Dover Athletic 0-0 Bromley - To come away from Dover and to be still in the hat away from home is a pleasing result, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Saturday 14th October 2017
Dover Athletic 0 – 0 Bromley
Location Crabble Athletic Ground, Lewisham Road, River, Dover, Kent CT17 0JB
Kickoff 14/10/2017 15:00

The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Saturday 14th October 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Crabble

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says his players have a massive incentive to finish off the job on Tuesday night after battling to a goal-less stalemate at Dover Athletic.

Chris Kinnear’s side went into this game unbeaten in six and second-place in the Vanarama National League table with 28 points from 15 games, while Bromley came away from Maidstone United and Gateshead in their previous two trips to climb into seventh-place with 24 points on the board.

FA Cup fever has certainly not captured the imagination on the Kent coast and why should they pay £17 to watch the home club play dinosaur football by kicking the ball high in the air for 90 minutes.  This Fourth and final Qualifying Round tie was watched by a crowd of 923, 149 of which were Bromley fans.

“I was just saying to them in there, to come to a place like Dover, second in the table, they play a certain style, it is relentless, it’s very direct, I thought we weathered the storm,” said Smith afterwards.

“We never really got our own game going because they make it so hard. He does very well with them Chris (Kinnear), so to come away and to being still in the hat away from home is a pleasing result.”

Bromley were without attacker George Porter (who failed a fitness test) and central midfielder Frankie Sutherland.

“He (Porter) wasn’t going to play, we knew that before the game but we thought we’d just give him a go anyway,” explained Smith.

“A couple of others weren’t there as well. Frankie Sutherland had a back spasm this morning so he wasn’t involved as well. 

“Full credit to the squad to them pick themselves up after a couple of bits of bad news, to come in and put a shift in like that.”

Dover Athletic dominated the first half as their direct style bombarded the Bromley defence, which saw former Charlton Athletic central defender Roger Johnson, 34, making his debut for the Ravens.

“We told him about it, we showed videos of them so nothing was a shock to him,” Smith said of Roger Johnson, who made 528 appearances for the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Cardiff City, Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic.

“He came in yesterday and trained, met the boys for the first time, fantastic! He’s played at the highest level so we can only learn from that experience so it was a brilliant coup from Jerry (Dolke, chairman) to get him in.”

When asked how long the defender will be at Hayes Lane on his short-term deal, Smith replied: “We’re going to have a look but we’ll just take it month-by-month.”

A lucky bounce ensured Bromley did not go a goal down with only 184 seconds on the clock.

The first of many long balls were played into the Bromley box and goalkeeper David Gregory failed to gather and striker Ryan Bird’s flicked shot bounced a couple of yards in front of the line and somehow bounced just over the crossbar.

“I said if that bounces now, it will go over and I generally mean that and I think over than that, that was a bit of confusion but other than that we weathered it really well,” said Smith.

Mitchell Pinnock’s first corner of the game, from the right, was hooked just past the foot of the near post by Giancarlo Fallifuoco from a couple of yards out.

Bromley’s only real first half chance, however, came in the tenth minute from their first corner of the game.

Frankie Raymond swung in the ball from the right, the ball was cleared out to Alan Dunne, the former Millwall right-back stroking a low left-footed drive from 25-yards, which was saved by the diving Mitch Walker, to his right.

“Look, it’s going to be hard to get any sort of chances against a Dover side,” said Smith.

“They’re resolute, they play five at the back so to try to break them down it’s going to take something special.

“It was just to be in the first half, it was more about marshalling them and making sure we didn’t give a soft goal away.”

Dover Athletic kept the ball on the deck in the 24th minute and right-back Josh Passley was given acres of space by Tyrone Sterling to deliver a deep cross which was hooked back in by Pinnock and the ball bounced of Bird and deflected just past the foot of the near post.

Dover Athletic left-back Femi Ilesanmi fed Pinnock down the left and he whipped in a deep cross towards the far post for Nortei Nortey, who teed up Kadell Daniel, who was set to pull the trigger eight-yards from goal, denied by a clean tackle from Bromley captain Jack Holland.

Poor defending from Bromley saw Dover Athletic create a decent opening in the 27th minute.

Mitch Brundell’s cross picked out Pinnock in acres of space on the right and the winger cut inside and his shot curled over the top of the far post from 20-yards.

Bromley, who packed midfield and lacked width in a successful attempt to nullify Dover’s aerial bombardment, battled their way to half-time on level terms.

“They’re a big side so we had to nullify them as much as we have to. We’re away from home so I thought we did,” said Smith.

Smith knew more of the same was to come from direct Dover.

“Very pleased but do you know what? It’s going to be like that again!  It’s not going to change, they’re not going to get it down and play.  They’re going to be putting the ball in an area, the percentage and that’s what they look for and that’s exactly what they did again, it wasn’t a shock!”

Bromley showed more attacking intent during the second half.  Louis Dennis broke down the right and tried to centre low for Adam Mekki, but in front of him was Passley, who denied Bromley an opening after only 44 seconds.

Dover Athletic central defender Connor Essam hit a high number of long balls forward and his deep cross caught out Dunne and found Pinnock out on the left and he cut inside and his shot sailed across goal and past the far post after 56 minutes.

With both defences dominating, Bromley should have snatched the lead with a glorious chance halfway through the second half.

Dunne was released and ran with the ball down the right before the attack evaporated as his 35-year-old lungs gave up and the home side were able to clear their lines for a throw-in.

Bromley midfielder Jordan Higgs threw the ball quickly to Dunne, who was in acres of space down the right channel and he adventured towards the by-line where he whipped in a great cross towards the far post across the face of goal but Dennis shinned a first time shot agonisingly past the foot of the left-hand post from eight-yards.

Smith said: “It was a better second half but that’s because we knew what we had to do in the first 45 minutes.  The second 45, we were hoping we could get a bit more space and a bit more people on the ball and I thought we did.

“I thought we created a couple of moments that nearly got there towards the end.

“The cross from Dunny and Louis just missing, I thought that was it!  Do you know what? It would’ve been a bit of a robbery, smash-and-grab but I thought, to be fair, matching their style and still trying to play in the second half, we were unlucky.”

Speaking about Dunne being in the final third to deliver a cross that Dennis should have buried, Smith said: “He hadn’t got back, basically.  I think anyone, Louis that’s yours and it just rolled down his shin. It was a good effort.”

Pinnock’s fine through ball, along the deck, put Bird through on goal but the five-goal Dover striker saw Gregory rush off his line to smother at his feet.

With brilliant vocal support behind them, Bromley squandered another great chance to win the game in the 71st minute.

Raymond floated in a corner from the right and Holland guided his near post header just over the crossbar from eight-yards.

Smith said: “It was always going to be limited chances in a tight game. We know what we were going to come up against.  They played five at the back so they’re not going to get many chances away, they don’t and that’s why they got that clean sheet today.”

Holland added: “I just needed to get that down, just over the bar, I think it went. It was a great chance for me. I need to capitalise on those chances.”

Bird’s cross was caught by Gregory, who launched a big kick forward for Bromley striker Brett Williams, who cut inside and sliced his right-footed shot wide of the far post.

Williams, the former Torquay United striker, Bromley’s leading scorer with six goals, meanwhile, picked up his fifth booking late on in the game and is likely to miss the replay, leaving Smith with limited options.

The Bromley boss said: “Yes, he misses the replay. We’re hoping it doesn’t activate for another seven days but I generally believe it’s the next game.  It’s another lost body but we have to patch ourselves up but we’ll have something up our sleeve.”

Dover Athletic continued to press and central midfielder Mitch Brundell released Pinnock through on goal and brave goalkeeping from Gregory ensured he gathered the ball and took a whack in the process, needing treatment. 

A couple of minutes later, the former Cambridge United stopper smothered at Pinnock’s feet bravely and was caught for the second time.

“Twice he’s come out to feet, he’s got kicked once. He’s come out to feet again and he got kicked again but that’s what he gets paid to do. He’s playing absolutely brilliantly for us,” Smith said of his Biggin Hill based stopper.

Dover Athletic went in search for a late winner but Bromley held firm and deserved their ovation from the travelling fans, who Smith hopes will turn Hayes Lane into a cauldron of passion on Tuesday night to get the club through to that elusive First Round.

“Even at the end with the free-kick you know they’re going to cause you problems so it was always a case of don’t give them something that they can scrap off, free-kicks, corners, anything like that and I thought we kept them down to a minimum today.”

Looking ahead to the replay, Smith said: “It’s going to be exactly like that, they’re not going to change, they’re going to be exactly the same even on a nice pitch where you can get it down.  They’re going to be direct, fair play, that’s their style and they’re very good at it!

While Kinnear’s side will kick the ball in the air all night long, the plastic pitch at Hayes Lane will allow Bromley to play their usual passing game.

Smith said: “We’ve got to make sure that we get our style of play into it but first and foremost we have to make sure we match their effort, desire and the will to win.”

Dover Athletic and Bromley will be ball number 73 in The FA Cup First Round Draw from 19:00 on Monday evening.

Bromley last reached the First Round back in 2014 when as a Conference South club they lost to then Conference club Dartford 4-3 at Hayes Lane.

The Ravens have since lost to Eastleigh and Braintree Town in the past two years and Dover Athletic have lost to Milton Keynes Dons (Second Round); Crystal Palace (Third Round); Stourbridge (First Round) and Cambridge United (First Round Replay).

The last team to beat Dover Athletic in the Qualifying Rounds were Bromley,  when they came away from Crabble with a 2-1 win in the Third Qualifying Round in 2012.

“It could be an incentive but there shouldn’t be an incentive, the incentive is already there. It’s the First Round of The FA Cup so irrelevant of who we play in the next round, we’ve got to get through this one so we’ll worry about the First Round after Tuesday if we’re in it,” said Smith, who was told it’s been 72 years since Bromley last won a FA Cup First Round tie.

Smith issued this rallying cry to the fans who travelled down to the Kent coast.

“I need that atmosphere at home!  I need it!  They are very supportive but I need that singing, I need that getting together like we did when we played Leyton Orent and Hartlepool earlier in the season.   Yes, we’ve got to get the crowd going but do you know what? They can help us get going.”

Reflecting on his day’s hard work, Holland said: “Well, the most important thing was to be in the hat on Monday, which we are.

“Dover is always a tough place to come.  We knew that from earlier on in the year (when we won 2-1 here in the League in our second game), but I thought everyone, including the subs, they all came on and battled for this draw.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t get a winner but we take it back on Tuesday and we can go on from there.

“We know what Dover are all about, they’re a very direct team.  Earlier on in the year we had a taste of it so we know exactly what was going to happen but again I thought we dealt with it.  They had to come at us and to a man we done really well.”

Reflecting on Dennis’ chance, Holland said: “Very unlucky! A great ball from Dunny. Louis just couldn’t get enough on it. He ran his heart out to get there for the boys and he couldn’t get on the end of it.  We’ll take that as a positive. We look at the positives out of the game and take it on to Tuesday.”

When Holland was beaten, Gregory came to Bromley’s rescue with brave goalkeeping and of course some luck.

“I mean the thing with Greggors, he’s had an unbelievable season so far, I mean he really has and every game he’s stepped up to the plate and with Dover’s directness he was under the cosh and I thought he dealt with it very, very well.”

“I think coming here for a goal-less draw as a defender is brilliant, getting another clean-sheet. Take it on Tuesday. We’ll see what the draw has for us on Monday and hopefully it spurs us on for a win on Tuesday.”

Dover Athletic: Mitch Walker, Josh Passley, Femi Ilesanmi, Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Manny Parry, Connor Essam, Nortei Nortey (Kane Richards 80), Mitch Brundel, Ryan Bird, Kadell Daniel, Mitchell Pinnock.
Subs: Loui Fazakerley, Manny Adebowale, Ejiro Okosieme, Chris Lewington, Aziz Deen Conteh

Booked: Ryan Bird 75, Mitchell Pinnock 77, Femi Ilesanmi 80

Bromley: David Gregory, Alan Dunne (Ben Wynter 89), Tyrone Sterling, Josh Rees, Roger Johnson (Daniel Johnson 90), Jack Holland, Louis Dennis, Frankie Raymond, Brett Williams, Jordan Higgs, Adam Mekki (Luke Wanadio 64).
Subs: Iffy Allen, Santiago Tulian, Aiden Enver, Tahjae Anderson

Booked: Louis Dennis 72, Frankie Raymond 79, Alan Dunne 80, Brett Williams 90

Attendance: 923 (149 away)
Referee: Mr Alan Young (Ely, Cambridgeshire)
Assistants: Mr Hallam Cutmore (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) & Mr Martyn Holmes (Ely, Cambridgeshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Ian Bentley (West Wickham)

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