Bromley 1-5 Gillingham - We can't look back, always want to look forward and I want to try to achive a similar sort of season, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Tuesday 10th July 2018
Bromley 1 – 5 Gillingham
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 10/07/2018 19:45

Pre-Season Friendly
Tuesday 10 July 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he wants to achieve a similar sort of season to the one that ended in heartbreak at Wembley Stadium.

The Ravens broke all personal records last season as they finished in ninth-place in the Vanarama National League on a club record 70 points and were 19 seconds away from winning The Buildbase FA Trophy Final just 51 days ago.

Bromley thrashed Bostik South East Division side Ashford United 5-1 at Homelands on Saturday, but were sent crashing back down to earth by Sky Bet League One side Gillingham in front of a sparse Hayes Lane.

Defending the demolished Benches End, Bromley failed to shake off their tag of slow starters at home as Gillingham raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 19 minutes through Callum Reilly and Brandon Hanlan.

Hanlan, who missed two one-on-ones as he twice fired them at the Brackley Town goalkeeper which would have brought home The FA Trophy had the Charlton Athletic loanee scored, typically had his finishing boots on for his new club tonight.

Bromley pulled a goal back through striker George Porter but it went down-hill for Smith’s men during the second half.

Steve Lovell made 11 changes at the break and saw his side extend their lead just 182 seconds in through Josh Parker’s volley.

Smith was concerned when his player-coach Alan Dunne lasted only 15 minutes because he was stretched off with an injury to his left leg.

Dominant Gillingham rattled in two late goals from Elliott List and Regan Charles-Cook as Bromley looked to be suffering from the loss of key personnel and a Wembley hangover.

Goalkeeper David Gregory (hamstring) and captain Jack Holland (knock) were not risked and having lost 49 goals in the shape of Louis Dennis (Portsmouth), Josh Rees (Gillingham) and Luke Wanadio (Aldershot Town), Bromley did create three other first half chances against League One players but offered very little during the second half, which petered out as Smith made seven substitutions.

“Just concerned with the injury to Dunny at the moment,” said Smith.

“I didn’t go too high over beating Ashford 5-1 on Saturday, I won’t be too low about this.  I’m more concerned with the injury to Dunny. He’s just having his leg checked at the moment, hoping it’s not as bad as what it is but he’s in a leg brace and we have to take him to hospital the next 45 hours.”

Roger Johnson, who scored a heartbreaking own-goal with Bromley inches away from glory on 20 May, took the captain’s arm-band tonight and was at fault for Gillingham’s opening goal, just two minutes and 16 seconds in.

The 35-year-old slipped just outside the left-hand side of his penalty area after giving the ball away to Conor Wilkinson, who played the ball inside to Reilly, who slid his low left-footed drive past a rooted Max Huxter and in off the base of the near post from 25-yards.

“It was a bit of a mistake by Roger, so early as well,” said Smith.

“It seemed like a weak shot. I wasn’t behind it, we’ll have to have a look at the video but I think it was a weak shot.  We’ll have a look and assess it tomorrow.”

Bromley will always create chances and their first attempt came in the 13th minute when Roger Johnson’s ball out of defence sent right-back Tobi Adebayo-Rowling on his way down the wing. Winger Bobby-Joe Taylor teed up Porter who from 12-yards forced Tomas Holy into holding the ball low to his right.

Hanlan doubled Gillingham’s lead with 18 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock as his pace took him easily past left-back Dan Johnson.

Wilkinson released Hanlan down the right and he cut into the penalty to drill a right-footed shot across Huxter from 16-yards, the ball bouncing off the base of the far post before bouncing up and smacking the roof of the net.

If only he did that inside injury time at Wembley Stadium, then the last 51 days wouldn’t have been as painful for the club’s die-hard fans.

“I was thinking exactly the same,” came Smith’s reply, adding, “But maybe you learn by your mistakes so he took it really well Brandon.

“We know what he’s like with his pace, he’s deadly and the finish was exquisite.  As you say, if only he’d save that for May 20th!”

Smith told Rees to “grab the chance,” that he has been given by Lovell at Gillingham after his stellar one-season campaign at Hayes Lane last season where he scored 20 goals from the middle of the park.

“Brandon’s obviously scoring, looking sharp and looks like he’s lost a bit of weight and probably they wouldn’t have got those chances of going to those clubs if they hadn’t done so well for us while they were here so fully deserved so you just wish them all the best and hopefully they take their chances and do well for Gillingham.”
Gillingham striker Wilkinson cut the ball onto his right-foot and his deflected drive from outside the box was comfortably saved by Bromley’s second-choice keeper.

Czech goalkeeper Holy pulled off a save to deny Bromley winger Adam Mekki scoring a sublime goal.

Porter launched a trademark long throw from the right and the ball dropped down in the goal-mouth and with his back to goal the former Tranmere Rovers man launched an overhead-kick towards the roof of the net, which Holy – the tallest keeper in the EFL standing at six foot nine - pushed over the bar with his right-hand.

“Great save, good interplay. Mekki had a great chance.  If it goes in, it’s an unbelievable worldy goal but the keeper pulled off a great save. It was a great effort,” added Smith.

Bromley pulled a goal back with 25 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.

Omar Bugiel, who hit his match-winning Wembley penalty over the bar, linked up well with Taylor down the right and a cross was palmed away by Holy for Porter to drill his right-footed volley into the net from 12-yards.

“I thought George and Omar, especially first 45, linked up really well,” said Smith.

“George had a couple of chances.  I thought Omar looked strong, looked quick. I think we had some good interplay to be quite honest with you considering we let two goals in and maybe we could’ve scored one before that as well.”

Rees, who was playing on the right-hand side of a midfield diamond, played the ball inside to Dean Parrett, who set up Reilly, whose left-footed drive flashed across Huxter and just past the foot of the far post from 22-yards.

Porter released Taylor down the right and once inside the Gillingham box the low shot from the former Aldershot Town winger was blocked by Holy’s legs.

“I think Bobby-Joe done well. I think Mekki played well. I think my front two (Porter and Bugiel) did well. (Jordan) Higgs and Frankie Raymond started getting in the game.  Obviously, a different pairing at the full-backs (Adebayo-Rowling and Dan Johnson) with the two centre halves (Roger Johnson and Jake Goodman).  They played well the front four.”

Huxter pulled off a great save to deny Hanlan in the 36th minute.

Holy’s kick was flicked on by right-back Luke O’Neill (who outjumped Dan Johnson) and Wilkinson cut the ball  back to O’Neill, who delivered a first time cross towards Hanlan at the far post and his header from six-yards was tipped over the bar by the Bromley keeper.

Reflecting on Huxter’s performance, Smith replied:  “Max did well, a couple of things we need to work on but he was thrown in the deep end. It was only yesterday that Gregaz sort of said he had a little knock so we thought we’re not going to chance it and it’s a hell of a game to come in to, playing a League One side with a new team. It was a bit daunting for him but he acquitted himself ok.”

O’Neill put over another cross and Wilkinson’s right-footed chip from 22-yards dropped over Huxter’s crossbar.

Mekki stung Holy’s fingers with a curling free-kick from 35-yards, which was initially spilt by the 26-year-old, before the Gillingham keeper gathered at the second attempt.

The impressive Taylor played the ball inside to central midfielder Jordan Higgs, who drilled his right-footed shot just past the foot of the right-hand post from 25-yards.

Higgs’ midfielder partner Frankie Raymond whipped in a trademark quality free-kick but central defender Jake Goodman steered his header wide at the far post.

“I already had in my head I wanted to play everyone up to 55, 60, 65 minutes if I can,” explained the Bromley boss.

“This was a fitness exercise for us. They’re going to knock the ball a lot quicker so I thought we’d get more out of this game than we would against Ashford and that’s no disrespect for Ashford but playing a stronger side, so I just wanted to get minutes in their legs, knowing we’ve got Cray Wanderers here on Saturday (12:30).

Gillingham now had a new team and they took only 122 seconds of the second half to score their third goal as Bromley started the second half on the back foot.

Navid Nasseri and Charles Cook linked up well in midfield and right-winger List put in a cross into the box for striker Parker to hook his volley into the bottom right-hand corner from 22-yards.

Smith said: “He just got down the outside of DJ (Dan Johnson). He put in an early cross and it was a good finish really from the two boys who will probably start come the season starts.”

Huxter pulled off a brilliant double save in the 50th minute, as he dived to his left to claw out Charles-Cook’s effort (after his pace took him past the Bromley back-four) and the keeper got up swiftly to dive to his right to deny left-winger Liam Nash.

“He done well, he did really well. He did the first save really well and got down for the second one,” added Smith.

Smith walked on the pitch to check on the condition of Alan Dunne, who was stretchered off the pitch with his left-leg strapped in to a stretcher after a tackle in midfield went horribly wrong for the former Millwall man.

“I brought Dunny on for Tobi to get his legs on him and I had to take him off again and I think that was the end of the game for me,” admitted Smith.

“I think after that I was bringing on trialists and people to show what they’re about.  We had some nice passages of play but I think they were very clinical and took their chances.”

Bromley created just the one chance during the half when Kyle De Silva slipped Porter through on goal and keeper Tom Hadler advanced to make a vital block with his legs.

Bromley lacked quality the longer the game went on as not many of their trialists impressed against a Gillingham team that were fitter, sharper and better.

Nash’s through ball wasn’t cut out by Goodman and List raced through to slot comfortably past Huxter with 37 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock to make it an easy night’s work for Lovell’s men.

Smith said:  “He was one-on-one.  Look, it was a great finish, nothing Max could really do there.  The fact that the two centre halves were a bit tired, playing their first 90 minutes together.”

The Gills wrapped up their comfortable outing by scoring their fifth goal with 39 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Nash whipped in a cross, which was headed away and Charles-Cook cracked home a right-footed half-volley into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards, despite Huxter getting a hand to the rocket.

Smith said: “Look, he’s renowned for scoring those goals, that’s why he’s gone from Charlton to Woking and Woking to Gillingham. He shoots from long range but I thought Max tried to get his hand there and just failed.”

Gillingham created one last chance when Charles-Cook delivered a deep cross for Nash to steer his header over from inside the six-yard box.

Reflecting on this disastrous home thrashing, Smith said: “I’m not looking at the result. It was never going to be, it was just the minutes and get away from the game with no injuries that’s what I’m hoping for.  The boys got to know each other a little bit more and you get to see the players. You find out a little bit more about them when you’re losing then when you’re beating someone 5-1.

“We’ve got a lot to work, we know that. I don’t need to be telling everybody. We’ve got new players in.  I think going forward we’ll create stuff, we just have to make sure we shore it up at the back.

We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready for 4 August and we just got to make sure the boys start getting to know where we are and what we want to do.”

Smith insists Bromley have got over their Wembley heartbreak.

“Took me a long time but you have to, you have to move on and I’m excited for next season now.

“I know it’s going to be even tougher than the season’s before. I’ve got new boys in who want to improve and want to show themselves.  Obviously, we lost players to League One club’s so it shows we can do something.

“We can’t look back, always want to look forward and I want to try to achieve a similar sort of season.  I want attacking football, I want to excite the supporters. I want them to come in and hopefully we can do that.”

The Ravens kick-off their fourth Vanarama National League campaign with a trip to AFC Fylde on Saturday 4 August, before welcoming Dover Athletic (Tuesday 7 August) and newly-promoted Harrogate Town (Saturday 11 August) to Hayes Lane.

Bromley: Max Huxter, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (Alan Dunne 56, Ambrose Gnahore 72)), Dan Johnson, Jordan Higgs (Aiden Enver 84), Roger Johnson, Jake Goodman, Adam Mekki (Kyle De Silva 52), Frankie Raymond (Jesse Edge 65), Omar Bugiel (Pat Suraci 68), George Porter, Bobby-Joe Taylor (Reece Meekums 43).
Subs: Kristupas Burba, Alexander Brefo, Riphi Kalala

Goal: George Porter 26

Gillingham: Tomas Holy (Tom Hadler 46), Luke O’Neill (Barry Fuller 46), Aaron Simpson (Bradley Garmston 46), Mark Byrne (Navid Nasseri 46), Finn O’Mara (Max Ehmer 46), Gabriel Zakuani (Alex Lacey 46), Josh Rees (Liam Nash 46), Dean Parrett (Regan Charles-Cook 46), Brandon Hanlan (Tom Eaves 46), Conor Wilkinson (Josh Parker 46), Callum Reilly (Elliott List 46).

Goals: Callum Reilly 3, Brandon Hanlan 19, Josh Parker 48, Elliott List 83, Regan Charles-Cook 85

Attendance: 300
Referee: Mr Will Finnie (Luton, Bedfordshire)
Assistants: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester) & Mr Ryan Whitaker (Bexleyheath)
Fourth Official: Mr Ian Bentley (West Wickham)