Thursday 20th October 2005

McDonnell return is welcomed cup boost for confident Bromley

Leading scorer Nic McDonnell is likely to be risked as Bromley aim to reach the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in nine years on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

The strong front man, whose netted nine goals in nine games this season following his summer switch from Nationwide Conference South outfit Carshalton Athletic, has missed the last three games due to a hamstring injury.

And with his side on an unbeaten run of ten games, Bromley manager George Wakeling is confident his side can knock full-time Nationwide Conference outfit Aldershot Town out.

The last time the Hayes Lane club reached the first round proper was in 1996, when Keith Sharman's first half strike secured a fourth qualifying round win over local rivals Sutton United.

However, they went onto lose 3-1 on home soil against their Ryman Premier League rivals at the time, Enfield, in front of 2,709 fans.

And you have to go back almost 30 years for the last Football League club Bromley have faced in the competition, when they leaked seven goals at Swindon Town in a first round clash in 1976.

Speaking about McDonnell's fitness, Wakeling said in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk: "I think the way he trained on Tuesday there is a possibility he could be fit - it's looking better."

Wakeling revealed only wing-back Steve Potterll (back) and Mark Tompkins (cup-tied) miss out.

"It's an important game and when you get a player that's scored nine goals in nine games you want him back as quickly as you can," Wakeling added.

"Of course he wants to play but if the injury stops him he won't be able too - but he's getting better."

The fitness of the former Croydon, Crawley Town and St Albans City striker will be assessed at tonight's (Thursday) training session, along with influential defender Tutu Henriques (ankle).

A lot of positive changes have occurred at Hayes Lane since Wakeling lead the club into the first round proper nine years ago.

"It's been a different club through a business point of view," he admitted.

"The club is much bigger and solid and it's being run very professionally. 

"I honestly believe, from a football point of view, we had it right then by the way we played our football, and we're getting it back to where it was then but in between we lost our way.

With a crowd of 2,000 expected to flock through the turnstiles at The Courage Stadium in Hayes Lane, Wakeling admits this is the kind of game the club should be staging on a regular basis.

"We want these type of games," Wakeling said.  "There's a lot of effort being put into the ground, which has a good (playing) surface and a new clubhouse being built.

"We need to draw the people in and these type of games is an opportunity for us to say to the supporters that have been away - we aren't doing that bad now - come back."

Both sides have done their home work on each other, and Wakeling gave an insight on what he's expecting from full-time opposition.

"I think they're going to be a big side," he said.  "We know that as we've had them watched. 

"The fact that they are full time in their training we are expecting them to play a faster pace than we normally play at.  Whether they do or not, who knows?

"We've done our homework but we are putting our emphasis on what we do.  We are the home team, we'll try to nullify their strengths but we are certainly going to push to win the game, especially being drawn at home."

And if Wakeling's troops do make it through, a draw - which takes place straight after the final whistle at 5:10pm - against Football League opposition will be the icing on the cake.

"It's a great incentive for us.  I've been telling the players there's nothing better than waiting for the draw to see if we draw a Football League club.

"The last time we were drawn against a team from our own league and it was deflating, so we need to win and draw a Football League side.

"If you get that far it's one of those things you want to get rewarded with - to play against a Football League side.

"Drawing a Football League club brings you that publicity and it's good for the players and the club.

"The sponsorship from the FA (with £10,000 at stake for the winners) should be more and it's a liability what the FA have done, but £10,000 is what's on offer and we have to try and win.

With Wakeling relishing a match in the first round proper, he is very confident his side can get past Aldershot Town first.

"If the players keep their discipline and go out there with a lot of confidence they can get a result - there's some good players in the side."

Wakeling points to goalkeeper Andy Walker, Allan McLeod, Adam Locke and Colin Luckett as players that have played on the big stage.

Wakeling added: "If we get a draw that's fine, so be it.  As I say we won't be playing for a draw.

"We have nothing to lose.  We've drawn a team in a higher division and I've got a lot of belief in the squad of players we have got here at the moment.

"I honestly believe on the day they're going to raise their game, and if they do, Aldershot will have the worries and not me."

Bromley reached this stage (fourth qualifying round) last year, when under Stuart McIntyre, they found Nationwide Conference South club Cambridge City too strong, losing 3-0 at Hayes Lane.

But since Wakeling returned to his beloved Bromley last December, he has secured promotion back into the Ryman Premier League - via the play-offs - and is just one win away from the promised land.

"I think last year was the biggest bonus," he admits.  "We came from nowhere to get into the play-off's and proved at the time we were the best team to go up.

"But we've gone up into another division now, we are holding our own and it will simply get better."

Wakeling calls on the fans to cheer them into the first round proper against their former Ryman rivals.  He added: "The only thing I can say to the fans is to carry on.  They've been absolutely brilliant and it's helped us in our recent games."

If Saturday's game ends in a draw, the replay, at the Recreation Ground, High Street, Aldershot will be played next Tuesday, 25th October, 7:45pm.

If they avoid the draw, Bromley tackle AFC Wimbledon in a Ryman Premier League clash at Hayes Lane instead.

Bromley v Aldershot Town
FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Saturday 22 October 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at The Courage Stadium, Hayes Lane, Bromley