Bromley 0-1 Sutton United - I think the play-offs are slipping away from us if I've got to be brutally honest, admits hurting Bromley boss Neil Smith

Saturday 29th February 2020
Bromley 0 – 1 Sutton United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 29/02/2020 15:00

Vanarama National League
Saturday 29 February 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith admits his side's promotion dream is slipping away from them after suffering a smash-and-grab raid by their bitter rivals Sutton United at Hayes Lane.

Bromley created 14 goalscoring chances to Sutton United’s three and Omar Bugiel, 25, scored his tenth goal of the season to claim the undeserved victory.

Both sides last tasted victory on 1 January 2020 with Bromley beating Dover Athletic 3-0 at Hayes Lane, while Sutton United thrashed Woking 6-2 at Gander Green Lane.

Bromley have picked up just one point since beating Andy Hessenthaler’s side here and have now slipped down to 12th place in the Vanarama National League table, stuck on 51 points from their 37 games, three points adrift of the play-offs, having now extended their winless run to nine games.

Matt Gray’s side, however, have climbed up a place into fifteenth-place in the table with 46 points from their 35 games after ending a run of six games without a win.

Smith made a couple of changes to his side that lost 2-0 to Wrexham here last weekend with Jack Holland coming back in to partner Dave Winfield at the heart of defence, while Josh Rees came in to relegate Frankie Raymond to the bench.

“I think we’ve created enough chances to win three games today,” said Smith.

“Everyone’s moaning about the referee but I still think the referee hasn’t stopped us from scoring.

“It’s coming down to a bit of composure and better finishing.  I wouldn’t even like to say how many chances we’ve created to theirs. They had one in the first half and scored and we had how many in the first 15 minutes? We could’ve been two or three in front before they’ve had an attempt at goal so it’s disappointing in that respect really.”

Chris Bush slotted in at left-back as Smith didn’t want to risk Sam Wood, who failed a fitness test with a hamstring issue.

Smith said: “He had a fitness test and I didn’t want to lose Sam Wood for the rest of the season and if we’d had played him today there was every chance he would’ve pulled something, so that’s why Chris Bush played left-back and hopefully with a bit of rehab Woody will be available for next Saturday.”

Sutton United started the game briefly on the front foot and created their first opening with only 128 seconds on the clock.

Winger David Ajiboye ran into some space down the right channel before playing the ball into 17-goal central midfielder Harry Beautyman, who floated in a cross towards the penalty spot which saw Bugiel rise to steer his header wide.

Bromley started to dominate proceedings and created their first opening with three minutes and 45 seconds on the clock.

Bush launched his second of 11 long throws into the Sutton United box, the ball was headed out and winger Corey Whitely rolled the ball back for Luke Coulson to whip an inviting cross towards the far post where striker Michael Cheek rose to steer his header over from a tight angle inside the six-yard box.

Bromley swiftly created another chance from a set-piece when Bush floated in a free-kick and Holland’s towering header arrowed just past the right-hand post, as eight Sutton players lined up alongside six Bromley players waiting for the delivery.

Bromley were knocking on the door as Sutton United parked the bus in numbers and Billy Bingham cut the ball onto his left-foot before hitting his 25-yard drive screaming over the crossbar.

Bromley missed a glorious chance to take an eleventh minute lead, through route-one football.

Goalkeeper Mark Cousins launched a big right-footed kick straight down the heart of the pitch, the ball was flicked on by Cheek and Ben Williamson latched onto the ball and from a tight angle his shot was smothered low down by visiting goalkeeper Nik Tzanev.

“I think, again, he should’ve taken it earlier. He had an extra touch, (the goalkeeper) closes down the angle and then he’s hit it straight at the keeper,” said a frustrated Smith.

“The keeper gets all the plaudits for a great save but I think he should’ve done it a lot earlier.  I think everything was hit at the keeper today.”

Bromley were attacking the north terrace during the first half, which Bromley usually defend in the first half and Smith explained why this was the case.

“I thought that was the best we’ve started for a long time on the front foot,” said Smith.

“I purposely went into the end where there’s a bit of noise, try to generate that atmosphere and you just gift them a goal and I don’t believe they (Sutton’s players) ever thought they were going to come away from here with a result.”

The 23-year-old New Zealand international goalkeeper thwarted a dominant Bromley again with 12 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock.

Bush floated a cross into the Sutton United box for Cheek, who knocked the ball back across goal to find Whitely, who put the ball back where it came from and Cheek’s downward header from four-yards, which was heading for the bottom corner, was blocked by the keeper’s legs.

However, Sutton United snatched the victory with 15 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Left-winger Will Randall won the ball off Whitely down the bottom left channel and from the by-line he cut the ball back to left-back Ben Wyatt, who cut the ball back for Bugiel, who stroked his first-time left-footed drive past Cousins from six-yards after getting in behind Holland at the near post to score the winner.

Smith said: “It was always going to be on that one.  I thought Omar first half was a handful, second half I don’t think he was, he didn’t do anything!

“Defensively, I thought we were solid. One lapse, one lapse and it has killed us.”

Halfway through the first half and Bromley’s wastefulness in front of goal continued.

Bromley went route-one again when Cousins launched a right-footed free-kick upfield, the ball dropped over Sutton United’s centre-half Coby Rowe but Williamson stabbed his shot past the foot of the near post from a tight angle.

Sutton United were a well-organised outfit and parked the bus on many occasions as they invited Bromley’s pressure onto them.

Sutton United were on the ropes when Bush delivered a deep cross towards the edge of the Sutton United box where Holland (who was up for a set-piece) hooked his shot straight into the gloves of Tzanev for a comfortable catch.

“It’s going to be the same thing, we’ve got to be better! You can’t create those amount of chances, we did it last week, we created chances, we created chances against Stockport and we haven’t put them away and we’re getting chances,” said Smith.

Sutton United’s defenders were enjoying heading practice as Bromley’s direct play saw the home side launch too many long balls forward from the back, from the half-hour mark until the interval.

Kizzi threw the ball inside to Bingham, who took a touch and as space opened up in front of him, the former Gillingham central midfielder dragged his left-footed shot past the right-hand post from 30-yards on the stroke of half-time.

“I had a go at them at half-time because they didn’t deserve the goal but again just keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll create,” said Smith.

“The wind was against us. I know I’ve got players in there that can get on it and run with the ball and get chances in the box. It just needs someone to take it, you need someone to have that belief that they’re going to score!”

The first 20 minutes of the second half proved to be a stalemate but referee Elliott Swallow consulted his fourth official John Pike before issuing a red-card and sending off Bromley coach Alan Dunne for showing dissent in the 61st minute.

“Like everybody else, I thought he (the referee) was inept. I thought that was the poorest referee performance I’ve seen in a long time,” claimed Smith.

“I don’t like blaming the referee, like I said, he hasn’t stopped us from scoring goals but you do get frustrated, like we all do, so not happy with that and I’ll have a chat with Dunny but at the same time I can feel his frustration.”

Smith switched formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 following the 55th minute introduction of winger Aaron Rowe giving Bromley a shot in the arm with an increased tempo.

The Lillywhites squandered a glorious chance to equalise in the 65th minute but Rees fluffed his big chance.

Whitely drove through the heart of the pitch with the ball at his feet before playing the ball out wide on the right to Rowe, who fizzed a low cross across the penalty area for Rees to burst into the box before hitting his first-time shot over the crossbar from 12-yards.

“It just goes behind him and he hooks it but we were just getting adjusted to the weather,” said Smith.

“We had the wind in the first half and we knew we had to play to feet in the second half, so I made the changes when I did bringing Aaron Rowe on and Frankie Raymond, just to get on the ball more.

“You’re not going to be able to slide it down the side and I thought it worked. Aaron looked dangerous when he was on the ball.”

Another chance went begging in the 28th minute when Cheek shielded the ball from his marker on the half-way line before playing a five-yard pass inside to Rees, who clipped a first time ball over the top to put Coulson in on goal but his half-volley was beaten away by the impressive Tzanev at his near post.

Sutton United offered very little in attack with Bingham snuffing out the threat from Beautyman.

Bromley, who suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Wrexham last weekend, almost conceded a second goal after going with a three-man central defence of Holland (right), Dave Winfield (central) and Bush (left).

Randall was released down the left, he cut into the box and stepped inside Holland on the edge of the six-yard box but Cousins came off his line to narrow the angle and smothered the ball low to his right.

“He smothers it, Mark comes out before the guy and gets a shot off.  If you’re looking at chances they’ve had, you’ve got it on one hand,” added Smith.

Bromley dominated the final 15 minutes as they threw the kitchen sink at Sutton United’s parked bus, well marshalled by centre-halves Ben Goodliffe and former Haringey Borough man Coby Rowe, who often put his body on the line.

Coulson’s sublime touch just outside the Sutton United box (after a defensive clearance from the away side) saw him bring the ball down before poking the ball to Cheek on his left and he whipped in a great cross but substitute striker Adrian Clifton’s goal famine continued as he slid in and the ball flashed past the far post.

Winfield got away with just a booking for a professional foul on Rob Milsom, who got in behind the 31-year-old centre-half.

Sutton United went close from the resulting free-kick which Rob Milson whipped just past the far post from 24-yards.

Later on, Clifton was through on goal and was tripped by last man Goodliffe, who picked up a yellow card after Cheek was booked for dissent.

Bromley’s two centre-halves missed chances as Smith’s men continued to pile on the pressure.

Bromley, who won the corner count 8-2, went close when Rowe played a one-two with Coulson following a short corner before crossing the ball into a crowded Sutton box.

The ball dropped at Winfield’s feet just 14-yards from goal and he swept his shot into the ground and watched it loop agonisingly over the top of the right-hand post.

“What’s missing? That composure in front of goal, that scruffy goal. We’re hitting things too well, like when he hit the ball into the ground and it just goes over, when he should’ve scuffed it into the other end,” said Smith.

Bromley were denied the equaliser with four minutes and 18 seconds on the clock, exactly 120 seconds before the referee blew his final whistle.

Rowe and Coulson were linking up well down the left and Coulson cut the ball onto his right-boot on the touchline before whipping in a deep cross towards the far post for Holland to rise above his man to bury his header towards the roof of the net from six-yards, only for the outstanding Tzanev to stick up his right hand to push the ball over his crossbar.

“Even at the end when we had the header and the geezer tips it over and I generally believe the boys don’t believe, they believe in themselves and they don’t believe they’re going to lose but at the same stage you just need someone to scuff one in, just get the boys in that mode,” said Smith, whose side have now failed to score in their last three games, 270 minutes in fact.

Despite spending six weeks at the summit in the Vanarama National League table, Bromley have now slipped down to 12th place in the table with nine games remaining, starting with a trip to second-placed Harrogate Town next Saturday (17:20), a game being shown live on BT Sport.

Barrow’s title charge continued as a 2-1 home win over Dagenham & Redbridge has them on 70 points with 10 games remaining.

Harrogate Town (62 points from 35 games); Yeovil Town (57 points from 36 games); Boreham Wood (56 points from 35 games): FC Halifax Town (55 points from 34 games); Solihull Moors (54 points from 36 games) and Stockport County (54 points from 37 games) are in the play-off zone.

Dover Athletic (53 points from 36 games); Woking (52 points from 36 games); Notts County (51 points from 34 games) and Hartlepool United (51 points from 36 games) are now above Bromley, who are only 11 points clear of the relegation zone.

“We’re hurt, we’re hurt. We’re down on our luck at the moment but I think we did enough to create enough. A little lucky goal, we’re not having it at the moment but we’ve got to keep going and we’ll keep working,” said Smith.

“It’s hard, I keep saying they did ok, they did well, we didn’t deserve to lose - but we have.”

When asked if Bromley can still grab a play-off place, Smith admitted: “I think it’s slipping away from us if I’ve got to be brutally honest. We’ll keep going, we’ll never give up. That’s this club but at the same time you’ve got to start winning games and we’re not at the moment.

“We’ve gone now 9 games without a win and I don’t think there’s many games where you can go ‘well we deserved to lose on that one.’

“At the moment when it’s not happening for you, it’s not happening. You just need someone to step up and be brave enough to do the business.”

Smith insists there is no pressure on him at boardroom level, with his side suffering their worst run of form this season.

“No, there’s no pressure at all. The only pressure I get is what I put on myself,” said Smith.

“I think today was a game we should’ve won. It was a game we could’ve won and we wanted to win and it’s a real kick in the teeth, not to get a result.

“I know the fans are disappointed and they’re seeing the season sort of fizzing out and we are trying to do our best, we are trying to get that result, it’s just not happening for us.”

On their trip to promotion-chasing Harrogate Town, Smith added: “Brilliant! No one’s expecting us to get anything up there – we will!  We’ll go there with a belief. We’ll work hard again, like we have done all week.  I was really positive with the boys today. I really saw us getting a result and that’s a big kick in the teeth again.

“I feel sorry, well I feel for the boys and I feel for the supporters because they can see the effort and the energy the boys are putting in and we’re getting no rewards for it.

“Just keep getting behind the boys, keep getting behind them.  The effort the boys put in was amazing and the support was, they’ve been amazing all season.”

Bromley: Mark Cousins, Joe Kizzi (Adrian Clifton 76), Chris Bush, Billy Bingham (Frankie Raymond 67), Dave Winfield, Jack Holland, Luke Coulson, Josh Rees, Michael Cheek, Ben Williamson (Aaron Rowe 55), Corey Whitely.
Subs: Jordan Higgs, Ryan Huddart

Booked: Corey Whitely 36, Billy Bingham 45, Jack Holland 72, Michael Cheek 82, Dave Winfield 85, Luke Coulson 90

Sent Off:  Alan Dunne 61 (coach)

Sutton United: Nik Tzanev, Jon Barden, Ben Wyatt, Rob Milsom, Ben Goodliffe, Coby Rowe, Will Randall, Harry Beautyman, Omar Bugiel, Isaac Olaofe (Craig Dundas 76), David Ajiboye (Wayne Brown 90).
Subs: Tom Bolarinwa, Callum Kealy, Kyel Reid

Goal: Omar Bugiel 16

Booked: Rob Milsom 66, Ben Goodliffe 83

Attendance: 1,909 (211 away)
Referee: Mr Elliott Swallow
Assistants: Mr Shaun Barry & Mr Jonathon Block
Fourth Official: Mr John Pike

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