Rochdale 4-0 Bromley - A little journey that had to end, just didn't like the way it ended, says proud Bromley boss Neil Smith

Saturday 04th November 2017
Rochdale 4 – 0 Bromley
Location Spotland Stadium, Sandy Lane, Rochdale, Lancashire OL11 5DR
Kickoff 04/11/2017 15:00

The Emirates FA Cup First Round
Saturday 4th November 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Spotland

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he has been kicked in the stomach after the club suffered more FA Cup First Round disappointment.

The Ravens last victory at this stage of the competition was 72 years ago when Slough United were defeated 6-2 on aggregate and hopes were high that Smith’s full-time team would go against the trend that has seen the Hayes Lane outfit fall at this hurdle over the years.

Rochdale went into this game on a four-match unbeaten run but in the bottom six in the Sky Bet League One table, collecting 17 points from 16 games.

Bromley are flying high in seventh-place in the Vanarama National League table with 28 points from 18 games, five points behind leaders Dover Athletic, who were beaten 3-0 at Hayes Lane in the Fourth Qualifying Round Replay after Smith’s men battled their way to a goal-less draw on the Kent coast.

Keith Hill’s side flew out of the traps on the front foot and hit Bromley hard, taking a tenth-minute lead through winger Bradden Inman, 25.

Bromley were dealt a major blow when they lost central defender Roger Johnson, 34, to a hamstring injury, despite receiving treatment from his former club Charlton Athletic during the week leading up to the game.

Bromley winger Luke Wanadio killed off his side’s chances when he conceded a penalty, which was clinically dispatched by Ian Henderson, 32.

Despite playing a nice brand of football on the deck, Rochdale went route one with a Sunday League goal, a big kick from the goalkeeper was finished off by Australian Inman, scoring his sixth goal of the season, early in the second half.

Bromley were reduced to ten-men for the final 15 minutes when striker Brett Williams was sent-off for a challenge on Oliver Rathbone and then Henderson curled in his seventh goal of the campaign.

“Obviously disappointed, I’m still proud of the boys.  They never gave it up but the goals we gave away were all preventable,” said Smith.

“But then saying that I thought Jack Holland and DJ (Dan Johnson) after Roger (Johnson) went off were throwing themselves in the way of things and prevented a few more chances.

“We had a couple of chances ourselves. It’s one of those games in it’s a difficult game but lose your experienced man (Roger Johnson) after 10 minutes is always going to disrupt your team a little bit but the boys on a whole gave everything that had, we just fell a bit short.”

Rochdale started the game on the front foot and attacking left-back Kgosietsile Ntlhe got in behind Alan Dunne, cut the ball back for Henderson to curl around the far post after only 65 seconds.

Ntlhe then beat Louis Dennis down the left and played the ball inside to Inman, who set-up wide-man Calvin Andrew, who drilled his right-footed shot just past the left-hand post from 16-yards, with only two minutes and nine seconds on the clock.

“They were very lively early on, their movement off the ball, the running in behind and it shook us a little bit.  All we said was stay in the game but it was hard because their players were running off us.  They’re a lively side, a very good side,” said Smith.

Rochdale kept knocking on the door and it was no surprise when they took the lead with only nine minutes and six seconds on the clock.

The Dale linked up well down the left with a slick passing move. 

Rathbone played the ball out to the left and Ntlhe cut into the penalty area, Alan Dunne slipped and Inman was played in behind and he placed his right-footed angled drive across David Gregory from 10-yards.

Smith said: “Again, it was good movement from the three (Ntlhe). We spoke about it earlier in the week that their full-backs push right on and we’ve just got to communicate, the winger (Dennis) and the full-back (Dunne) have got to work together and we just didn’t at that time but to go a goal down after 10 minutes, the plan was to keep them quiet but it didn’t happen!”

Roger Johnson was replaced after 19 minutes and Smith had to reshuffle the pack, putting Frankie Raymond in at right-back and Dan Johnson moved from left-back to partner Jack Holland at the heart of defence, with Dunne on the right.

It was a severe blow for Bromley losing a player with Premier League experience, who also played for second-tier side Cardiff City against Portsmouth in The FA Cup Final in 2008.

“He just tweaked his hamstring again. He turned around and said he was fully fit, we’ve gone on that.  He’s been having treatment with Charlton but he just overstretched,” revealed Smith.

“It’s a big loss, that’s why he was such an asset of going in because we needed that experience with the young boys. Some of them have not played at this level before and to lose him I thought was a bit difficult but I thought DJ came in at centre half alongside Jack and did extremely well.”

Bromley were always going to be up against it and Rochdale went close to doubling their lead inside 20 minutes.

Henderson was given space just outside the right-hand corner of the Bromley box to float over a cross towards the far post and the lively Ntlhe guided his free header against the near post from inside the six-yard box as former Millwall defender Dunne went missing again.

“He was playing off of Louis and in the end Louis has got to go a bit deeper,” said Smith.

“We knew they were going to have chances and we just had to ride our luck a little bit. We were hoping to get in at 1-0 down at half-time and still be in it.”

Bromley then enjoyed a good spell of possession and creating chances that they simply had to take.

Roger Johnson’s replacement, Frankie Sutherland, swung in a corner from the right, it was flicked on at the near post by Williams and Dan Johnson opted to head the ball across goal instead of testing Josh Lillis.

Sutherland then swung in Bromley’s third corner which was met by Hollands’s header from eight-yards, bouncing once through a crowded goal-mouth into Lillis gloves for a comfortable save.

Smith said: “We’ve worked on set-plays because we knew they would be important and Jack couldn’t have done any more.  It went at the keeper, if I’ve got to be brutally honest but a great delivery into the box.”

Rochdale’s supporters were complaining online that The FA had appointed a referee who ply’s his trade in non-league football – but the Durham man awarded the home side a penalty.

Andrew played right-back Joseph Rafferty on the overlap and Wanadio came across and committed a clumsy foul.

Henderson stepped up and sent Gregory the wrong way with a clinically despatched right-footed penalty, nestling into the left-hand corner of the goal with only 30 minutes and 14 seconds on the clock.

Those kinds of decisions always seem to go against the non-league sides at a League outfit.

Smith agreed, saying: “Luke’s saying he didn’t touch him! He said the player ran into him but I think it’s always easy for the referee to give the decision that he gave.  He should’ve been a little bit closer.

“That’s going in at 2-0, coming to a difficult place because I thought we sort of weathered the storm a little bit up until then.  It was like just get in so we can re-group and see what we can do afterwards. He’s despatched the penalty and it's on the back foot again.”

Dunne went missing again in the 37th minute, allowing Inman to get in behind him to send his downward header into Gregory’s hands from eight-yards after Andrew cut in from the right and floated over a left-footed cross from the right.

Bromley created a glorious chance to bring themselves back from the dead, just 73 seconds later.

Sutherland swung in a free-kick with his right-footed some 35-yards from goal and Williams rose with keeper Lillis to steer his header agonisingly across goal and only just past the far post from eight-yards.

“He just glanced it, he probably got too much of a glance to it and then there was the one that Josh Rees leant back a little bit.  If he gets over it, the way he’s been finishing at the moment, you’d put your house on it. He just leant back and it just went over. A couple of chances where it just gives you a lift ass a squad.”

Jordan Higgs and Josh Rees linked in in the final third and Louis Dennis’ deflected drive went behind for a corner, which Bromley missed another great chance to score from.

Sutherland swung in their fourth (and penultimate corner) from the left and Rees turned and cracked his left-footed shot over the crossbar from 10-yards, a couple of minutes before the break.

When asked about what he said to his troops at the break, Smith replied: “We weathered the storm, I said just go out there and again see it out for the first 10 minutes.  You’re not going to get the two goals in the first five minutes but you’ve just got to stay in it and it was another sloppy goal!

“We went 4-3-3, we thought we might as well let the wingers push on and hopefully that keeps the full-backs back, midfield then has three in there and that kept them back a little bit and I thought it was working second half, it was a lot better.”

Rochdale got in behind Bromley’s full-backs at an alarming rate.

Rafferty’s over-hit corner was retrieved by Inman out on the left and he whipped in a deep cross towards the far post which was poked just wide by Andrew from close range.

Ntlhe got in behind Dunne on the left and chipped in a cross which was knocked down by Andrew and Inman’s hook across goal was gathered by Gregory.

Bromley conceded a third goal that was more akin to Sunday League football,  than from a League One outfit, timed at seven minutes and 57 seconds on the clock.

Bromley winger Wanadio floated in a cross from the right and Dan Johnson’s header at the far post failed to test Lillis, who launched a big kick forward straight down the middle, which sailed over Raymond’s head and Inman slotted his right-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner from just inside the box.

“The third goal was a bit of a joke really,” admitted Smith.

“It came from the fact that we’ve nearly scored at the other end. DJ’s saying it came off their player, we’re still looking at the ball.  They’ve put it down and gone up the other and that’s where you get punished at this level.  If you switch off for one minute the League sides are very, very good.  He’s put it over Frankie Raymond’s head and he’s just through and keeper Dave hasn’t got a chance as he’s gone through one-on-one.”

It had a very similar feeling to it as Bromley’s other FA Cup defeats to League One sides during the past 10 years.

“Just don’t get hammered!,” was what Smith was feeling at the time.

“All I wanted to do was give the supporters something to go home with.  I was desperate to get a goal just for them and that’s why we’ve brought on Tashan and Adam Mekki, just a fresh pair of legs to see if we can nick a goal.”

Dan Johnson clipped a ball over the top of the Rochdale defence and Williams brought the ball down under control before clipping his left-footed shot straight at Lillis in the 59th minute.

Ntlhe found space inside the Bromley box again and teed-up Henderson, who’s left-footed shot on the turn was turned behind by Gregory at his near post.

Rathbone played Ntlhe in behind Dunne, reaching the by-line to cut the ball back for Rafferty to curl his shot over the bar.

Bromley substitute winger Adam Mekki cut in from the left into the middle of the pitch before dragging his shot past the left-hand post from 22-yards.

Target-man Tashan Francis-Adeyinka, who was playing in Sweden for Assyriska FF and was previously at Crystal Palace, Welling United and Bishop’s Stortford, was handed his debut by Smith for the final 20 minutes.

“He was playing in Sweden, we got International Clearance yesterday. I needed a body, he’s come in on trial and it was just throw him in at the deep end.  He did ok.  It was hard for him, that was his first game for us, so it was always going to be difficult 3-0 down against a League One side. We’re not really going to see what he can actually do but I just gambled. I just wanted to get a goal, he’s a centre forward.”

Bromley’s best chance of the second half, however, came when Williams showed desire to bulldoze his way through the Rochdale defence, and Mekki and Rees linked up on the right and Sutherland’s right-footed angled drive from 25-yards  was tipped around the post by Lillis, diving low to his right.

“We created a couple of chances against a League One side,” said Smith.

“I’ve just said that to the boys, if you can do that, getting back to reality, we’ve got Guiseley next week, keep your head up. If you can do that against a League One side, we’ve got to take that into the League now. It was a great save from the keeper. I don’t think we worked him enough. I think if we hit the target a little bit more, we can test him but a good save when he was called onto it.”

A frustrated Williams then appeared to lash out at Rathbone, who hobbled away from him and referee Andrew Miller pulled out a straight red-card for the Bromley striker.

“I didn’t see it, I generally didn’t see it,” said Smith, when asked about the off-the-ball incident.

“I’m still waiting to find out. He’s said his foot got caught, tangled up with their player and I don’t know if he stamped on him, that was the accusation.  I don’t know, I’ll have to see it on the video. If he did then there’s no need to do it.”

Higgs then slotted in at right-back for the rest of the game as Bromley made it a damage limitation exercise.

Henderson fed Rathbone, who was denied by Gregory, diving to his right and Andrew’s driven shot was cleared off the line by Higgs on the far post.

Henderson’s chip from a couple of yards outside the Bromley box was tipped over the bar by Gregory, before Ntlhe drilled his shot into the side netting after a corner came back out to him.

The inevitable fourth Rochdale goal arrived with 38 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock.

Rochdale’s seventh and final corner, taken by Ntlhe, came back to him and he played the ball inside for Henderson, who after some poor defending from Higgs, curled his shot around Gregory to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Smith said: “He’s come on to his stronger foot and he’s curled it in at the far post. Just speaking to Jordan Higgs and I think he’s just looking for a pass. We’re down to 10 men, you’ve just got to clear your lines!

“I thought Jordan Higgs was immense today, I thought he was brilliant and then to go in at right-back with 10 men.  I’m not going to blame anyone today. I thought they never gave up and showed great spirit.  That’s what I’m saying, it’s easy to lose your head, 10 men, 3-0 down against a League One side. 

“They kept on going, they never gave up. I’m proud of them. A little journey that had to end, just didn’t like the way it ended.”

It was nearly five inside stoppage time when the impressive Ntlhe whipped in a cross into the Bromley box but Andrew steered his header past the post.

With rain falling down from dark Lancashire skies, 282 Bromley fans  gave their team brilliant vocal support for 90 minutes, which didn’t go unnoticed by Smith.

“The supporters were fantastic, they were brilliant! Non-stop singing and that’s why I was just desperate to get a goal for them, just give them something.

“I know every time we get into this round that’s all I want to do and we always end up shooting ourselves in the foot but they were fantastic from the first to the last minute supporting the boys and they’ve been like that all season so I apologise for not giving them what we wanted to give them but I think they can see the boys never gave up.”

Bromley have won only three FA Cup First Round ties in their 125-year history, the last being THAT 4-2 aggregate win over Slough United back in 1945.

Reading, Aldershot, Torquay United, Swindon Town, Enfield, Gillingham, Colchester United, Leyton Orient, Fleetwood Town, Dartford and now Rochdale have shattered Bromley’s dreams.

Smith said: “You get a kick in the stomach, but at the same time I said to the boys you’ve just seen what the levels are.  They’re two levels below the Premiership, they’re two levels above us whether they’re sixth-from-bottom or not.  They’ve got a very experienced manager, they play a certain style and we’ve got to learn, we’ve got to learn if you give teams a chance like that you’re going to get punished.

“But likewise we’ve got to get back to our bread and butter, we’ve got Guiseley away next Saturday and I want to get this out of our system as soon as we get on that coach!”

Rochdale: Josh Lillis, Joseph Rafferty, Kgosietsile Ntlhe, Callum Camps, Jimmy McNulty, Harrison McGahey, Bradden Inman, Oliver Rathbone (Mark Kitching 84), Matthew Done (Jordan Slew 81), Ian Henderson, Calvin Andrew.
Subs: Niall Canavan, Jordan Williams, Steven Davies, Brendan Moore, Donervon Daniels.

Goals:  Bradden Inman 10, 53, Ian Henderson 31 (penalty), 84

Booked: Jimmy McNulty 63

Bromley: David Gregory, Alan Dunne (Tashan Francis-Adeyinka 70
), Dan Johnson, Jordan Higgs, Roger Johnson (Frankie Sutherland 19), Jack Holland, Luke Wanadio (Adam Mekki 58), Frankie Raymond, Brett Williams, Josh Rees, Louis Dennis.
Subs: Kristian Campbell, Iffy Allen, Ben Wynter, Santiago Tulian

Booked: Frankie Sutherland 35

Sent Off: Brett Williams 75

Attendance: 2,241 (282 away)
Referee: Mr Andrew Miller (Durham, County Durham)
Assistants: Mr Michael D’Aguilar (Cannock, Staffordshire) & Mr Barry Cropp (Blackpool, Lancashire)
Fourth Official: Mr James Oldham (Mickleover, Derbyshire)

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