Bromley 1-0 Sutton United - I want to be in with the big boys and just establish ourselves as a very, very good National League side looking to push on, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Monday 26th December 2016
Bromley 1 – 0 Sutton United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 26/12/2016 15:00

Vanarama National League
Boxing Day, Monday 26th December 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he wants to challenge the big-boys during their last 20 league games of the season.

The Ravens have climbed up four places into ninth in the Vanarama National League table following their eleventh-league win of the season on 38 points.  They are 14 points clear above relegation but now only eight points adrift of the play-offs.

Louis Dennis, 24, came off the bench to score a dramatic last-gasp winner to score his third goal of an injury plagued season – the goal timed at four minutes and 31 seconds at the end of stoppage time at the end of the game.

Bromley attracted their largest crowd of the season as 2,036 saw the Ravens claim the local bragging rights and keep Bromley’s unlikely play-off dream alive.

“Very scrappy but absolutely delighted for Louis to go and score the winner and being such a fantastic goal just tops it off,” said Smith, 45, who is in charge of his home-town club.

“If you’re going to score the winner, score it in the 94th minute, so we’ll take that!

“Louis has been in some very dark places with his injury and stuff like that and we know what Louis can do.  Louis at his best is a fantastic player and I’ve got to get the best out of him now, but he’s got to want it and he’s got to do it himself as well.”

Sutton United dominated the first half as Bromley were yet again slow starters at Hayes Lane.

Paul Doswell’s side should have taken the lead inside the opening five minutes following the first of seven first half corners.

Roarie Deacon swung in a corner from the right and striker Craig McAllister steered his free header past the right-hand post from 12-yards.

“We know who’s player that was and it didn’t happen again after that so we knew he had to mark him,” said Smith.

“We knew they would come here for set-pieces and we had to be strong at it.”

Sutton United enjoyed plenty of possession during the first half as Bromley struggled to impress in front of a lucrative Boxing Day crowd.

Sutton United should have done better when Bradley Hudson-Odoi found space down the left and his cross found Deacon in space but a poor touch from the Sutton winger inside the box got Bromley off the hook.

Bromley were given another let off in the 28th minute, following Sutton United’s sixth corner of the game.

Hudson-Odoi played a short corner along the by-line to Deacon, whose cross wasn’t cleared and Sutton United striker Matt Tubbs sliced his left-footed volley wide of the left-hand post from 10-yards.

“If you give Tubbs a chance in the 18-yard box, he normally hits the garget so we got away with that,” admitted Smith.

It took Bromley 39 minutes to register their first chance of the game, but Smith’s men finished the half on the front foot.

Blair Turgott stepped up slice his right-footed free-kick harmlessly wide of the far post from 30-yards.

Turgott’s dinked pass from the right was controlled by George Porter, who snatched at his shot from 16-yards, which cleared the crossbar.

Bromley winger David Martin was causing Sutton United’s right-back Nicky Bailey problems and he sprinted to the by-line to wrap his left-footed around the ball to hang over a cross, which Porter sent his header looping over the crossbar from 10-yards, while under pressure.

“We knew we had to get width, we didn’t get Blair on it nearly enough in the first half.  David going out the other side got a great ball in and George was in the 18-yard box a little bit too early,” said Smith.

“We’re doing the best we can. It was all about creating. It was never going to be a free-flowing football game. You only have to look at the pitch at the moment, it’s always going to be difficult.  People are going to have two or three touches when they only want to do one or two, but it’s a case of staying in the game and I thought we did it perfectly today.”

Bromley clearly missed winger/striker Tobi Sho-Silva and central midfielder Lee Minshull.

“Tobi took a knock last week (in the 2-1 win at Macclesfield Town). We were hoping he’d be fit, it’s probably a couple of days too soon so maybe Tobi will be available for New Years’ Day.  Lee Minshull is probably another eight days away.”

Smith admitted that his side’s performance had to improve during the second half.

He said: “We haven’t started, we wanted to start with a tempo and endeavour and we didn’t and it was a case of getting back to where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing really well.

“We’ve had one defeat in 11 games so we’ve been doing everything right but I don’t think we’ve started at all today, but I thought second half we did it a lot better.”

Bromley created their first opening, only 124 seconds into a vastly-improved second half performance.

Martin skipped past a couple of players in midfield and pinged a diagonal to Turgott, who chose the best option was to roll the ball back to right-back Daniel Johnson, who delivered a cross which Adam Cunnington glanced just past the far post.

Smith said: “Again, he was in there probably too early so it was a standing jump and he’s headed it, instead of heading it back across the goal, he’s headed it to this near post. It was going to be few chances and it was who could take them.”

A sea of amber shirts were in front of Turgott, Bromley’s 12-goal winger, whose right-footed drive from 25-yards brought a comfortable save from Sutton United keeper Ross Worner.

But Bromley keeper Alan Julian was called into action just the once.  The Stevenage based keeper diving smartly to his right to deny McAllister doubling his account for the season from the edge of the box in the 55th minute.

Smith was full of praise for his 33-year-old stopper, who has had a decent second season at the club.

He said: “Great save and that’s what Alan Julian does. He’s so experienced that if he doesn’t have a lot to do, he doesn’t lose focus and doesn’t lose concentration so when he has been called into action he was there for us.”

Bromley central defender Rob Swaine headed the ball clear but Simon Downer drilled his left-footed shot high over the crossbar from 16-yards after 57 minutes.

The game then turned into a midfield stalemate, but Bromley edged the chances from that point.

Cunnington sliding challenge won the ball in midfield and Jordan Higgs pinged the ball forward to Turgott, who dragged his right-footed shot past the far post from the edge of the box with 12 minutes left.

“He dragged it,” said Smith. “He had Bradley Goldberg outside of him that he could’ve laid in but when somebody’s scored as many goals as he has, you can see he’s so confident and he thinks he can score from anywhere.”

The hardworking Cunnington then flicked his header into the left-hand side of the penalty area for substitute Bradley Goldberg, who cut inside and hit an angled drive which screamed across the keeper and past the far post with only a couple minutes of normal time still to play.

Smith said: “If he could’ve scored from that angle, he’d be a genius! I would’ve paid money myself to come in and watch that!

“It was great for Brad to get in there and just show a bit of energy and was unlucky to score from that angle.  Paul Daniels (a magician who died this year) would’ve had trouble pulling something out of that!”

But Bromley snatched victory through Dennis’ sublime finish with Smith quick to praise Cunnington for chasing a lost cause down the right channel in the build-up.

Joe Anderson swung in Bromley’s fifth corner of the game from the right. Sutton headed the ball out of their box through Jamie Collins, who gave the corner away. Deacon’s second header dropped at Dennis’ feet, who took a touch before whipping his beautiful left-footed dipping drive looping into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards to ensure Bromley’s first meeting against their bitter-rivals Sutton United at non-league football’s top table finished in celebration.

Smith added: “We didn’t get that corner if Adam Cunnington doesn’t chase the ball into the corner and a nothing ball was charged down and we get a corner from that so if Adam doesn’t chase that lost cause we don’t get the chance to put the ball in the box with a minute to go.

“As much as it’s a great finish, without Adam doing that needless running, we don’t get that opportunity.

“Great finish! Louis does that in training. I’ve just got to replicate that every week now on Saturday’s.”

Smith admitted he had every faith in his side to come out on top in their biggest derby of the season.

“You ask Loves (assistant manager Steve Lovell), I turned round with 10 minutes to go and said ‘we haven’t had our chance yet! We’ve still got another chance to go’.

“For Louis to produce that bit of magic, if you’re going to win a game, win a game like that!

“It’s fantastic (support). Winning at last and giving them something to go home with. They probably didn’t think it was going to come. Fair play to the supporters, they’ve been brilliant. Hopefully that’s a little bit of a reward for all the support that they’ve given me since I took the job.”

Tranmere Rovers go into the New Year sitting proudly at the summit with 53 points from 26 games, while Lincoln City (52 points from 25 games); Forest Green Rovers (48 points from 25); Barrow (46 points from 24) and Dagenham & Redbridge (46 points from 26) occupy the play-off places.

Dover Athletic follow in sixth with 45 points from 45 games, followed by Chester and Aldershot Town, who have sealed 39 points from 26 games each.

Bromley are next in ninth-place and Sutton United remain in fourteenth-place on 32 points from 25 games.

Bromley are above clubs such as Eastleigh, Wrexham, Torquay United and Maidstone United, while Southport, Guiseley, York City and North Ferriby United are struggling in the relegation zone.

Bromley finished in fourteenth place in their debut season on 60 points from 46 games and are quietly making a charge up the league table.

“It’s just brilliant we’ve finished this year, we’re ninth at the moment. I think if someone had offered you that at the beginning of the season I’d take it,” said Smith.

“Finishing the year in ninth place but we’ve got a long way to go yet. We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but while we’re nicking results and taking results, I think we’re unbeaten in December, I’ll take it.

“I want to be consistently in the top ten, nine, something like that so we know it’s going to be tough. It’s so tight in that little middle third but the boys have just shown that they’ve not given up, they’ve got the strength of character to produce a result like that.”

Bromley travel to Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane for the return match on Sunday 1 January 2017 (15:00), where a double over their bitter rivals will be as sweet as completing the double over them during the Ravens Conference South title winning campaign.

“We’ve got a day off tomorrow, we’ll be in on Wednesday and we’ll have a chat. We’ll have a watch of the video because it wasn’t good enough in terms of where we are and setting our standards and making sure that when we play them next week we’re a lot more at it.

“I know Dos (Paul Doswell) but he won’t want to concede defeat again the way he has today. We know it’s going to be a tough game.  I wouldn’t expect anything different from Sutton, who have had a fantastic season, so I’ve just got to make sure I prepare my boys.”

With Smith guiding the club towards the magical 50 point safety mark, Smith was asked whether his side could grab a play-off place at the end of year two.

“I’m just going to keep looking one game ahead. We’ve got Sutton. I said to the boys our target, if we win today, our target is the top ten.  You’re in the top ten, you can start the New Year in the top ten, first page of that programme and they’ve achieved it.

“I now want to be in and amongst the big boys and it’s going to take a lot of hard, hard work during the rest of the season.

“I’ve got players coming back to fitness so there’s competition as well.

“I want to keep this run going for as long as I can, touch wood, because the boys have worked hard to achieve what we’ve achieved but we know it’s not done by any means. We’ve got to work even harder now for the rest of the season.

“Little old Bromley, I want to be in and amongst them right through to the end of the season.

“I want to be in with the big boys and just establish ourselves as a very, very good National League side looking to push on.”

Bromley: Alan Julian, Daniel Johnson, Joe Anderson, Connor Dymond, Rob Swaine, Jack Holland, David Martin (Louis Dennis 67), Jordan Higgs, George Porter (Bradley Goldberg 76), Adam Cunnington, Blair Turgott.
Subs: Jordan Wynter, Ben Chorley, Reece Prestedge

Goal: Louis Dennis 90

Booked: Connor Dymond 67, Adam Cunnington 90

Sutton United: Ross Worner, Nicky Bailey, Ben Jefford, Craig Dundas (Bedsente Gomis 76), Simon Downer, Jamie Collins, Bradley Hudson-Odoi (Dan Fitchett 80), Craig Eastmond, Craig McAllister, Matt Tubbs (Maxime Biamou 80), Roarie Deacon.
Subs: Adam May, Wayne Shaw

Booked: Craig Dundas19, Simon Downer 74, Nicky Bailey 90

Attendance: 2,036 (183 away)
Referee: Mr Neil Hair (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire)
Assistants: Mr Paul Evans (Hartwell, Northamptonshire) & Mr Grant Taylor (Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Parker (Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex)

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