Tonbridge Angels 0-1 Bromley - I want to win it now that we're in the Kent Senior Cup Final, says Bromley manager Neil Smith

Tuesday 19th March 2019
Tonbridge Angels 0 – 1 Bromley
Location Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF
Kickoff 19/03/2019 19:45

Kent Senior Cup Semi-Final
Tuesday 19 March 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says it will be a good season to finish in the top half of the Vanarama National League after reaching the Kent Senior Cup Final for the first time in 12 years.

The Ravens sealed their passage into the 130th Kent Senior Cup Final after coming away from third-placed Bostik Premier Division side Tonbridge Angels courtesy of Jonathan Hooper’s 14th goal for the club.

The Kent FA have yet decided on a date or a venue for the final but the Ravens will meet their Vanarama National League rivals and holders Maidstone United, who beat Gillingham 4-2 on penalties tonight after the game finished tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes.

Bromley were without cup-tied trio Luke Coulson, Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild.  Jake Goodman (defender); Adam Mekki (winger) and attacker Zavon Hines have all been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Centre-halves Jack Holland and Marc-Anthony Okoye and attacker George Porter were not risked.

“Really pleased, they’re a good side Tonbridge, fair play to them. They’re doing well in their league but I thought we made it hard for ourselves in the second half,” admitted Smith, who has guided his home-town club to back-to-back Cup Finals in two seasons.

“We had a couple of chances to kill it off but when you’re 1-0 you’ve always got to be careful of the late goal but as it was the boys saw it out and I was really pleased.

“We didn’t play on Saturday so I didn’t want them to go a whole week or two weeks without playing a game so (not) having this game, I would’ve arrange a friendly of some sort so to have this competitive game gets my boys ready for matchday against Braintree.

“We’ve got a win, we’re in the final and that’s what the supporters’ have been asking me for so we’ve got to a final again.  We haven’t been there for 12 years so it wasn’t as long as the last one at Wembley, but I still want to be in there.

“I thought we did a job today. We could’ve made it easier on ourselves but I thought full credit to Tonbridge, they wanted to win it as much as we did.”

Steve McKimm’s side went into this game on a five-match unbeaten run and they’ve kept four clean sheets on a bounce and they were denied the lead inside the opening 11 minutes by a fine double save from David Gregory.

Central midfielder Tom Beere swung in a corner from the right, which dropped at Michael Kamara’s feet at the far post. The centre-half cut the ball back to Adem Ramadan, who put the ball back into the box. 

Gregory palmed the ball away and Sonny Miles planted his header towards goal, which forced the Bromley keeper to palm the ball away high to his right, before pulling off a fine reaction save from a driven shot from the Angels centre-half.

“I must admit, I think when Gregory was called upon, he did well tonight earlier on,. There was the intent they wanted to win this game. I thought Gregaz covered his 18-yard box really well tonight,” added Smith.

Bromley sealed their victory by scoring the only goal of the game, with 16 minutes and 44 seconds on the clock.

Hooper played the ball out to the impressive left-winger Dennon Lewis, who sprinted past the right-back (Liam Smith) to reach the by-line and his initial shot from a tight angle was parried by Jonathan Henly, diving low to his left. 

The ball rolled out to Hooper, who rifled a first time right-footed drive into the roof of the net from 16-yards.

“At this moment in time JJ just loves scoring and that’s what he thrives on,” said Smith, who is keen to tie him down at Hayes Lane once his contract at League Two side Grimsby Town expires.

“I thought it was a great tun and it was a great slide ball into Lewis and I thought the cut back for him for the first shot and obviously the second one, he took it well and that’s what he’s doing at the moment, he’s hitting a bit of form.”

When asked about Hooper’s future, Smith replied: “Has he arranged for his plans for next year?  I can arrange mine but of course (I want him to stay).  He’s a local boy, went to school with George Porter, they’ve got a good partnership going and he just loves scoring and I need a goalscorer but at the same time he’s contracted at Grimsby until 30 June so we can’t do anything until then.”

Tonbridge Angels keeper Henly was called into making a fine save at his near post in the 35th minute.

Hooper released Lewis, 21, down the left again and the winger who was playing for Scottish Championship side Falkirk earlier in the season tried to score from a tight angle again, but the Angels keeper showed a safe pair of hands at his near post.

“Believe it or not, we were working on that as a bit of a pattern of play and movement and he was finishing them every time, every time he got a chance,” revealed Smith.

“But the one time he gets it in a game, I thought the keeper did really well and made himself big and made it hard for Dennon but again he showed intent.”

Tonbridge Angels produced a slick attacking move inside the final third before D’Sean Theobalds played the ball out wide to Jared Small on the right and he whipped in a cross towards the near post.

Tonbridge’s lone striker Alex Read found a pocket of space in behind Roger Johnson but his hooked shot on the turn was comfortably palmed over the crossbar by Gregory.

“He palmed it over but it was at him and I’d be disappointed if it had gone in – but again to be in the right position you’ve got to give full credit to Gregaz, I thought he marshalled his goal really well tonight,” said Smith.

Frankie Sutherland fed the ball into Bugiel, who drove through the middle of the pitch and instead of shooting from outside the box, he played the ball over to Lewis but Henly rushed off his line to tip the ball behind for a corner.

“Omar had the 50-50 in midfield, he held the player off really well and went straight for the goal and slipped a great ball in. He could’ve had a shot himself to be quite honest with you. He was very unselfish and you think put that one in and go in at half-time 2-0 up and it makes it easier.”

Sutherland’s resulting corner was cleared out to Jordan Higgs, whom hit a rasping drive sailing over the crossbar.

Bromley created the final chance of the first half when Bugiel strode forward, shrugging off Beere in the middle of the pitch, before playing the ball out to Lewis on the left. He cut the ball back for Hooper, who flicked the ball over his shoulder and across the keeper and past the far post from eight-yards.

Smith was asked his thoughts at the break.

“Just do the same again!  They’re going to have their moments and they’re going to be desperate and throw men forward and we just have to show that we’re professional and show what we can do and marshal it out and when you get a chance take it and that was the only frustrating thing, we didn’t take them!”

Bromley left-back Sam Wood and Lewis linked up well down the left and the ball was played inside to Bugiel, who flashed a right-footed first time shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from 25-yards after 129 seconds.

Smith, who withdrew Bugiel (tight calf) and right-back Richard Brindley (ankle), during the second half, added: “But at least he’s shooting! He could’ve shot on the first half and didn’t so I didn’t want him to ever fear about shooting and fearing to miss. He showed an intent and I thought he grew strong.”

Higgs slotted in at right-back after Brindley was substituted, while Dunne and Johnson remained at the heart of defence, with Wood at left-back.

Tonbridge Angels were pressing for an equaliser and Bromley hit them on the break down the right in the 51st minute.

Higgs broke down the right wing and Sutherland released Hooper sprinting down the right channel and the last defender failed to cut the low cross over to Lewis on the other side of the pitch. 

Goalkeeper Henly used his legs to thwart Lewis on two occasions when the Bromley winger had two bites of the cherry to score from 10-yards.

Smith said: “He hit the target. You’ve got to make the keeper work and he did and I thought the second one he could’ve done a bit better but full credit to their keeper.”

Emergency centre-half Dunne clipped the ball over the top of the Tonbridge defence, which was chested down by Bugiel but Hooper curled his right-footed shot over the top of the right-hand post from 18-yards after he brought the ball under his spell.

Bromley substitute Frankie Raymond’s first touch was to swing in a corner from the right which was met at the near post by Johnson’s flicked header, which sailed across goal and past the far post.

Halfway through the second half, a big kick from Gregory was knocked down by Hooper and Bugiel dragged his left-footed shot past the post from the edge of the D.

Bromley manager Smith brought on Billy Craske (wide right) and striker Shaike Kamara, 17, during the second half.

Smith said:  “I thought people like Billy Craske put themselves in the shop window today, I thought he was outstanding when he came on. He was very direct.

“Jordan Higgs done a great job at right-back as well and likewise taking Omar off and putting a 17-year-old kid on for his first team debut, I thought he done well. He only got told (that he was in the squad) 20 minutes before leaving for here tonight so full credit for him as well.

“The young kids might get their chance. At Bromley Football Club we want to develop our own players and I think that may be a massive plus for us this season.”

Bromley went close to killing the game off inside the final 10 minutes when Craske’s cross from the right was cleared out to Raymond, who hit a left-footed volley curling just around the bottom left-hand corner from 30-yards.

Tonbridge substitute Tom Derry, whipped in a cross into the Bromley box, which was cleared by Dunne and Beere’s hooked shot from outside the box was comfortably controlled by Gregory’s feet before the keeper gathered.

Lewis released Hooper through on goal but Angels’ keeper Henly made a vital block and Shaike Kamara choose the wrong option when he collected the ball at his feet just outside the penalty area.

With no extra-time nowadays, Tonbridge Angels almost snatched an equaliser to force a penalty shoot-out with 75 seconds into stoppage time.

Beere floated in his sixth corner of the night in from the right and substitute centre-half Arthur Lee rose at the far post and hung in the air to plant his header agonisingly through a crowd of players and just past the near post from within the six-yard box.

“One-nil is a horrible score, especially when it’s a cup game like this because they’re going to be desperate and throw things forward and they did have one chance right towards the end,” said Smith.

“The boys could’ve lost their heads for a minute but they didn’t. They stay composed, they saw it out and we make the final.”

Maidstone United face a battle to retain their top-flight status and remain rooted inside the bottom two with 29 points and are 14 points adrift of safety with eight games remaining.

“It should be a good game and it gives us something to play for still.  I would love it at our place (Hayes Lane). I don’t know how they choose, whether it’s a toss of a coin or what but if not I’d like it at our place but we’ll play it anywhere,” said Smith.

“The supporters have been banging the drum about me probably not committing to it (the Kent Senior Cup). I think they saw we did commit to it and we’ve got them to a final and it gives them something to play for.”

Smith takes his side to bogey-side Braintree Town on Saturday. The Iron are rooted to the foot of the table, a point adrift of Maidstone United, while Bromley are in thirteenth-place with 48 points with eight games left to reach the safety point of 52 points.

“I’ve just said to the boys, I wouldn’t have wanted to go into that game without a game. We’ve got 90 minutes in so we’ve got the rust out because we were rusty a little bit the last time we did that and we weren’t good, I think that was against Eastleigh.

“It’s going to be tough. They beat Sutton, they only just lost to Solihull so we’re expecting a tough game whether they’ve got anything to play for or not is irrelevant. It’s about three points and we have got something to play for.

“The boys are putting in a shift and we’ve had to call upon everybody. I want to be in the top half. If we can get in the Cup Final as well, local or not, I think it’s been a good season.

“We should have everyone back baring the usual suspects (Goodman, Mekki and Hines).”

Tonbridge Angels: Jonathan Henly, Liam Smith, Jack Parter, D’Sean Theobalds, Sonny Miles (Arthur Lee 54), Michael Kamara, Jared Small, Tom Beere, Alex Read (Chinedu McKenzie 74), Luciano Osbourne (Tom Derry 61), Adem Ramadan.
Subs: Edmond Lewis, James Folkes

Booked: Jared Small 38, Tom Beere 90

Bromley: David Gregory, Richard Brindley (Frankie Raymond 56), Sam Wood, Frankie Sutherland, Roger Johnson, Alan Dunne, Reece Meekums (Billy Craske 68), Jordan Higgs, Omar Bugiel (Shaike Kamara 76), Jonathan Hooper, Dennon Lewis.
Subs: Aiden Enver, Alexander Brefo

Goal:  Jonathan Hooper 17

Booked: Jordan Higgs 23, Shaike Kamara 83

Attendance: 389
Referee: Mr Simon Finnigan (Folkestone)
Assistants: Ms Kirsty Dowle (Ashford) & Ms Louise Saunders (Rochester)
Fourth Official:  Mr Christopher Myatt (Dartford)