in-house Academy game.
“It’s great to see so many kids around, having these tickets for free for under 16’s is fantastic, having all the stuff that was going on off the pitch as well as on it,” said Smith on the club hosing a family fun day.
Bromley are now preparing for life in the Vanarama National League for a third season after finishing in 14th-place under Mark Goldberg (Smith was his assistant) before Smith took over and in his first full season in charge his home-town club finished in the top ten with a club record points tally of 62.
Bromley have only beaten Eastleigh on two occasions previously and Smith wants to put that record straight.
“They’re going to be up there, they’ve said it themselves, they want promotion, they want to go up automatic,” said Smith.
“They’ve got the finances to go and get some of the players they’ve got down there.
“The pressures on them, whereas we’re trying to better what we did last year, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.
“It’s going to be tough. A team like Eastleigh, the size of them, the players they’ve got, it’s going to be tough but with team spirit we’ll give it a right good go.”
Smith has managed to sign players from some of the bigger clubs in the National League with Adam Mekki (Tranmere Rovers), Iffy Allen (Wrexham) and Brett Williams (Torquay United) among Smith’s summer arrivals.
HOME DEBUT: Former Wrexham winger Iffy Allen (white shirt) made his Bromley home debut at the weekend, as the Ravens played on their new 3G pitch for the first time.
Photo: Ed Boyden - http://www.edboydenphotos.co.uk
Only seven players have stayed from last season’s squad. Defenders Ben Chorley, Dunne, Jack Holland and Daniel Johnson, midfielder Jordan Higgs and attackers Dennis and Porter.
Smith has signed 16 players on contract and looks to take that up to 18 this week, while Academy prospects like central defender Donnell Anderson and highly-rated midfielder Aiden Enver will be in and around the squad to be called upon.
Bromley play eight former Football League sides in their opening 13 league games in the first two months of the season.
After starting with Eastleigh, who flopped last season, finishing in 15th place, Bromley travel to Dover Athletic (8 August) and Macclesfield Town (12 August) before playing two club’s that lost their Football League status last season.
Leyton Orient visit Hayes Lane to play Bromley in a League game for the first time, on Tuesday 15 August, before Smith takes his side to Hartlepool United four days later.
“You’d think that was a league programme, to have Hartlepool and Leyton Orient, they were FA Cup First Round ties for us in the past and now they’re League games,” said Smith after Bromley travelled to Leyton Orient to lose 3-0 in the FA Cup in November 2011, where Porter scored one of the O’s goals.
“We know it’s going to be tough and difficult but the whole of the season is going to be tough.”
Expectations are higher at Hayes Lane this summer that Bromley have the players to be a surprise package in the Vanarama National League this season and grab a spot in the top seven and qualify for the play-offs for the first time.
“There’s always going to be expectations, everybody wants to win the league, everybody wants to get promotion and we’re no different,” said the 45-year-old.
“There is a realism to us. I just think if we get to our game plan of playing hard for each other, working hard for each other, having that team spirit, sticking together, anything’s achievable.
“Club’s in the past have shown us, Huddersfield last year (winning the Sky Bet Championship Play-off Final), year before that Leicester (winning the Premier League title), if you can get that team spirt and the work ethic for each other you can achieve anything.
“But we know it’s going to be difficult. There are massive club’s in our division but what a division to be in at this moment in time.”
Bromley then travel to much changed Dover Athletic side for their first midweek game. Chris Kinnear’s outfit finished in sixth-place last season and it’s been all-change at Crabble this summer.
“Chris Kinnear sets them up in a certain style and they’ve got to go in and play that style and the players they’ve got in are all good players but I’m only concerned with my players and I think if we can perform and play at our best, we’ll give anybody a game,” added Smith.
Visit Bromley’s website: www.bromleyfc.tv
Bromley v Eastleigh
Vanarama National League
Saturday 5th August 2017
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF