Bromley 2-1 Sutton United - What a way to start the New Year! Live on tele, 1-0 down and then go and win it against one of your rivals, hails delighted Bromley boss Neil Smith

Tuesday 01st January 2019
Bromley 2 – 1 Sutton United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 01/01/2019 19:45

Vanarama National League
Tuesday 1 January 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he wants to start 2019 on the front foot and reach the safety target of 51 points in their next six games.

The Ravens were the last Vanarama National League club to be selected for live coverage by BT Sport and a dramatic late winner ensured their bitter rivals Sutton United were beaten at Hayes Lane.

Paul Doswell’s side would have climbed into the play-offs had they completed a league double over Bromley, having claimed a 1-0 win at Gander Green Lane on Boxing Day.

The Ravens bounced back by comfortably beating Havant & Waterlooville 3-0 on Saturday but Sutton United opened the scoring through central midfielder Kenny Davis’ third goal of the season in the eleventh minute here tonight.

Bromley are a major threat from set-pieces and both of their goals came from corners.

Striker Jonathan Hooper used his back to bundle in an equaliser 12 minutes before the break to score his third goal for his home-town club following his loan switch from Grimsby Town.

The Ravens were kicking down towards their favourite end during the second half and they scored a dramatic but well-deserved winner with 43 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock to spark wild celebrations.

Smith was about to bring striker Omar Bugiel on but changed his mind as right-back Richard Brindley had a tight hamstring so on came defender Jake Goodman, who scored his first goal for the club by burying home a far-post corner from four-yards with his first touch.

Since being beaten by Bromley 2-1 here in The FA Trophy First Round, Sutton United have beaten FC Halifax Town (1-0); Bromley and Aldershot Town (2-1) and are in eighth-place in the table with 46 points from 27 games.

Bromley climbed above Halifax into 16th place in the table with 33 points from 27 games and more importantly are eight points clear of the relegation zone with 19 league games left.

“Delighted! What a way to start the New Year! Live on tele, 1-0 down and then go and then win it against one of your rivals,” said Smith, following his side’s ninth league win of the season.

“After a fantastic performance on Saturday, the boys maintained it so I’m absolutely delighted!

“Even the defeat against Sutton, I didn’t think it was a defeat, we’re better than that.  I think a draw would’ve been a fair result (on Boxing Day). We didn’t defend well from a set-play but tonight was very pleasing to do it live on the tele and at home.”

Smith praised the home fans in the crowd of 1,428.

“The fans have been brilliant.  It’s on the tele and the easy option was to stay indoors or go to a pub and watch it but they’ve been brilliant.  They came out in their numbers and got right behind us. I’m glad they’re going home happier to get over the hangovers and maybe carrying it on!”

Bromley created an opening after just 79 seconds when Frankie Raymond swung in left-footed free-kick into the Sutton United penalty area, which was flicked into Jamie Butler’s hands by Marc-Anthony Okoye’s downward header.

Winger Luke Coulson cut in from the left wing and rolled the ball inside to Frankie Sutherland, who fed Adam Mekki, but his left-footed drive flashed across the keeper and past the far post from 25-yards.

Sutton United right-back Dale Bennett delivered a cross towards the near post but striker Jonah Ayunga bundled the ball just past the foot of the right-hand post after cutting across his man from inside the six-yard box.

Bromley striker George Porter launched a long throw into the Sutton United box, which was flicked on by Okoye at the near post but his central defensive partner Jack Holland hooked volleyed the ball into the side netting from a tight-angle.

“I think it’s got to go across the goal,” said Smith.

“We’ve said it all along our set-plays are dangerous, they’re phenomenal really and even with the long throws, so it’s something that we work on.  I think Jack’s got to put it across goal and make the keeper save it and then we get a rebound.”

Sutton United grabbed the lead with 10 minutes and 4 seconds on the clock.

Harry Beautyman floated in a cross from the right, which was cleared by Holland but the ball fell at Davis’ feet inside the D and his right-footed shot on the turn flashed across the keeper and kissed the base of the far post before nestling into the bottom corner.

“I think it bounced up between Kenny Davis and Frankie Raymond and I think Frankie Raymond could’ve done a little bit better,” said Smith.

“Kenny Davis just swivels and hits it.  I think he hit it in the one place he could’ve to get the goal so you’ve got to give him credit.

“I’m just disappointed because up until then I think we’re playing well.  I felt confident where we are we’ve started at a high tempo so I’m disappointed we gave the goal away.”

Brindley won Bromley a free-kick just outside the Sutton United penalty area but set-piece specialist Raymond curled his left-footed free-kick over the top of the right-hand post.

“Frankie’s deliveries are second to none so I can give him that one not hitting the target but we did show intent going for goal,” added Smith.

Sutton United’s left-winger Brandon Thomas-Asante tried to curl his shot around keeper David Gregory from outside the penalty area but his shot lacked curl and arrowed past the far post.

Bennett fed Ayunga with a pass along the floor and his left-footed drive from 25-yards flashed past the post.

Bromley’s best chance to equalise came in the 20th minute when Gregory’s resulting goal-kick was launched straight down the middle and Hooper drove forward and space opened up in front of him so he hit a left-footed drive from 30-yards, which forced goalkeeper Jamie Butler to fly to his right to push behind for a corner.

Smith said:  “He took it early with his left-foot and it was a great save.  It just showed we were on the way back. We hadn’t dropped our heads, we actually raised our game a little bit I think towards the end of the first half and I think it looked like we were going to score. It wasn’t a case of if, it was a case of when!”

Sutherland swung in the resulting corner from the left and Okoye rose above his marker to plant his header over the crossbar from eight-yards.

Thomas-Asante and Ayunga linked up well down the left and played the ball inside to Brett Williams, but the former Bromley striker, who is on loan from Vanarama National League South side Torquay United, curled his right-footed shot around the far post from 25-yards when left in oceans of space.

Bromley deservedly equalised with 32 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock after Sutton United left-back Nicky Bailey slid in to block Coulson’s attempted cross from the right by-line.

Raymond swung in a trademark corner from the right towards the far post and the outstanding Okoye knocked his header across goal and the ball bounced off Hooper’s back and bounced into the bottom near corner from a couple of yards out.

Smith said: “I’ve just seen it on tele. Marc attacks it really well and heads it across and it actually hits Hoops on the back and goes in, which is sometimes that little bit of luck that you need when you’re up and against it. I’ve just said out there, I’ll take that all day long!”

Bromley keeper Gregory had to be alert in the 36th minute, diving low to his left and holding onto Ayunga’s low left-footed angled drive after he cut into the penalty area from the right-hand side.

“He’s a good player,” Smith said of Ayunga.

“I like all their forwards to be fair. They’re always dangerous, they’re good players and they were always going to be a tough ask from my defenders to keep quiet but I thought up until then we had had. “

Gregory immediately threw the ball out and winger Adam Mekki drove forward with pace and curled his left-footed shot over the crossbar from 25-yards at the other end.

Bromley missed a glorious chance to take the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Holland used his head to clear a Sutton cross away and the ball bounced over Hooper’s head on the half-way line and Coulson drove forward down the right before playing Porter on the overlap.  Porter wrapped his boot around the ball and picked out Mekki unmarked at the near post but he swept his first time volley over the crossbar from 10-yards.

“He’s just got to hit it down and into the ground but Adan Mekki and Luke Coulson, like they were on Saturday, were awesome again,” hailed Smith.

“I took them off just to freshen it up a little bit because I don’t think they could’ve done any more running for us in possession or out of possession. They’re getting up a little bit of form at the moment and long may it continue!”

Smith’s words of encouragement during the interval had the desired effect as Bromley kept up their reputation of being a second-half team at Hayes Lane, attacking their favourite end, the North Bank terrace.

“It was go out and do it again! I couldn’t have asked for any more from them apart from the goal, which was disappointing and it could’ve been preventable.  I thought we created enough chances to get a goal back.  Don’t change anything, be confident, be aggressive.”

The Ravens started the half on the front foot and Brindley’s sublime pass released Coulson through on goal but he dragged his shot past the far post from 18-yards when he only had keeper Butler to beat.

Smith said:  “Again, I wanted him to just hit the target and make the keeper work but again it was a great build-up play.  I thought Richard Brindley was outstanding today, as was Woody (Sam Wood).”

Sutton United should have doubled their lead in the 50th minute.

Okoye sliced his clearance and Thomas-Asante seized on the ball on the edge of the penalty area and his left-footed shot was parried by Gregory, diving low to his right and Holland’s clearanace was chested down by Ayunga before the Sutton striker struck a volley just past the top of the right-hand post from 18-yards.

Smith felt Sutton United got away with it in the 56th minute when Beautyman clearly used his elbow to strike Raymond, sending him crashing to the deck.   Referee Carl Brook was lenient and failed to issue any cards whatsoever despite speaking to the winger after the incident.

“I think the ref was a bit linient on some and then Marc-Anthony Okoye done a sliding tackle, actually won the ball and gets a booking and it’s down the other end of the pitch.

“Whether he (Beautyman) leads with his arm or not, he catches someone in the face and he doesn’t even get a booking! I don’t get the difference but I’m not going to criticise the ref, he’s got a tough job on his hands like everyone else has but I see things differently to what he has.”

This injustice sparked Bromley into life and played some impressive football for the rest of the game.

Raymond cut inside and played the ball inside to Coulson, who dragged his right-footed shot past the left-hand post from 22-yards.

Smith has pulled off a transfer coup to bring the former Ebbsfleet United winger to Hayes Lane.

“Coulson’s brilliant and Mekki’s coming back to the old Mekki. I’ve got to give him a little bit of a run and we’ve waited for it and I think he’s started to produce what we know he can.”

Sutton United created a decent opening in the 63rd minute when Ayunga played right-back Bennett on the overlap and his cross sailed over Gregory’s right-shoulder and was headed away by Holland and an unmarked Williams saw his hooked shot loop over the far post from 15-yards.

Visiting keeper Butler launched a big kick- which was headed away by Okoye and Williams fed Craig Eastmond but his left-footed drive from 20-yards was comfortably held by Gregory, low to his left.

Sutton United missed a glorious chance to claim the victory in the 28th minute of the half – but it fell to a centre-half!

Another big kick from Butler was flicked on by centre-half Jamie Collins and Bradley Pearce hit his right-footed volley straight at Gregory from 10-yards.

Smith said: “Listen, Sutton are up there, they’re a good side, they’re a strong side, they’re a physical side.  They’re always going to be a threat and sometimes you have to ride your luck a little bit.  We haven’t had a lot in 2018 but hopefully we’re making up for it now!”

Bailey was booked for bringing down Mekki in full-flight just outside the corner of the penalty area on the right-hand side but Collins suffered an injury immediately after Sutherland stroked the resulting free-kick into the side-netting from 20-yards.

Former Cray Wanderers favourite Tom Bolarinwa had a chance to win the game for Sutton United – but another great piece of defending from Okoye ensured the chance in the final 10 minutes went begging.

Williams cut the ball back and put it on a plate for Bolarinwa but Okoye put his body on the line and the Sutton substitute lashed his first time shot over the crossbar from 10-yards.

“Marc-Anthony Okoye’s just made Tom take his eye of the ball.  Again, I thought Marc and the whole back five and David Gregory were outstanding today,” praised the Bromley boss.

Bromley striker Porter played the ball out to Sam Wood and the left-back reached the by-line and whipped in a cross, which was poked into Butler’s gloves by Hooper from a tight angle on the by-line.

However, there were wild scenes of celebration after Smith pulled off a substitute masterstroke as Goodman waited for just the right time to score his first goal for the club.

Raymond swung in a trademark piece of quality from a right-wing corner and Goodman just wanted it more than Pearce, running in at the far post to bury his header into the back of the net from four-yards, just around 20 seconds after the 25-year-old came on to the pitch.

“I wanted to win so my subs were positives.  I wanted to go and win the game. I just didn’t want to settle for a draw,” said Smith.

“I brought Zavon Hines on, I brought on Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and my final sub was going to be Omar Bugiel until Richard Brindley in the last dying minutes had a tight hamstring.

“Brinds was coming off the and then they said ‘do you want to make a substitution? It was like Yes! I want to do it now for the corner’ because they would’ve had all of their players marking our players and he would’ve been coming on and no-one would’ve known who to mark him so it was a corner for nothing, it was a sub to nothing and it worked!

“As a manager you make decisions and sometimes they do (pay off) and sometimes they don’t but that one absolutely worked.  You couldn’t ask for any more. First touch, winning goal! Brilliant! Let’s go and have a pint!

“Set-plays, we work on them and the deliveries you’ve got with Frankie and Frankie, it’s up to the players to go and get on the end of them but they’re not by accident, we work on them routinely for and against because (defending them) has been letting us down for the last few weeks.”

Sutton United almost snatched an equaliser when Bennett whipped in a cross from the right and Eastmond threw himself at the ball at the near post but his diving header flew over the crossbar.

There was still time for Hooper to put Porter through on goal but the Sutton keeper gathered the shot at the second attempt.

Butler launched one final free-kick into the Bromley box and an unmarked Williams smacked his right-footed volley over the crossbar from eight-yards down the right-hand side of the penalty area. 

Tonight’s massive win has given Bromley some breathing space as they go into Saturday’s home game against fourth-placed AFC Fylde before second-placed Wrexham come to Hayes Lane on Tuesday 8 January.

“Look, it’s brilliant for players, it’s brilliant for this club, it’s brilliant for those supporters because they’ve had a fantastic 2018, however you want to look at it. It's been an amazing year,” said Smith.

“Obviously this season is totally different. It hasn’t started how we wanted it to start but I wanted to start 2019 on the front foot, at home, in front of the cameras and just let the players show how good they really are.  We’re in a position and it never lies but we are better than where we are but we have to prove it week-in-week-out!

“Our first thought and target will always never change and it’s 51 points and we’re another step closer to that. Six wins out of the last 19 games and you’re safe.  I want to get those six wins from the next six games so we can then build and build and build.”

Bromley: David Gregory, Richard Brindley (Jake Goodman 88), Sam Wood, Frankie Sutherland, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Jack Holland, Luke Coulson (Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe 85), Frankie Raymond, George Porter, Jonathan Hooper, Adam Mekki (Zavon Hines 81).
Subs: Roger Johnson, Omar Bugiel

Goals: Jonathan Hooper 33, Jake Goodman 89

Booked: Marc Anthony-Okoye 62

Sutton United: Jamie Butler, Dale Bennett, Nicky Bailey, Craig Eastmond, Bradley Pearce, Jamie Collins (Dean Beckwith 77), Harry Beautyman, Kenny Davis (Gime Toure 90), Brett Williams, Jonah Ayunga, Brandon Thomas-Asante (Tom Bolarinwa 70).
Subs: Darren McQueen, Jude Mason

Goal: Kenny Davis 11

Booked: Brett Williams 28, Harry Beautyman 65, Nicky Bailey 74, Dale Bennett 80

Attendance: 1,428 (149 away)
Referee: Mr Carl Brook (St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Mike Desborough (Fareham, Hampshire) & Mr Louis Marks (Portsmouth, Hampshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Lee Brennan (Westminster, London SW1)