Maidenhead United 1-2 Bromley - We've come here and rolled their sleeves up and had a fight and that's what it's going to take to do anything this season in this division, says unbeaten Bromley boss Neil Smith

Monday 26th August 2019
Maidenhead United 1 – 2 Bromley
Location York Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 1SF
Kickoff 26/08/2019 15:00

Vanarama National League
Bank Holiday 26 August 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from York Road

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he’s not going to shout from the rooftops with his side unbeaten in second-place in the Vanarama National League table after seven games.

Alan Devonshire’s side went into this Bank Holiday fixture on a run of three successive wins after coming back from Somerset with a 2-1 win at relegated Yeovil Town at the weekend and were in fifth-place in the table with 13 points, a point behind Smith’s men.

Bromley beat Boreham Wood 1-0 at the weekend and Smith made three changes to the side and Marc-Anthony Okoye slotted in at centre-back with Jack Holland sitting out through injury.

Maidenhead United were the more dominant force during a first-half stalemate as both sides cancelled each other out with both teams playing with 4-5-1 formations.

Maidenhead United smashed the stalemate by taking the lead in the 65th minute through Josh Smile as the Magpies turned defending a Bromley corner into a successful counter-attack.

Bromley snatched victory, courtesy of two clinically taken finishes from former Charlton Athletic striker Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, 21, with two goals in the final 13 minutes to take his tally up to four goals for the season, following his release from Charlton Athletic, to send around 100 Bromley supporters’ back home with smiles on their faces.

“Great result! Maidenhead is always hard to come to get anything, it’s not been our best ground that we’ve had, so to come away with a win, I’m totally ecstatic about it,” said Smith.

“A battle is what we expected. Alan Devonshire puts good strong sides together. They’re doing well in the league.  No one comes here and gets a free pass but to go a goal down and to win shows the character of this team at the moment at Bromley.”

When asked what he got from his warriors today, Smith replied: “Everything! I couldn’t have asked for any more! After getting the result on Saturday and people saying ‘it weren’t a good performance,’ they’ve come here and rolled their sleeves up and had a fight and that’s what it’s going to take to do anything this season in this division.

“It’s tougher than I think it’s ever been.  More teams are full-time, you haven’t got your big, big, big club’s throwing out the money when you probably had last year so everyone’s competing on an even keel so I think it’s very even.  It’s whoever gets a run going and maintain it.”

Maidenhead United were a threat down the left with left-back Rene Steer often linking up well with winger James Atkintunde.

The Magpies should have taken the lead after only 185 seconds when Atkintunde found space down the left channel and played in a low cross towards the near post.  Right-winger Shamir Fenelon cut across the box off the ball and found space at the near post to poke his first time shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from inside the six-yard box.

“Again, we’ve had them watched and we knew their game plan and they have good forwards.  We didn’t expect it, we should’ve done better and we will have a chat about it but they’re good up front,” said Smith.

Maidenhead United’s holding midfielder James Comley took all of the home side’s nine corners (Bromley won eight) and lone striker Danny Whitehall’s towering header at the far post sailed wide from within a crowded penalty area.

Bromley created just the one goalscoring opportunity during the first half which was a surprise especially as they were kicking down the slope.

Bromley left-back Sam Wood played the ball into Michael Klass, who fed lone striker Michael Cheek before Klass played the ball over to Adam Mekki, who cut inside and drove his shot across goalkeeper Taye-Ashby Hammond and harmlessly past the far post from 25-yards.

“Mekki’s gaining games by the minutes after the injury he’s had so he’ll get game ready and up for it. Yes, he should’ve done better,” added Smith.

Bromley were resilient at the back as Maidenhead United went close to scoring in the fourteenth minute.

Centre-half Alan Massey recycled a ball back into the Bromley box and the ball was knocked down at the far post for Joe Ellul, whose flicked header was kept out by some outstanding defensive work by Bromley centre-half Marc-Anthony Okoye.

“It was a very, very hectic five or 10 minutes,” admitted Smith.

“We knew they would come out.  Obviously Adrian Clifton (who I signed from Maidenhead United in the summer) knows their mentality and he said ‘they’ll try to win the game in the first 20 minutes’ and then you saw after that we nullified it a little bit and then the game becomes very, very slow, laborious and you’ve just got to make sure you remain focused.”

Bromley weathered the storm and the game turned into a midfield battle in temperatures of 31 degrees.

Maidenhead United were to be denied by a brilliant diving save from Bromley goalkeeper Mark Cousins ten minutes before the break.

Ryan Upwards – one of three central midfielders – poked the ball forward for left-back Steer, who drilled a left-footed drive towards the top left-hand corner from 30-yards, forcing the former Barnet keeper to dive to his right to tip the ball towards safety.

“I think you’re going to have to be very special at the moment to beat Mark. It was a great shot, a great effort, but we’ll done for Cousins to be in the right place,” said Smith, who praised the former Barnet goalkeeper.

“I think he’s a great keeper. He gives me everything that we need. He’s got that experience and he’s commanding and also the calmness when it is a little bit hectic in the 18-yard box. He’s been an outstanding signing so far.”

With Maidenhead kicking down the slope and scoring seven of their 10 goals in the second half this season (one in the 85th and three in the 90th), Smith knew what to expect from Devonshire’s men after the break.

“We knew this was their favourite end now, they’re going downhill and we’ve got the sun in our eyes and everything else.  This is the end they like to go to and we have to be resilient, make the right decisions at the right time and just stick together.”

Bromley improved their performance during the second half with Luke Coulson coming off the bench as Smith used a more attacking 4-3-3 formation.

York Road is a venue going back to the Isthmian League when both sets of well-behaved fans actually swap ends at half-time.  Legendary Bromley manager George Wakeling was in the stand to watch the class of 2019.

The Lillywhites started on the front foot as Coulson played the ball into Cheek, who released Klass through the heart of the pitch and after twisting and turning inside the box, Comley came across and slid in to ensure the ball looped over the crossbar after only 26 seconds.

“I thought Michael Klass coming in starting in a difficult game, I was testing his character a little bit and I thought he stood up to it,” said Smith.

“I’ve just had a chat with him and said have you ever played a game like that for Southend United?  He went ‘nowhere near!’ so we know it’s going to be difficult but I thought he was outstanding!”

Coulson swung in Bromley’s fifth-corner of the game in the 51st minute which was delivered deep for right-back Joe Kizzi, his header being cleared off the line at the near post.

Bromley lined up with a 4-2-4 formation momentarily when Cheek pounced on to a loose ball inside the Maidenhead half of the field but scuffed his speculative right-footed drive harmlessly wide of the goal from 30-yards.

Now back at 4-3-3, Bromley’s front line consisted of Coulson (left), Klass (central) and Hackett-Fairchild (right) but Smith was to pull off a tactical masterstroke later on in this battle.

“I wanted to go a little bit more attacking, it was a tactical thing, nothing more than that,” explained Smith.

“I just wanted to get a bit more pace. We know Coulson’s played every game so far in pre-season so we knew the two games may take it out of him.  I thought Mekki needed time and he was outstanding first half.

“I just thought second half this is a great game for Coulson to have a little bit of an injection of pace.”

Maidenhead called Cousins into action in the 62nd minute.

Comley floated a deep free-kick in from the left, which was flicked on by Ellul and then Upward at the far post and the ball dropped to Fenelon, who shot on the turn from 12-yards was hit straight at Cousins, who caught the ball in his midriff. Either side then it surely would have been a goal.

Smith admitted: “That’s your warning! Don’t give free-kicks away! Don’t give corners way.  That’s when they’re at their best. It was a little bit of an eye-opener.”

Maidenhead United hit Bromley on the counter-attack by taking the lead with 19 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock – despite Bromley launching the ball into the Maidenhead box following their seventh corner of the game.

Coulson cut the corner back to Frankie Raymond, who whipped in a deep first time cross towards the far post and Hammond did well to punch the ball away, climbing high to his left.

Smile broke through the heart of the pitch with the ball at his feet and played the ball on his outside as Fenelon sprinted down the hill down the right.  He cut into the box and crossed low towards Whitehall in the middle, who was thwarted by Wood’s last-ditch tackle, but the ball fell for Smith to drill his shot past Cousins from 16-yards.

“I didn’t expect them to score from one of our corners,” admitted Smith.

“We’ve put a lot of balls into the box. We looked dangerous so I don’t know why then we went for a short one!

“As soon as it goes for a short one, as soon as you don’t put it into an areas where we win the ball, you’re always sceptical because the player defending is now putting the ball in so we’ve just had a go at them.  There’s times and places you do that and we weren’t set up for it properly so disappointed on the goal that we gave away but the character of the boys to then come back was outstanding.”

A couple of minutes before the goal, Smith pulled off his tactical masterstoke as substitute Josh Rees was deployed as a right-winger, instead of his central midfield berth and the former Gillingham returnee played a part in a counter-attacking move in the 67th minute when Bromley missed a glorious chance to equalise.

“That’s when I changed it! I thought right, obviously Josh Rees coming out on the wing and put Reeco up front. I had a game plan in my head to get a certain amount of time and then unleash a bit of pace, so we had Coulson on one side, Josh Rees on the other side and Reeco down the middle and it worked,” highlighted Smith.

Rees broke down the right and played the ball inside to Cheek, who played a short pass to Hackett-Fairchild, who found Coulson in acres of space inside the box but he lost all composure 12-yards out and drilled his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post, when he only had Hammond to beat.

“That was the big chance! We’ve just been saying, we’ve been moaning at him about hitting it with the left (foot) but I think it’s the one time that we wanted him to hit it on the right!

“He had so much time but for him to get into that position and the way we worked it was outstanding, but again, it might’ve been he was a bit rusty after coming on.”

Despite the game being a boring stalemate for the first 64 minutes, it turned to be an exciting final 26 minutes as both sides ditched their defensive game and went for it.

Rees spread the ball from right-to-left to Coulson, who cut the ball back to Wood, whose left-footed cross-turned-shot was gathered by Hammond in his midriff from 25-yards out.

Bromley deserved their equaliser when it arrived with 31 minutes and 3 seconds on the clock.

Okoye – who put in yet another commanding performance at the heart of Bromley’s defence – clipped the ball up field for Cheek, whose sublime through ball put Hackett-Fairchild through on goal and he kept his composure to drill his left-footed shot past Hammond.

“Reeco is a good finisher! We knew that when he came in here he was a centre-forward and I sort of moved him around as a winger but as soon as he was through on goal I didn’t have any doubt that was going in,” said Smith.

Billy Bingham released Rees down the right wing and he whipped in a cross towards the near post but Cheek’s downward header bounced across Hammond and past the far post.

Bromley keeper Cousins pulled off a brilliant world-class save to frustrate Maidenhead United with 39 minutes and 6 seconds on the clock.

Ellul found himself in a right-back position by the touch-line and launched a sublime diagonal cross, which sailed over Okoye’s head to put Whitehall in on goal. The striker brought the ball down and drilled a shot towards the bottom far corner, which bounced just in front of a diving Cousins, who used a strong left-hand to flick the shot around the post and behind for the home side’s final corner.

Smith said: “A great save! We were right behind him so we could see the angle that we’re sitting on and as soon as it hits the ground you don’t think Mark’s got there and all off a sudden his hand moves a couple of inches and just pushed it round.”

With Hackett-Fairchild now playing as a central striker since Rees came on as a right-winger in the 63rd minute, Bromley threw the kitchen sink at their wilting hosts, who couldn’t cope with Bromley’s pace and their late dominance.

Rees fed Hackett-Fairchild (this time down the right) and his left-footed angled drive from 25-yards took a deflection as the ball sailed over the crossbar.

Coulson swung in the resulting corner from the left, which was met by Kizzi’s far-post header, which he planted over the top of the near post.

Bromley kept knocking on the door and smashed that door down by scoring the winning goal with 43 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Coulson threw the ball to Wood, who played the ball back to centre-half Bush, who played the ball back to Wood, who played the ball into Hackett-Fairchild’s feet. 

Bromley’s hero still had a lot to do as he sprinted past three Maidenhead players and produced a clinical composed finish, drilling a left-footed shot across Hammond into the far corner from eight-yards.

Bromley turned a game that looked likely to be settled by just the one goal, into a 2-1 win and that shows character and a team that are looking like a surprise package in the National League this season.

“Then you’re sort of like let’s go in, let’s be unbeaten at the end of the game and to then go and finish it like we did, was amazing,” added Smith.

“He smashes it in to the top corner. He’s full of confidence at the moment and at that stage we know we can see it out. We’ve been doing it for the last few games with how resilient we are, how strong we are and knowing when to do and what to do at the right times.”

Smith added: “It’s a brilliant result! This has been a bogey team to us. Alan Devonshire is a very good manager, a very experienced manager, gets his boys to play 100% so you don’t expect anything than a tough game so for us to come here and win is an amazing result for us. It’s a great Bank Holiday weekend.”

Woking lead the standings with 18 points, with Bromley being the only unbeaten side in the division on 17 points. FC Halifax Town follow in third with 16 points; Solihull Moors are on 13 points; Maidenhead United on 13 points; Dover Athletic on 12 points and Stockport County sit in seventh with 11 points.

The Lillywhites welcome AFC Fylde to Hayes Lane on Saturday 31 August (15:00), fresh from being held to a goal-less draw at home to Harrogate Town today.

“Let’s keep going one game at a time, see where we end up. We’ve given the boys a day off tomorrow and then we start prepping for AFC at home, which will be another tough game,” said Smith.

“We’ll be making sure that we’re ready for it.  I should hope to have players’ back as well but what I’ve got as well in my team is competition. Any of my 16 players’ that are fit can all start.”

Smith has guided his home-town club to their best start in five seasons in the top-flight but momentum has continued from the end of last season.

“We’re one defeat in 13 (league games) so we’ve only carried on from where we went last year, which is what I wanted,” said Smith.

“We’ve got a new team, new players, new energy but we have to make sure, this is early on, we’re not shouting from the rooftops.  This is going to be a tough season and a long one so while we’re doing what we’re doing well, just enjoy it but we know there’s hard work to come.”

Maidenhead United: Taye-Ashby Hammond, Seth Nana Twumasi, Rene Steer, James Comley (Bernard Mensah 90), Alan Massey, Joe Ellul, Shamir Fenelon (Rayheem Sheckleford 75), Ryan Upward, Danny Whitehall, Josh Smile, James Atkintunde (Josh Kelly 77).
Subs: Bradley Keetch, Henry Landers

Goal: Josh Smile 65

Bromley: Mark Cousins, Joe Kizzi, Sam Wood, Frankie Raymond, Chris Bush, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, Billy Bingham,
Michael Cheek, Michael Klass (Josh Rees 63), Adam Mekki (Luke Coulson 46).
Subs: Alan Dunne, Ollie Tanner, Korrey Henry

Goals: Reeco Hackett-Fairchild 77, 89

Attendance: 1,511
Referee: Mr Scott Jackson (Plymouth, Devon)
Assistants: Mr Marcus Carmichael (Basingstoke, Hampshire) & Mr Daniel Flynn (Bristol)
Fourth Official: Mr Iain Parsons (Salisbury, Wiltshire)