Thursday 07th April 2005

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A lot to play for in the "Battle of Bromley"

A KARAOKE night takes place in the clubhouse after the game but both Bromley and Cray Wanderers will be hoping to hit the right note in the "Battle of Bromley" on Saturday afternoon (3pm) at Hayes Lane, writes Stephen McCartney.

Looking at the league table (below), this is a must-win game for both clubs and with local bragging rights at stake, passions are already running high and with over 400 fans expected, they are already whetting their appetites in anticipation.

The last time these two clubs met in league action - Saturday 23rd October 2004 to be precise - tenants Cray Wanderers embarrassed their landlords winning 5-2.

There has been a lot of chopping and changing to the Bromley squad since then and only goalkeeper Andy Walker, Sam Okafor, Colin Luckett, Tutu Henriques and Gary Drewett played in that game are still with them. Adolph Amoako, top scorer for the third season running (with 19 goals this term) wasn't selected.

And back to the present.  Although, on paper, they have a much harder run-in, Cray Wanderers are still very confident they can claw back a six point deficit on second placed Walton & Hersham and win outright promotion with champions-elect AFC Wimbledon.

But assistant manager Joe Francis is confident his side can beat Bromley, Hastings United, AFC Wimbledon and Walton & Hersham to clinch promotion to the Ryman Premier League.

Speaking at Stamford Bridge, half-an-hour before Chelsea's Champions League win over Bayern Munich, Francis - himself a former  Bromley hero when he played for the club under Wakeling -  predicted: "We will win - because we are a better side,"  

"I am just confident not arrogant," he added.  "I know my side and I know my players.  They're ready for the game, we've been ready for about three or four weeks.

"You never say we are going to win it.  I have!  We will win and we will go up, automatic promotion - we are going to win our next four games."

Francis is confident Cray can beat their landlords for the second time this season and continue their charge up the leagues.  Cray were always looked upon as Bromley's "little brother" playing Kent League football but Bromley could be left behind as the amber and black quarters of Hayes Lane rise up the football pyramid.

Cray are making sure they are treating the game as an away fixture and they are going to make the short trip to Hayes Lane from their base at Oxford Road in Sidcup by coach.

"We are trying to create a bit of an away feeling," revealed Francis.  "I don't think it's important what we do before the game, just what we do when the whistle sounds at 3pm.

"We've had some difficult games in the last six weeks and we've come through them all. We've beaten AFC Wimbledon and now we've got Bromley - we are confident."

Bromley go into the game on the back of four straight wins, keeping a clean sheet on each occasion.   But it's former Cray striker, Mark Tompkins - who rejoined Bromley from Whyteleafe before the transfer deadline -  scoring two goals on his return in their 3-0 win at Bashley last weekend, that has Cray quaking in their boots.

The experienced striker, who is very good at holding the ball up, has found the net 82 times in 225 Bromley career appearances.

"Bromley are a good side, an improving side, but we've beaten improving side's haven't we?" Francis added.

"We have to keep an eye on him (Mark Tompkins) but Tony Russell will do that for us and Danny Bower will look after Wade Falana.

"Midfield is our only concern because they've got some good players in there so we will need all our midfield - I can envisage a few changes in our midfield," Francis revealed.

Francis added: "We'll just play them off the park and pass the ball round them."

And who can blame him? Cray have scored 90 goals and have four games left to complete their century.

Although Cray manager Ian Jenkins wasn't screaming off the rooftops, he did admit he was confident his side will win the game, and will settle for a 1-0 win.

"Why not be confident?  We have won six games on the bounce, unbeaten in nine games and fourth in the league - we are bound to be confident," he said.

"They have got Tommo (Mark Tompkins) back, which has always been a thorn in my side.  Every time we play against him, he has scored."

Whilst an eighteen-year-old, Jenkins was at Leyton-Wingate but he wasn't given a chance at first team level, by the manager in the opposite dug-out on Saturday, George Wakeling.

Jenkins added: "George has come in and has done well and he's done what  he's had to do.  Not many players are left at Bromley from the side we beat in October.  George has got his own side and he will get his team up for any game.  They need the three points as much as we do.

"It will be nice if we can reach the century as we are going for promotion but if we win 1-0 it won't bother me one little bit."

There are also battles all over the pitch, with players wanting to put one over their former club's.

Defenders David Gray and Ian Rawlings both served Bromley well as did midfielder Matt Woolf and Francis made a big impact following his move from then Conference side, Welling United.

The current members of Bromley that have played for Cray are striker Tompkins, coach Frank Coles and reserve team player-manager Andy Silk  - a loyal and likeable servant to both clubs.

Jenkins added: "Joe and I have history with George Wakeling but it's nice to play against him.  George is a top manager in non-league but it just shows how far I've come as a manager."

Both clubs do have a friendly rivalry and Jenkins added: "It will be good to win, but no matter the result will be we will have a chat and a few pints with George after the game but we just want to keep the run going."

Joint-Bromley boss George Wakeling, however, is using his wealth of experience and is treating this as "just another game."

Playing down all the pre-match hype, he said: "I don't see a problem - there's a great connection with a lot of their players and chairman (Gary Hillman) and we are treating it as another game really.

"We've hit a good little run so it's nice to take it into the game with us.  I think it's a must-win game from our point of view, probably if there is any pressure it will be on us as we can't afford to slip up."

Wakeling, however, said he is going to play to his team's strengths and not be so concerned with the opposition, topping the goalscoring charts with 90 although his side have only found the target 60 times.

"I am just going to play to our strengths," he said.  "I am not going to worry about their goalscoring tally.

"I've watched them recently, picked up some tit-bits but at the end of the day I respect they are above us in the league table and have a lot of respect for their staff.

"It's a game of football, they haven't lost in six games and it's going to take a good side to beat them.  I appreciate them but I think we can beat them."

Adding about the personalities in the Cray camp that have played under him in the past, the Chislehurst based boss added: "They were my players, they were in the dressing room when I was doing my team talk and they know what I am all about.

"I really want them to do well in football as they are young boys and I really hope they push on to good things.  I've got to go for results, starting Saturday."

Wakeling is looking to his big game players to secure a vital three points to continue the club's push for a play-off spot.

"I won't be under pressure as I'm too old to worry about pressure.  My pressure has come and gone," Wakeling admitted.

"I think it's an interesting game.  I know everyone's giving it a big build up so I am expecting a big crowd.  I've got players in my side that have played in front of big crowds - that won't affect us in any way.

"I am looking for commitment from everybody.  If players have got experience I will take that as extra but basically there has to be commitment - that's why I have survived so long.

"You get hiccups but in general I am looking for a good performance.  It's unfortunate that we are in this position as I like to see players that have played for me in the past do well  but come Saturday I want them to come second."

Wakeling added: "Football has a tendency to make things unpredictable.  We could go ahead and beat WImbledon, Cray and Walton and come unstuck against Banstead (last game of the season) that's what makes football a great game.  It's unpredictable."

Football is all about if-only's and this is the case in Wakeling's eyes.  "If we had started at the start of the season we wouldn't be talking about play-off's but the top two."

Looking ahead to Saturday's clash, Wakeling hopes: "I am just looking forward to a fiercely contested game and at the end of it whoever can pull the result out....  I am just looking for commitment and 100% and let the rest take care of itself."

With defenders Mark Willy and Michael Harney ruled out for the rest of the season due to long-term injuries, Wakeling is sweating on the fitness of left-sided midfielder Fraser Logan (thigh) and midfielder Danny Carroll (calf) for the showdown.

Cray on the other hand, have injury concerns over their top scorer, former Herne Bay striker, with 20 goals Leigh Bremner (hamstring) and Dean Morris (knee).

Let the battle commence...

Ryman League Division One Table (top eight)

Pos Team PLD W D L F A PTS
1 AFC Wimbledon 38 26 9 3 83 31 87
2 Walton & Hersham 38 24 4 10 60 31 76
3 Horsham 37 22 5 10 81 55 71
4 Cray Wanderers 38 18 16 4 90 45 70
5 Metropolitan Police 37 20 6 11 65 47 66
6 Tooting & Mitcham 38 17 13 8 89 57 64
7 Leatherhead 38 17 13 8 65 51 64
8 Bromley 37 18 8 11 60 41 62


Games to play

BROMLEY   George Wakeling &
Billy Smith
(Joint Managers)
CRAY WANDERERS   Ian Jenkins (Manager)
Joe Francis (Assistant)
9 April H Cray Wanderers 9 April a Bromley
16 April a Fleet Town 16 April H Hastings United
19 April H Metropolitan Police - - -
23 April H Dulwich Hamlet 23 April a AFC Wimbledon
30 April a Banstead Athletic 30 April H Walton & Hersham

Last 10 League Results (latest first)

a Bashley W3-0 H Newport IOW W5-0
a Whyteleafe W3-0 a Dulwich Hamlet W3-1
H Dorking W1-0 H Corinthian-Casuals W2-0
H Molesey W4-0 a Croydon W2-0
a Croydon Athletic L0-1 a Dorking W3-0
H Croydon W4-3 H Metropolitan Police W4-1
a Newport IOW D1-1 a Ashford Town D2-2
H Hastings United L1-2 H Fleet Town W3-2
a Corinthian-Casuals D1-1 a Whyteleafe D0-0
a Leatherhead L0-3 H Horsham L1-2
  17 points out of 30     23 points out of 30