Maidenhead United 5-2 Bromley - We've had such a great season up until now, I don't want people to remember us for that one and it wasn't good enough,

Saturday 28th April 2018
Maidenhead United 5 – 2 Bromley
Location York Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 1SF
Kickoff 28/04/2018 12:30

MAIDENHEAD UNITED  5-2  BROMLEY
Vanarama National League
Saturday 28 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from York Road

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he doesn’t want their personal best season to be remembered by a painful humiliation at Maidenhead United.

The Ravens had to win at York Road and hope other results went for them to grab a Vanarama National League Play-off place but in front of around 200 travelling fans they put in their worst performance in their 138 game top-flight history.

Smith’s men were staring down the barrel as Alan Devonshire’s side raced into a 2-0 lead after only 143 seconds, courtesy of Sam Barratt’s close-range header and a tap in by holding midfielder Christian Smith.

Bromley accepted a lifeline through wideman George Porter’s eighth goal of the season halfway through the first half but it went horribly wrong after that.

Magpies’ winger Nana Owusu was clinical when a chance came his way as Bromley were  3-1 down after only 32 minutes.

Maidenhead United made it four early in the second half through winger Barratt’s second of the game and sixth goal of the campaign, before striker Sean Marks headed in their fifth.

Bromley pulled a second goal back through on-loan striker Omar Bugiel, who tapped in his sixth goal for the club since coming in from League Two side Forest Green Rovers.

“Very, very disappointed, that wasn’t the Bromley team that we’ve had all through the season and to a man they’ve been amazing and it was probably a game too many for them,” said Smith.

“But I’m not going to go ripping heads off today. That wasn’t us and we’ve got to pick ourselves up.  We’ve got a fantastic game coming up at Wembley (against Brackley Town in The Buildbase FA Trophy Final on Sunday 20 May) and we just know we have to be better than that!

“A lot of people had us down as one of the bottom three or four and we’ve proved a lot of people wrong but as a game today, very disappointing.”

Smith added: “You’re fighting an uphill battle straight away and you come back and we sort of get a goal back and then we’ve let a soft goal in at half-time and we come in and we try to change it but it was always going to be difficult.

“The boys, for some reason, just didn’t perform to their best today.  I say all of them, there were a few of them that did but it gives me food for thought for the final against Brackley.”

Champions Macclesfield Town completed their 46-match campaign with 92 points in the bag and will have to wait to see who will join them in League Two next season.

Tranmere Rovers (82 points); Sutton United (79); Boreham Wood (75); Aldershot Town (75); Ebbsfleet United (74) and AFC Fylde (73) are in the play-offs.

Dover Athletic (73 points); Bromley (70) and Wrexham (70) all miss out on a chance of winning promotion.

Devonshire certainly did his homework on Bromley, who often start games on the back foot and they were made to pay for their sloppy start in Berkshire.

Maidenhead United, who won the Vanarama National League South title last season and finished their first season at this level in 12th place on 64 points, took the lead exactly two and a half minutes into the final game of the season.

Barratt rolled the ball out to winger Owusu, who cut inside and floated over a cross towards the far post and Alan Dunne allowed Barratt to nip in front of him to steer his header into the left-hand corner from four-yards at the far post.

“If you said what kind of start would’ve you had, it would’ve been a complete opposite to that,” admitted Smith.

“We’ve been so tight, a clean sheet (in a goalless home draw on Tuesday night) against a Barrow side who are very, very direct.

“Before that Sean Marks gets a flick-on, we didn’t cover round and there’s a free ball in the box and he takes it.”

Barratt dominated Bromley right-back Dunne for the 36 minutes that the former Millwall player struggled on the pitch and Barratt’s cross found Owusu in space at the far post and his swept shot was tipped around the post by Bromley goalkeeper David Gregory, diving to his right.

But Bromley’s problems increased when Maidenhead controversially doubled their lead following the resulting corner.

Barratt chipped in their first of 10 corners in from the right and a nudged Gregory dropped the ball and Christian Smith stabbed the ball over the line from a couple of yards out.

“The keeper’s dropping the ball on one of our players and it goes in and you’re fighting an uphill battle straight away,” admitted Smith.

“They’re saying he got held, I don’t know whether he did or he didn’t.  It looks a bit clumsy to me but I think the referee said he actually caught the ball and dropped it on the back of one of our own players heads so they’re saying he didn’t.  It was such a crowded box but you normally get those decisions on a goalkeeper.  They only need a slightest touch but we didn’t get it and then within five minutes you’re 2-0 down!”

When asked what he was thinking at the time, Smith replied: “Where’s the way out?  Just thinking we said we wanted to get off to a strong start.  I picked a side to go and be strong with because we know their physicality.  They’re all big boys, a bit like Barrow but we just didn’t do it so after everything you planned goes out of the window!”

Harold Odametey stole the ball off Frankie Raymond in midfield and drove forward and played the ball out to Owusu, who whipped in a cross from the right and Jack Holland’s sliced clearance dropped over his own crossbar.

Barratt looked up and noticed that Gregory was off his line before hitting a 35-yard shot sailing harmlessly wide of the near post after breaking down the left – and Christian Smith tried to score with a chip from 55-yards, which also sailed past the same upright.

Maidenhead United squandered a glorious chance to race into a 3-0 lead inside 18 minutes.

Holland lost his footing close to the touchline and Barratt seized on the ball as the Bromley captain was trying to get back up and the Maidenhead winger cut into the box and put the ball on a plate for unmarked Marks, who miss-kicked the ball just 10-yards out.

“He (Marks) miss-kicked it and I think Tyrone (Sterling) cleared it off the line, otherwise it could’ve bene an absolute farce but that sort of summed up our afternoon.  Just the basic stuff that we’ve done so well up until today, we didn’t.”

Bromley pulled a goal back as Porter grabbed hold of a lifeline with 21 minutes and 46 seconds on the clock.

Porter’s third (of eight) long throws was cleared out to him and he drilled a low right-footed shot from just inside the corner of the box through a crowd of players, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner.

“It was a great finish. He kept it down well. Whether it took a deflection or not, I’m not too sure but it was a great shot from him,” said Smith.

“All off a sudden you think ‘right, let’s just see it into half-time,’ We haven’t been great, see it in but again we gave a sloppy goal away.”

But any chance of Bromley making a comeback were distinguished when Maidenhead were clinical outside the box with 31 minutes and 11 seconds into the game.

Central midfielder James Comley played the ball inside to Owusu, who cut the ball onto his left foot and placed his left-footed drive across the diving keeper to find the bottom far corner from 25-yards.

Smith said:  “Again, we didn’t get tight enough.  He’s not been getting in the team, they’ve been playing Pritchard. He came in and he wanted to prove a point, obviously to stay here again for next season and it was a great finish.”

Dunne, 35, was substituted and Jordan Higgs moved back into right-back as striker Brandon Hanlan came on and went up front.

Smith explained:  “I took Dunny off, I could’ve taken either of my full-backs off, but I took Dunny off because I’ve got a right-back in Jordan Higgs who can go in and fit in there.  I thought Jordan Higgs was immense again today for such a young man going into another position, took it well and that was the only reason to bring Brandon on.”

Barratt threw the ball in from the left and central defender Remy Clerima steered his free header wide at the near post.

Hanlan ran at the Maidenhead defence and found Porter unmarked on the right-hand side of the penalty area and his centre was swept first time by recalled midfielder Josh Rees, but Alan Massey slammed the door in his face to clear.

Smith said  “Whether it was going in, I’m not too sure but it was a great bit of play and you’re just looking for anything, just get another goal and make it a little bit of a closer game going into the second half but we didn’t get it.  We were 3-1 down at half-time and you’re looking at how we can change it and bring people on to try to get us a result.”

Gregory redeemed himself by making a string of fine diving saves, diving to his right to tip behind Owusu’s angled drive which was destined to end up in the bottom far corner.

“Whatever I said, it was very loud,” revealed Smith when asked about his half-time rallying cry.

“It wasn’t good and we’ve had such a great season up until now, I don’t want people to remember us for that one and it wasn’t good enough!

“We were second to everything today and that’s not been the case.  That wasn’t the same team that beat Boreham Wood the other week, that wasn’t the team that had a fight against Barrow and should’ve got a result. We looked like we went out on a whimper today and that’s not a team of mine!”

Had Bromley pulled off a miracle come-back, their promotion dream died in Berkshire as Wrexham held AFC Fylde to a goalless draw at The Racecourse Ground.

Maidenhead United were now kicking down the slope and took only three minutes and 25 seconds to make it a painful second half for the travelling faithful.

Roger Johnson cleared the ball poorly to Comley, who teed up an unmarked Barratt, who drove his left-footed angled shot across Gregory to nestle inside the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

“Every time they went in to the box we looked vulnerable and every time they went forward they looked like they were going to score,” admitted Smith.

“It could’ve been 6-1 at one stage and I just didn’t want it to get, it was embarrassing enough!

“You’re just looking for the character in that team to stand up and I looked at it and I saw Frankie Raymond standing up, I saw Jordan Higgs’ stand up, I saw Jack Holland standing up, Omar (Bugiel).  You’re just looking at other people to stand up and be men!”

At the other end, Rees played the ball out to Porter on the right and his low centre was cut out by keeper Carl Pentney, gathering the ball low to his right.

Goalkeeper Gregory excelled by saving Bromley from further embarrassment with some fine second half saves.

Barratt drove in a low left-footed free-kick, which Johnson failed to cut out on the edge of the box and the ball fell to Clerima inside the box and Gregory beat the fierce shot away high to his right.

Barratt then launched a deep throw-in from the right and the ball fell at Owusu at the far post and his shot on the turn was tipped towards the far corner, which Gregory pulled off a brilliant diving save, to his left, to tip it around the post, again.

“He pulled a great save off again early on. He could’ve just gone missing but he didn’t, he stayed with it and Gregaz has had a fantastic season. Twenty clean sheets this season out of nearly 60 games that we’ve played.  He’s been outstanding and it seemed like everybody who had a bad game had it on the same day!”

Rees toe-poked a low pass out to Higgs, who was given space to whip in a cross towards the penalty spot where Bugiel rose to head past the right-hand post.

Maidenhead United scored their 65th league goal of the season with 15:57 minutes on the clock.

Man-of-the-match Barratt, 22, a capture from Bracknell Town, sailed over a cross from the right and Marks rose above Holland to loop his header off his marker in a central position just 10-yards out and over Gregory’s outstretched finger-tips and drop in just underneath the crossbar in the middle of the goal.

“He headed it on to Jack’s shoulder and it’s hit the top spin and its gone over Gregaz and gone into the top corner, so they get the ricochet and it goes in and that’s how it was for me,” added Smith.

Porter’s sixth long throw of the game was punched away by Pentney and Porter’s cross was punched away by the keeper again and sat up for Raymond to smack his left-footed volley high over the crossbar from just inside the Maidenhead crossbar.

Gregory made another fine save in the 66th minute when he dived to his left to tip behind Marks’ diving header after Comley launched a free-kick from the left in midfield.

Barratt swung in the resulting corner and Smith’s diving header went down and over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.

Bugiel restored an inch of pride for Bromley by tapping home his side’s second goal of the game with 22 minutes and 44 seconds on the clock.

AFC Fylde scored the most National League goals this season with 82; Tranmere Rovers were second with 82 and Bromley third with 75.

Bugiel played the ball into substitute Louis Dennis’ feet, he held the ball up and then linked up with Raymond on the left before Dennis burst past Clerima to reach the by-line before flashing a low cross across the face of goal and Bugiel took a touch before slotting past the keeper from eight-yards.

“Omar was outstanding today in a very difficult situation,” praised Smith.

“It’s the first time I’ve had to see him when we haven’t been playing well and I saw him growing into his position.  I saw him fighting. I’ve seen him running past our own players to go and win tackles and I thought he was one of the players out of a few, very few of the players who can walk out of here with his head held high.”

Bromley’s creative talent Dennis played a one-two with Hanlan before cracking a left-footed drive dipping just over the top of the near post from 25-yards.

Christian Smith’s right-footed half-volley, following a Bromley clearance, was held by Gregory, diving to his right in the final 15 minutes.

Comley released Barratt down the left, who sped past Higgs and drilled in an angled drive, which was beaten away by Gregory at his near post.

Bromley went agonisingly close to scoring a third goal in the 84th minute after Holland was fouled on the edge of the D after coming up for a set-piece.

Dennis had both of his hands on his hips before curling a right-footed free-kick over the wall from 22-yards, the ball clipping the left-hand post and bouncing off Porter and bouncing past the same post.

Smith added:  “We’ve had a free-kick, Louis hits the post, it comes back out, hits George and goes wide and that summed our day today. It was like it was never going to happen.”

Smith faces a fight to keep the highly-rated Dennis, 25, at Hayes Lane.  Smith’s decision to turn Dennis from a winger to a number 10 has had the desired effect with Dennis scoring 21 goals this season.

“I’ve got a few conversations I’ve got to have with players that are here and who are not here and who want to be in here,” said the Bromley boss.

“People are phoning us up for a change, not me having to search around but I think because of the season we’ve had, people have been impressed with us and we’ve got to make sure we kick on and don’t stand still.”

Maidenhead United substitute 15-goal attacker Harry Pritchard played the ball out to unmarked right-back Rene Steer, who produced a defenders finish by lashing his first time left-footed shot over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Bromley created the final chance at the end as Porter floated in a cross from the right and with his back to goal Dennis chested the ball before hitting an acrobatic volley over his head and crossbar from 10-yards.

Bromley have progressed in each of their three seasons in the National League with a fourteenth-place on 60 points on debut; tenth-place on 62 points last season and in ninth-place on 70 points, missing out on the play-off lottery by three points this time around.

Smith can now prepare for Bromley’s trip to Wembley, where they lock horns with Brackley Town, who have completed their 42-match Vanarama National League North campaign in third-place with 80 points in the bag.

“It’s been a brilliant season for us. All we’ve wanted to do was improve year on year,” said Smith.

“We’re a small club, we have to work within a budget. We’ve got more points than we got last year, we’ve finished higher than we have last year and we’ve got a trip to Wembley, we played in the First Round of The FA Cup so the boys have been brilliant.

“I just don’t want us to be remembered for that game today. We’ve got another chance to finish on a high with the trip to Wembley.”

Maidenhead United: Carl Pentney, Rene Steer, Maximillian Kilman, Christian Smith, Alan Massey, Remy Clerima (Jake Goodman 69), Nana Owusu (Harry Pritchard 77), Harold Odametey, Sean Marks (Adrian Clifton 88), James Comley, Sam Barratt.
Subs: Moses Emmanuel, Ryan Peters

Goals: Sam Barratt 3, 49, Christian Smith 5, Nana Owusu 32, Sean Marks 61

Booked: Rene Steer 12

Bromley: David Gregory, Alan Dunne (Brandon Hanlan 36), Tyrone Sterling, Frankie Raymond, Roger Johnson (Ben Chorley 69), Jack Holland, Jordan Higgs, Josh Rees, Omar Bugiel, George Porter, Adam Mekki (Louis Dennis 52).
Subs: Dan Johnson, Frankie Sutherland

Goals: George Porter 22, Omar Bugiel 68

Booked: Josh Rees 65

Attendance: 1,418
Referee: Mr Adam Bromley (Plymouth, Devon)
Assistants: Mr Daniel Bonneywell (Herne Bay) & Mr Kieran Bailey (High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Michael Smith


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EMAIL STEPHEN McCARTNEY:
stephen@kentishfootball.co.uk