Gateshead 1-1 Bromley - I'm a proud man to lead my home town club to Wembley, says Legendary Bromley manager Neil Smith

Saturday 24th March 2018
Gateshead 1 – 1 Bromley
Location Gateshead International Stadium, Neilson Road, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE10 0EF
Kickoff 24/03/2018 15:00

(Bromley win 4-3 on aggregate)
The Buildbase FA Trophy Semi-Final Second Leg
Saturday 24 March 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from International Stadium

LEGENDARY Bromley manager Neil Smith says he is feeling honoured and proud after leading his home-town club to a Wembley Final for the first time since Romford were beaten 1-0 in The FA Amateur Cup Final in 1949.

The Ravens booked their place in The FA Buildbase Trophy Final against Vanarama National League North side Brackley Town on Sunday 20 May 2018 after battling to a famous 1-1 draw at Gateshead to win 4-3 on aggregate.

“I’m honoured, I’m absolutely delighted, I’m proud,” said Smith.

“It’s been a long trip since Round One to get to this situation but I’m absolutely delighted. I’m a proud man to lead my home town club to Wembley.

“The game was a scrappy one.  We got off to an ideal start with Brandon (Hanlan) scoring the goal, calmed a bit of nerves and then it was a battle.  We knew it would be and then when he (Scott Barrow) scores that goal from wherever, 35-yards, an absolutely outstanding goal, fair play to the boys they grounded out the win.”

Gateshead went into this winner-takes-all showdown in 12th place in the Vanarama National League table with 48 points from 36 games, seven points adrift of tenth-placed Bromley.

Bromley won the first leg 3-2 at Hayes Lane on a bitterly cold day at Hayes Lane seven days ago and finished off the job in a battling manner at the International Stadium to make it a day to remember for the 242 fans that have followed their side on a Northern roadshow.

Smith’s men started their campaign in Hampshire to beat Hartley Wintney 2-0, before taking a tour of the North.  Blyth Spartans were beaten 4-1 in the Second Round before Bromley escaped from Workington in Cumbria with a late Jack Holland header to force a replay, which the Ravens won 7-1.

A trip to Spennymoor Town followed, only for the game to be postponed 75 minutes before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch despite being deemed playable after passing two pitch inspections. Bromley secured a satisfying 2-1 victory at Darlington after The FA switched venue.

Bromley have done it the hard way by travelling 3,190 miles and that includes the 48-mile round trip to Wembley Stadium to play a Brackley Town side that are in third-place in the Vanarama National North table and beat Wealdstone 3-0 on aggregate.

The Hayes Lane faithful were fearing their side would start slowly – but they did totally the opposite here today, taking the lead after only four minutes and 31 seconds through Brandon Hanlan’s finish.

Gateshead enjoyed plenty of possession as Bromley parked the bus but they were beaten by a sheer brilliant 35-yard strike from impressive left-wing-back Scott Barrow before they hung on to dear life and Smith’s heroes had chances on the counter attack to win the game on the day.

Kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes to let in the crowd of 2,264 and Gateshead set the tone right from the off – backed by a cauldron of passion coming from the home side of the stadium.

Bromley hit Gateshead hard and early and on the counter-attack.

Louis Dennis played Hanlan in behind and Gateshead keeper James Montgomery came off his line to parry the shot and Hanlan (with Fraser Kerr closing in) poked the ball bouncing into the bottom right-hand corner from eight-yards.

Smith said: “They were already nervous.  I didn’t have to get them going.  It was one of them, don’t let the moment take you over, go and grab the moment, this is our time for us, for us to have our time we’ve got to make sure we demand it and own it and I thought we did.  I thought we owned everywhere.

“I’m going to give the goal to Brandon.  I think it ricochet off his knee so Brandon scored that goal.

“We thought they were going to come at us.  For us to get that goal I think it knocked the stuffing out of them a little bit.  I thought it was evenly balanced.”

Bromley central midfielder Frankie Sutherland hit a speculative 30-yard drive which was saved comfortably by Montgomery.

Gateshead midfielder Paddy McLaughlin drove at the Bromley defence and hit a left-footed drive sailing over the crossbar from 20-yards as Bromley’s back four was superbly marshalled by Holland and Roger Johnson.

Wes York floated in a cross from the right, Holland headed clear and Russell Penn knocked the ball down inside the box for McLaughlin to hook his left-footed shot over from 25-yards.

Kerr, who was playing on the right-hand side of a three-man Gateshead defence, played a quickly taken free-kick into the Bromley box but striker Richard Peniket’s glancing header was gobbled up by David Gregory.

A big kick from Montgomery was flicked on by Peniket and his strike partner Danny Johnson got in down the left but Gregory cut out the low cross as Bromley got through the opening 20 minutes unscathed.

Gateshead’s holding midfielder Penn was pulling all the strings for the home side as they enjoyed plenty of possession without troubling Gregory in the Bromley goal.

Gateshead created a half-chance on the stroke of half-time when McLaughlin’s long throw dropped for Danny Johnson, but his shot on the turn deflected into Gregory’s hands and Bromley went into the break with a two-goal aggregate lead.

“I think because we played each other last week there was a lot of cancelling out,” said Smith.

“Obviously they wanted to stop Louis Dennis and Brandon Hanlan. We obviously wanted to stop Russell Penn and Danny Johnson so it was either going to take something very, very special or a bit flukey to get the win.”

The half-time rallying call was simple from Smith.

“Yes! We’re 45 minutes away from Wembley – don’t leave anything in here! I don’t want you to jog off or walk off that pitch and they did it – they did everything that I asked!”

Bromley should have killed the game off inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

The Ravens built down the left through Frankie Raymond and Adam Mekki, who slipped the ball in behind for Dennis, who reached the by-line to cut the ball back for Jordan Higgs, who cut across his man to reach the near post, only to poke his shot past the foot of the near post from inside the six-yard box.

“I thought it was in,” said Smith.  “You heard him call for it and you think go on, that will kill the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t.  Jordan Higgs was brilliant today.  I had to play him in a position to negate their best player (Barrow) today.”

Barrow produced a quality cross as he made inroads down the left and found Danny Johnson at the far post and he swept his shot past the foot of the near post.

Smith said: “We defended really well.  Probably if you look at it in hindsight we defended very deep but when you’ve got someone like Roger Johnson commanding that back four and Jack Holland, I felt confident.”

Hanlan worked hard up front on his own for 81 minutes before being replaced by George Porter (hamstring), who passed a fitness test yesterday and during the warm-up today.

Gateshead kept probing and their equaliser – timed at 23 minutes and 28 seconds on the clock – will be one of the best strikes you will see this season!

Bromley had plenty of bodies back as their cleared their lines and Barrow cracked a sublime volley over everybody, the rocket screamer sailing into the top right-hand corner from 35-yards.

Gateshead’s fans were brilliant all day. Barrow ran past the home dug-out and onto the running track flapping his arms up and down to get crank up the passion coming from the stand.

“Brilliant! It was a great strike! As soon as it left his foot it was going to sail right over or right in the top corner where I wanted it to go. It didn’t! It went right in the corner.  It was a fantastic strike but we know he good he was.  He’s a good player and Jordan Higgs had to play at his best today to negate him.”

When asked how he was feeling at that point in the game, with Gateshead needing one more goal to take the game into extra-time, Smith replied: “Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Because they had to score a goal we knew they were going to leave themselves open. We felt we could hit them on the break.”

Bromley had to hang on to dear life until referee Ben Tower blew the final whistle.  Time appeared to stand still as Bromley were either on the brink of greatness or heartbreak.

Bromley looked a threat on the counter-attack and had chances to make it a more comfortable climax.

Bromley left-back Tyrone Sterling played the ball forward to Hanlan, who hooked the ball across the face of goal from the left and Higgs slid in to poke his shot towards the bottom right-hand corner, forcing Montgomery to dive to his left to push around the post in the 72nd minute.

Josh Rees, who came off the bench to slot in on the left-hand side of midfield, fed the ball along the deck to Hanlan, who cut inside to place his right-footed shot past the far post from 25-yards.

Porter’s diving header released Dennis on the counter-attack inside the last nine minutes. He skipped past Gateshead’s final two defenders and stroked his right-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 20-yards, forcing Montgomery to dive to his right and make a great block with his right arm.

Smith said:  “We had our chances to kill the game off and we didn’t!”

“While they were still in it, I still felt positive we were going to do it, even in the last minutes.  The last 10 minutes was the longest 10 minutes of my life!

“It was a great save from the keeper and Josh Rees had a chance as well. It doesn’t matter now does it? We’re going to Wembley!”

Higgs won the ball inside the Bromley half of the pitch and raced forward,  he played a one-two with Porter and put a chance on the plate for Rees, who dinked his shot straight at the advancing England C stopper.

Gateshead central defender Jamal Fyfield continued to advance with the ball out of defence into the Bromley final third and his ball was superbly trapped by Danny Johnson on the edge of the box but substitute Jordan Burrow’s finish was woeful, sailing over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Has it sunk in yet everybody? Bromley are on their way to Wembley Stadium!

“We’re at Wembley! I’m a Bromley boy, I went to school across the road from (our football ground), used to play for the district and cup finals for the school (at Hayes Lane) and now I’m honoured to lead them out at Wembley.

“It won’t sink in until I don’t know. It won’t, it won’t.  I’m absolutely honoured and a proud man.”

Bromley remain in tenth-place in the National League and are nine points adrift of the play-offs and have three games in hand on seventh-placed Dover Athletic.

The Ravens are travelling home by coach as heroes tonight and make the 562-mile round trip back to the North East and troubled Hartlepool United for their first visit on Tuesday night.

The Pools are struggling both on and off the pitch after their relegation from League Two in May and are in the bottom six with 42 points from 38 games – two points clear of the drop zone.

“We were just saying, there’s got to be a story in there, the fact that we’re just travelling up here every other week.  We feel like we’re adopted Geordies at the moment because we’re up here against Hartlepool.

“But we can enjoy the moment, they deserve it but we’re back on it on Monday and we’ve got a tough game against Hartlepool and I want to stay in the play-offs.”

A message to the fans? “That’s my message! Thank you so much. We deserve that trip to Wembley as much as the players and the club. The support was immense, it always has been and I can’t thank them enough.  I’m just hoping this is a token thank you for all their support and their belief in me.”

Gateshead: James Montgomery, Fraser Kerr, Scott Barrow, Russell Penn (Lewis McNall 69), Neill Byrne, Jamal Fyfield, Paddy McLaughlin, Jordan Preston, Richard Peniket, Danny Johnson, Wes York (Jordan Burrow 55).
Subs: Theo Vassell, Jonathan O’Donnell, Dan Hanford

Goal: Scott Barrow 69

Booked: Scott Barrow 89

Bromley: David Gregory, Luke Woolfenden, Tyrone Sterling, Frankie Raymond (Dan Johnson 90), Roger Johnson, Jack Holland, Jordan Higgs, Frankie Sutherland, Brandon Hanlan (George Porter 81), Louis Dennis, Adam Mekki (Josh Rees 65).
Subs: Ben Chorley, Luke Wanadio

Goal: Brandon Hanlan 5

Booked: Jordan Higgs 30, David Gregory 53, Tyrone Sterling 66, Frankie Sutherland 74

Attendance: 2,264 (242 Bromley fans)
Referee: Mr Ben Toner (Darwen, Lancashire)
Assistants: Mr Gareth Mellor (Pontefract, West Yorkshire) & Mr Matthew Parry (Liverpool, Merseyside)
Fourth Official: Mr Dean Hulme (Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear)

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