Harrogate Town 1-0 Bromley - We're absolutely gutted and devastated because if we had grabbed a point it would have been a fantastic result, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Tuesday 05th March 2019
Harrogate Town 1 – 0 Bromley
Location Wetherby Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG2 7SA
Kickoff 05/03/2019 19:45

Vanarama National League
Tuesday 5 March 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Wetherby Road

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says there was a feel of devastation after they conceded a last-gasp penalty to lose at play-off chasing Harrogate Town.

Simon Weaver’s men claimed the winner with 18 seconds of the game remaining through a clinically despatched penalty scored by 29-year-old winger Jack Muldoon, whose 15th goal of the season left Bromley heartbroken.

Harrogate Town, who clinched promotion into the Vanarama National League  via the North Division play-offs after beating Brackley Town in the Promotion Final last May, climbed up a couple of places into sixth-place in the table with 60 points from 35 games.

The Ravens remain in eleventh-place in the table with 47 points and have 10 league games remaining to pick up the couple of wins to ensure top-flight football is played at Hayes Lane for a fifth season in August.

Smith has now suffered back-to-back defeats having lost 2-0 at home to Boreham Wood at the weekend and was missing Jake Goodman (centre-half); Adam Mekki (winger) and Zavon Hines (striker), who have all been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Inspirational club captain Jack Holland (ribs) said before the game that he expects to return in a couple of weeks time, while holding midfielder Frankie Sutherland completes his two-match ban at the weekend.

“Gutted for the players for 93 minutes and 50 seconds were outstanding, absolutely outstanding and they put a shift in,” said Smith, after his side suffered their 15th league defeat of the season.

“While I was disappointed on Saturday because of the performance, I can’t be disappointed tonight. To a man I thought they were unbelievable. I thought we gave as much as we could taking a team on the up and in the play-offs, going away from home, I can’t ask for any more.

“I thought we nullified them, had a few chances. They had the big man (Beck) up front that they hit very early. I thought Roger Johnson and Marc-Anthony Okoye coped with him.

“I thought we had chances in the first half that we should’ve done better with.”

Bromley were a threat on the counter-attack during the first 20 minutes but after that they put in a resilient defensive performance.

Brendan Sapong-Wiredu, who was deployed in the middle of the park, released winger Jonathan Hooper down the left-channel and he cut the ball back for Luke Coulson, who cut inside and curled a dipping shot around the top of the far post from 25-yards out.

Smith said:  “He was unlucky. He just come inside and he did the right thing, just the execution wasn’t on the target. I thought from then on we showed the intent.”

Smith explained the reasons why he substituted George Porter and Coulson in the second half for Jordan Higgs and Dennon Lewis respectively.

“I just thought they ran themselves into the ground,” came Smith’s reply.

“I just thought I’d put on some fresh legs and Higgsy and Dennon, with a bit of pace and Higgsy was on Thomson, who actually won (their) man-of-the-match. We just wanted to keep them quiet and when they did come on they did exactly what I wanted.”

Bromley centre-half Marc-Anthony Okoye lost the aerial height advantage to Scottish target man Mark Beck, who stands at six foot five, but the pair put in a fantastic battle during the game and Okoye continues to put in impressive performances for the Ravens.

Smith added:  “It was a great battle! You’ve got two good players that are giving their all and it was a great contest between them and I thought Marc acquitted himself really well.”

Okoye did lose the aerial battle in the fifth minute when Jack Emmett swung in a cross from the right but the referee’s whistle had sounded for a foul from Beck as he rose above his man to guide the downward header into the bottom corner.

Bromley were weathering the storm and created a decent chance to score in the 15th minute following their only corner of the game.  Harrogate, meanwhile, won 12 corners.

Coulson cut the corner back to Sam Wood and the left-back swung in a cross and Sarpong-Wiredu rose to steer his header past the far post from six-yards out.

“I thought Brendan was outstanding, I thought for a young kid. It was his second start, away from home and in a game like this and I thought he acquitted himself really well and he was unlucky, he got underneath the ball,” Smith said of the on-loan 19-year-old striker from Charlton Athletic.

Wideman Emmett whipped in a tricky low cross from the right and Bromley keeper David Gregory dived low to his right at his near post to parry the ball and Okoye cleared his lines.

Harrogate Town were quick to get the ball forward up to Beck, but Bromley ensured the game was open during the opening 20 minutes.

Harrogate did reach the by-line through winger George Thomson but he cut the ball back towards diminutive central midfielder Josh Falkingham, but once again Bromley shut the door in his face as a driven shot was blocked from the edge of the box.

Bromley striker Omar Bugiel should have given the Ravens the lead in the 24th minute.

Porter fed Sarpong-Wiredu on an over-lapping run down the right wing and he put in a great cross which should have been buried by Bugiel but he sent his diving header agonisingly wide of the left-hand post from eight-yards, a great position.

“I thought he threw his head at it when really he’s got to let the power be on the ball and direct it in. I thought it was a great ball in and he could’ve done better. He should at least hit the target,” added Smith.

Harrogate Town then started to dominate the middle of the park with Falkingham pulling all the strings as Frankie Raymond suffered an off night and clearly missed his partner Sutherland.

Harrogate built up patiently inside the Bromley half and Lloyd Kerry played the ball inside to Emmett, who was in the middle of the park and his left-footed drive from 35-yards forced Gregory into making a diving low save to his left to tip the ball around the post.

The highly-rated Bromley keeper was called into action as his heroics ensured his team went in at the break on level terms.

Bromley switched off from a throw-in from Harrogate left-back Wayne Burrell and the lively Thomson cut into the box from the left and Gregory got down low to his right and got his fingertips to the low shot from a tight angle to ensure the ball bounced off the base of the near post.

Smith said: “Again, this is a team that like to attack, we know that. They come at you in numbers, they’re very quick, they’ve got the big man up front so when he beats the defenders you hope your goalkeeper does his job.  I thought again Gregaz was outstanding today and outstanding in the last couple of weeks and you’re looking at him thinking we’ve got a clean sheet here.”

But Gregory almost turned from hero to villain when his poor clearance from the left-hand side of his penalty area went straight to an unmarked Thomson, who hit a first time right-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 45-yards.  Gregory, showed enough desire to get across his penalty area and dived low to his right to ensure the ball didn’t nestle into the bottom corner.

Bromley’s back four were putting their bodies on the line and making numerous of blocks in and around their penalty area and they lacked quality in an attacking sense with Bugiel lacking threat at the other end of the pitch.

Smith said: “I’ve got players who are willing to run through brick walls for me and sometimes that’s brilliant but at the end of it you need that little bit of quality so when you get those chances in both boxes you either take them or clear them and today we got punished on one mistake.”

Bromley were on the ropes for long periods and they were thankful to their keeper for pulling off another diving save in the 38th minute.

Harrogate centre-half Kelvin Langmead hit a long ball out of defence to release Muldoon down the left channel and he played the ball inside to Falkingham, who teed up Kerry inside the D and his right-footed shot was destined to nestle into the bottom right-hand corner. The outstanding Gregory, dived to his left and used a strong left-hand to push the ball behind for a corner.

Harrogate right-back Ryan Fallowfield clipped a cross-field ball to find Thomson in space and he whipped in a great cross but centre-half Callum Howe (who was up for their sixth corner of the game) sent his towering header over the crossbar from six-yards.

“At half-time I was really proud of them, really pleased with them,” revealed Smith.

“It was so much better than Saturday. We were sharper, we got on the second ball, we were compact and we looked dangerous when we attacked so just go and do the same.”

The second half proved to be an non-event for Bromley in an attacking sense as they sat back and soaked up the pressure that came their way, ensuring around 50 travelling fans that made the 458 mile round trip to North Yorkshire endured a nail biting second half.

Smith said: “I wouldn’t say it was one-sided. We did a lot of defending but when we did break we broke in numbers, it was just that final execution.

“When you’re away from home you’re not going to have a lot of ball like they did when we played them at our place. We had 24 attempts at goal at our place to one so it could’ve been one of them but I never saw that goal coming at the end.”

Bromley’s only opening of the half came in the 54th minute when Coulson centred to Raymond on the left who put the ball into the box.  Porter flicked the ball on and Hopper shinned the ball looping over the crossbar from six-yards.

Emmett played the ball to over-lapping right-back Fallowfield, who whipped in a cross towards the near post but Beck planted his header over the crossbar on the edge of the six-yard box.

“Again, they’ve got the big man up front and they put it in the box and he’s good at what he does but he’s going to have his chances a guy that size. They are going to be dangerous from any set-plays and crosses,” added the Ravens boss.

Harrogate Town were guilty of a glaring miss on the hour-mark as it seemed Bromley’s luck would run out.

Set-piece specialist Thomson swung in a great corner from the left and Howe came up from the back to plant his header past a flapping Gregory and wide of the mark from six-yards out.

Bromley started to get some big decisions in and around their penalty area and received a huge slice of luck with 20 minutes remaining, following the home side’s ninth corner of the night.

Thomson swung in a corner from the right and Gregory flapped at the ball.  The ball came out to Burrell who hooked a shot on the turn through a crowd of players from 14-yards and the ball crashed off the crossbar as he aimed for the middle of the goal.  Bromley survived a scramble – yet again, putting their bodies on the line – and Gregory was booked for dissent after claiming he was fouled amidst the chaos.

“He hits the bar! You’re going to have that bit of luck and we thought we rode it today and deserved it. I’ve always said if you work hard enough you’d get your luck and I thought we worked really hard,” said Smith.

Emmett played a short pass inside to Burrell, who cut into the penalty area and tried to lob Gregory, who raised both of his arms above his head to ensure the ball looped over his crossbar and behind for another corner.

Bromley produced a rare attack as the game reached the final five minutes when Raymond’s free-kick into the box from midfield was cleared and Jordan Higgs’ driven shot was blocked on the edge of the box and Sarpong-Wiredu sliced his poor shot harmlessly wide from 22-yards.

Beck played the ball into Burrell and space opened up for the Harrogate left-back but his shot flashed well-wide of the goal when he went for goal from outside the box.

Bromley felt they had claimed a hard-fought point when the home side missed another glorious chance with 44 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Burrell was often joining attacks and floated in a cross into the six-yard box and once again a rising Beck planted his header over the crossbar.

Bugiel gave away a needless free-kick on the left inside his own half, bundling over Falkingham and the pair exchanged words and concentration was lost.

Had the striker kicked the ball out of the ground, Bromley would have come away from here with a lucky point.

“He gave a free-kick away, his legs have gone, he’s probably diving in to prevent something so yes he didn’t have to do it but I thought his work-rate today was the best I’ve seen him for a couple of weeks,” said Smith.

Bromley packed their penalty area for Thomson’s resulting free-kick and the ball was floated to the far post for Howe to plant a downward header towards goal.

Video evidence showed the ball struck Hooper high up on his chest before attempting to hook the ball out of Bromley's six-yard box - but referee Joe Hull controversially pointed to the spot despite there being 10 players in front of him.  The time of the decision was 47 minutes and 37 seconds.

“We said to the ref ‘how long to go?’ ‘four minutes and all off a sudden we said is that it and he said ‘that’s time’ and magiced up a penalty.

“The players are saying someone got pulled in there. What about when Hooper’s gone through and he (Kerry) nudges him in the back not even going for the ball and we get nothing? Yet, they’ve found something in there!

“There’s only arguments started because the players are saying someone’s pulled and the ref didn’t see it but he said a ball hit hand rather than a hand hit the ball.”

Muldoon kept his composure to send Gregory the wrong way with a right-footed penalty, which was slotted in just left of centre to break Bromley’s hearts.

The final whistle blew just 101 seconds later and Bromley’s players were clearly unhappy with the way the game ended.

Smith said: “I’m just disappointed for the boys. I don’t think we deserved to lose. I thought we deserved to come away with something and Saturday was totally different.  I didn’t think we deserved anything from Saturday but today I thought the boys showed what we’re really about and nearly coming away with a point, which would’ve been a fantastic result for us.

“They’ve got a good backer down here, obviously you’ve got the manager and his dad (Irving Weaver) running the club. You can see they’re a nice little club and a lovely town. I haven’t been around the town. We got the train in so fair play to them. They only play the right way. They attack direct but they play to their strengths.  Their actually great people so it’s clubs like that you hope they do well.”

Smith has given his players Wednesday off as they travel home by coach tonight but return to training at Hayes Lane on Thursday to prepare for their trip to Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.

Peter Taylor’s side are in fifteenth-place in the table with 44 points from 36 games and came away from Maidenhead United with a 1-1 draw after the home side snatched a last minute leveller at York Road.

“They like to sit back and they like to counter with pace so we’re coming up against a former England manager so it’s great in that respect,” said Smith.

“Of course, you always want to compete and show what you can do as much as they can do.

“What we have got we’ve got a lot of players out, a lot of first team players out like Frankie Sutherland now comes back. 

“I think Jake Goodman’s out for the season now. We’re going to find out (the extent of the injury) but it didn’t look great when he got stretched off on Saturday.

“You’ve got Adam Mekki out for the season, obviously you lose Zavon Hines. These are three players in our book. Jack Holland with his injury as well so these are main players.  These aren’t fringe players so to come to a place like that with four or five players out of our squad, I think it’s fair play to the likes of Brendon Sarpong-Wiredu.  I thought he was outstanding today.”

As ever, Smith thanked the fans that made the trip up to this classy town.

“I can’t thank them enough. They showed their appreciation of what the boys did. The applause afterwards staying out and cheering them just shows you what it meant to them. They saw a side give everything that they had.

“The players are aguing amongst themselves in there, they’re absolultey gutted and devasted because had they grabbed a point it would have been a fantastic result.

"But we’ve now got a long journey and we get home about three o’clock in the morning and we’ll have Wednesday off and on Thursday all of our thoughts are on Dagenham & Redbridge."

Harrogate Town: James Belshaw, Ryan Fallowfield, Wayne Burrell, Josh Falkingham, Callum Howe, Kelvin Langmead, George Thomson, Jack Emmett, Mark Beck, Lloyd Kerry, Jack Muldoon.
Subs: Joe Cracknell, Liam Agnew, Aaron Williams, Liam Kitching, Michael Woods

Goal: Jack Muldoon 90 (penalty)

Booked: Josh Falkingham 76

Bromley: David Gregory, Richard Brindley, Sam Wood, Frankie Raymond, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Roger Johnson, George Porter (Jordan Higgs 79), Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, Omar Bugiel, Luke Coulson (Dennon Lewis 64), Jonathan Hooper.
Subs: Alan Dunne, Reece Meekums, Jamie Philpot

Booked: David Gregory 71

Attendance: 789
Referee: Mr Joe Hull (Cheshire)
Assistants: Mr Martiin Chester (Lincoln) & Mr Andrew Dallison (Nottingham)
Fourth Official: Mr Johnathon Bickerdike (Leeds)