Harrogate Town 1-1 Bromley - it’s still all there to play for and my team won’t give up, I won’t give up and we’ll keep fighting to get into the play-offs, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Saturday 07th March 2020
Harrogate Town 1 – 1 Bromley
Location Wetherby Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG2 7SA
Kickoff 07/03/2020 17:20

Vanarama National League
Saturday 7 March 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Wetherby Road

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says their worthy point at title-chasing Harrogate Town can resurrect their season and kick-start their push for the Vanarama National League play-offs.


League leaders Barrow slipped up by losing 2-0 at home to Notts County and Simon Weaver’s side could have closed the gap to two points had they defeated Bromley, who arrived in North Yorkshire on a nine-match winless run.

Smith made a couple of changes to the side that went down to a 1-0 home defeat to their bitter rivals Sutton United last weekend.

Goalkeeper Mark Cousins picked up a groin injury so Ryan Huddart came back into the side and right-winger Adam Mekki slotted straight back into the team following his successful loan spell at Ebbsfleet United.

Harrogate Town took the lead just 95 seconds into the second half through left-winger Jack Diamond finishing off a three-man move.

But Bromley claimed a well-deserved point following a set-piece when Harrogate Town substitute central-midfield Alex Bradley sliced a clearance into his own goal with just four minutes remaining to put a dent in Harrogate Town’s title charge.

“I thought we did really well first half, went in and the boys got a little pat on the back,” said Smith, who has reached the magical safety total of 52 points tonight.

“We gave a soft goal, I believe, away at the start of the second half but I thought in terms of togetherness, never-say-die, I thought in the end we were strong and we looked like we were going to score but we haven’t had much luck and then we get a bit of fortune today, so you hope that’s the start of something.”

Bromley fought back from being 3-0 down to claim a point in a six-goal thriller against Harrogate Town at Hayes Lane on 16 November, and this was a game where Smith’s troops gave him “everything.”

“Everything and they’ve never given me less than that from the day that we started pre-season.

“I think we played better last week (against Sutton United) and came away with nothing so that’s where we’re at.

“We’ll scrap and we’ll fight for every point. It’s a great point for us away to a team that are in form in Harrogate.”

Harrogate Town created their first opening after only 121 seconds, in front of the BT Sport cameras.

Goalkeeper James Belshaw pinged an excellent long ball out to right-winger George Thomson, who brought the ball down with an exquisite touch before whipping in a great cross which was met by Jon Stead’s diving header from six-yards, which crashed against the crossbar.

“I don’t think they started any more than what we did,” said Smith.

“You’re away from home to a team that’s scored four goals against Chesterfield, they are on the up and second place, you expect that.

“But I thought as a team we managed it and I thought even in the first half I thought we gave as good as we got, maybe not with the chances but I thought Corey Whitely was a danger every time the ball went anywhere near him.”

Thomson floated in a deep corner in from the right which was retrieved by Harrogate Town’s left-back Warren Burrell but his cross from within the left-channel was comfortably gathered by the recalled Ryan Huddart in the Bromley goal.

Bromley were a threat on the break and Corey Whitely was released down the left and after beating the offside trap put a cross into the box towards striker Michael Cheek, whose back-header from 12-yards bounced comfortably into Belshaw’s hands.

The game started at a frenetic end-to-end pace and the recalled Mekki could have made it a goalscoring return in the ninth minute.

Whitely fed the ball into left-winger Luke Coulson who drove straight down the heart of the pitch before playing the ball out to Mekki on the right. A good first touch saw him cut inside Burrell before lashing his left-footed drive over the crossbar from 15-yards on the angle.

“It’s great to have Mekki back. He went out on loan for a reason of getting games and it needed to be consistent for him,” explained Smith.

“He’s been doing well, getting the minutes under his belt, so it was a no-brainer in bringing him back.  I think he showed today what he can give us.”

Harrogate Town called Huddart into action with two saves in the space of 69 seconds.

The home side caught Bromley on the counter-attack through the heart of the pitch through Jack Muldoon, who rolled the ball over to his strike partner Stead, who cut the ball onto his right-foot before stroking his shot towards the bottom far corner from 25-yards, which forced Huddart to dive low to his right to grab hold of the ball.

Diamond got the better of Bromley right-back Joe Kizzi before rifling a stinging drive towards the near post which was too hot for Huddart to handle at his near post in the 27th minute.

“Ryan’s come in, late call by the way. We thought we had Mark Cousins fit for today but last minute, he didn’t,” revealed Smith.

“Ryan’s come in and I thought he was outstanding and he’s taken a couple of crosses and I don’t think he’s got any chance for the goal but when we’ve had to ask for players to stand up and be counted they have.”

Coulson was outstanding for Bromley, scooping the BT Sport man-of-the-match award and was to be Bromley’s main threat.

Winning the corner count 5-4, Bromley created an opening following their second flag-kick.

Mekki raised both his arms before hanging in a deep corner from the right, the ball was knocked down by Kizzi and Coulson cracked a right-footed volley, which screamed through a crowded penalty area and past the far post from 22-yards.

Harrogate Town built-up well down the right through Thomson and right-back Ryan Fallowfield before Thomson whipped in a great cross towards the near post towards an unmarked Lloyd Kerry, the central-midfielder guiding his header into Huddart’s hands for a routine catch.

Bromley immediately went up the other end and created a chance on target just 32 seconds later following Huddart’s clearance.  

Whitely fed Coulson, who cut the ball on to his right-foot before stroking a 30-yard drive which was comfortably saved by Belshaw down on his knees as the Bromley winger tried to find the bottom left-hand corner.

Mekki delivered an out-swinging corner in from the right and centre-half Dave Winfield found a pocket of space at the near post to guide his free header from 15-yards straight into Belshaw’s hands, plucking the ball out of the air from underneath the crossbar.

Harrogate Town winger Thomson drilled a right-footed free-kick over the crossbar from 35-yards, before both sides went close to scoring inside stoppage time.

Huddart’s big kick straight down the middle of the pitch forced Belshaw to rush out of his box and head the ball away.  Billy Bingham cushioned down a header to Coulson, who cracked a right-footed half-volley, which curled just past the foot of the left-hand post from 30-yards, with the goalkeeper struggling to scramble back.

Bromley received a huge slice of luck when Harrogate Town smacked the crossbar with the last kick of the half.

Burrell threw the ball to Josh Falkingham, who chested the ball back to Burrell, who whipped in a cross from the left channel, which was headed away by Jack Holland and Falkingham took a touch before unleashing a right-footed screamer towards the top far corner from 35-yards, only for the ball to crash against the crossbar, as Huddart dived high to his left to flick over.

“I thought the defence looked sound in the first half,” said Smith, who said he was pleased with his side’s effort.

“I think there were other free-kicks that we could’ve had and then you just hope you see it out and it hits the crossbar.  I think Ryan had it covered anyway and then all off a sudden you come in at half-time and I think they deserved a pat on the back. I thought we were outstanding.”

Harrogate Town scored following a good move just 95 seconds into the second half.

Right-back Fallowfield was inside Bromley’s half and he played the ball down the line to release Muldoon down the channel.

Winfield was forced to come across in an attempt to shut down the cross but Muldoon cut the ball back from the by-line and Diamond stroked his first time right-footed shot past Huddart from 10-yards (from within the space vacated by Winfield).

“I was disappointed that we gave a goal away so early in the second half,” admitted Smith.

“You come out and literally within two minutes you’re a goal down and you think ‘here we go again,’ but those boys have been resilient all season.

“We’ve had loads of knock backs and we’ve had loads of kicks in the stomach and this one could have been another one but they’ve been brilliant all season and I generally believe we’ll be in and around the play-offs come the end of it.

“Jack Diamond is a good player and he’s one we had to watch. We nullified him in the first half, comes in at the far post, very rarely gets crosses in but he’s always in there to score a goal.

“As I say, first half we nullified him, second half, he had his chance.”

Bromley responded and Whitely released Coulson charging down the left before cutting in and unleashing a stinging right-footed drive from 25-yards, which was too hot for Belshaw to handle at his near post.

“He’s hit the target,” said Smith.

“We were saying the other day, keeper’s seem to be going off with man-of-the-match awards and this one doesn’t need one, he’s always good against us, or so it seems, Belshaw, but I think it was straight at him, he didn’t have much to do, but you’re putting a marker down to say ‘we’re still in this game!”

Eighteen minutes in to the half and Coulson bent his right-footed free-kick around the four-man wall and Belshaw made a comfortable save as the ball bounced right in front of him.

Bromley wasted a glorious chance to claim a deserved equaliser halfway through the second half.

Chris Bush delivered a left-footed free-kick into the Harrogate Town penalty area and Kizzi put his head in his hands in despair after guiding his free downward header from just eight-yards out, which bounced into Belshaw’s hands for a comfortable save.

Harrogate Town weren’t a goalscoring threat during the second half, Winfield closing down Diamond’s shot on the turn from 25-yards and taking the sting out of the shot which allowed Huddart to collect the ball.

Harrogate Town went into this game on a six-match unbeaten run and came away from struggling Chesterfield with a 4-3 win in midweek but they failed to deliver during the second half here against a well-organised Bromley defence.

“Even in the first half, a team that scored four goals away at Chesterfield, we expected them to come on and I think we nullified them,” said Smith.

“They’ve had a couple of chances. Ryan Huddart did amazing, right at the end they were putting balls into the box and he was coming and taking them and it just nullified them.”

Thomson’s second free-kick suffered the same outcome, hitting his right-footed free-kick high over the crossbar from 26-yards out.

Smith went three at the back for the final 15 minutes, withdrawing Winfield straight after his booking and throwing on striker Adrian Clifton, who is still waiting to score his first goal for the Kent club.

It was inevitable that Bromley would score from a set-piece and the goal that takes them to the magical safety mark of 52 points came from Harrogate Town’s substitute Bradley, a like-for-like change for Kerry, just eight minutes earlier, scoring an own goal with 40 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock.

Coulson swung in Bromley’s fourth corner, in from the left and Bradley sliced his attempted clearance into the bottom far corner of the goal from inside the six-yard box, which ended Bromley’s goalscoring drought of going 356 minutes without scoring a goal.

Smith admitted: “I don’t care how they go in, I’m just glad but unless you put the ball in a very good area that doesn’t happen and that’s where we’re probably been lacking, we’ve been having an extra touch or the delivery hasn’t been great but that one was on the money and if he doesn’t score I know for a fact one of our players would’ve.

“We’re hoping that resurrects our season now.  I think in the last few games we probably haven’t got what we’ve deserved but I think I thought a point was a worthy point.”

This was Bromley’s fifth point in 2020 and they are 12th place in the Vanarama National League table with 52 points from 38 games.

Barrow lead the way at the summit with 70 points on the board from 37 of 46 league games.

Harrogate Town remain in second-place with 66 points from 37 games; Yeovil Town are Boreham Wood both follow with 60 points from 37 games; FC Halifax Town are in fifth-place with 58 points from 36 games; Notts County are in sixth-place with 57 points from 36 games while Solihull Moors occupy the final play-off berth with 55 points from 38 games.

Waiting in the wings are Woking (55 points from 37 games); Stockport County (55 points from 38 games); Hartlepool United (54 points from 38 games); Dover Athletic (53 points from 37 games) and Bromley (52 points from 38 games).

Bromley MUST WIN against basement side Chorley at Hayes Lane next Saturday (15:00), a side that are rooted at the foot of the table with 26 points from 38 games and are 17 points adrift of safety.

Smith wants to guide his home-town club in the National League play-offs for the first time.

“To be in and around it, we have to win, we have to win our home games,” said Smith.

“I was very disappointed last week when we lost to Sutton because I thought we deserved something more than that.

“Chorley will be difficult, they were difficult on the first day of the season. They’re a very proud team.  I know the manager very well and he’ll be giving it everything he’s got but we have to win these games if we want to be anywhere near it but they need three points so it’s one of them where they’re going to come and try and score goals. A lot of teams have been hitting us on the break, it’s going to be an open game.”

While Bromley were down in the dumps after derby day defeat to Sutton United, this point at title-chasing Harrogate Town has given Bromley a new lease of life and momentum going into their last eight games of the season.

“Until someone turns round and says ‘you have got no chance of making it’ because the points have gone, I’m still going for it,” said Smith.

“Our target was – and I keep saying it – is to be in and around the play-offs come the last game of the season, that’s still our target.

“I’d love to be in it but if we can just keep going and keep getting in and around it because everybody seems to be slipping up at vital times.

“Barrow lost again and Harrogate will probably be looking at it disappointed because they could have gone two points off them, so it’s still all there to play for and my team won’t give up, I won’t give up and we’ll keep fighting!”

Harrogate Town: James Belshaw, Ryan Fallowfield, Warren Burrell, Josh Falkingham, Will Smith, Maxim Kouogun, Jack Diamond, Lloyd Kerry (Alex Bradley 78), Jack Muldoon, Jon Stead, George Thomson.
Subs: George Smith, Joe Cracknell, Brendan Kiernan, Kian Harratt

Goal: Jack Diamond 47

Booked: Jack Muldoon 90, Warren Burrell 90

Bromley: Ryan Huddart, Joe Kizzi, Chris Bush, Billy Bingham (Frankie Raymond 88), Dave Winfield (Adrian Clifton 75), Jack Holland, Luke Coulson, Josh Rees, Michael Cheek, Corey Whitely, Adam Mekki (Ben Williamson 64).
Subs: Sam Wood, Tarek Najia

Goal: Alex Bradley 86 (own goal)

Booked: Adam Mekki 53, Dave Winfield 74, Josh Rees 90, Joe Kizzi 90

Attendance: 1,339
Referee: Mr Simon Mather
Assistants: Mr Alex James & Mr Elliott Heward
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Kitchen