Bromley 3-2 Bishop's Stortford - My confidence will take a positive step forward, says Adam Birchall

Tuesday 09th December 2014

Vanarama Conference South
Tuesday 9th December 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY striker Adam Birchall says his confidence will take a positive step forward after scoring a stunning last minute winner.

Bromley remain in second-place in the Vanarama Conference South table with 36 points from 18 games after closing the gap on leaders Boreham Wood to three points after coming back from being 2-0 down inside 24 minutes to beat third-from-bottom Bishop’s Stortford.

Bishop’s Stortford led through Ryan Auger and the impressive Sheldon Sellears and Bromley’s lowest crowd of the season felt they had wasted their time braving the awful wet and windy conditions at Hayes Lane.

Bromley skipper Rob Swaine, who was later withdrawn as a precaution with a tight groin, began the fight-back within four minutes of the second half.

The Ravens equalised with fifteen minutes left through Danny Waldren’s curling free-kick, before Birchall, 30, netted his first league goal (and second overall) for the club since his high-profile move from League One Gillingham in the summer.

Bromley boss Mark Goldberg was delighted that his side’s eleventh league win of the season keeps them in the title race.

“I was very disturbed in the first half, just with the way we were second to every ball,” said Goldberg.

“First ball, second balls, we weren’t winning them, they were winning. It was almost like we were playing into their hands. 

“They allowed us to mess around with it at the back. We hit it long with no real direction or good movement up front.”

Goldberg added: “I think first of all the conditions were awful kicking down.  They were as difficult for them as they were for us when we were kicking down.”

Bishop’s Stortford appeared to have claimed a big scalp when they dominated the first half, aided by a strong wind in their favour.

Left-back Johnny Herd regularly pressed forward into Bromley’s half and floated in a cross which was headed wide by former Tonbridge Angels and Dartford target-man Mikel Suarez from six-yards.

Bishop’s Stortford deserved their eleventh minute lead and once again Herd played a major part.

He played the ball inside to Sellears, who whipped in an excellent cross towards the far post where Auger ghosted in to caress his right-footed volley into the bottom far corner from ten-yards.

Goldberg said: “They were picking up the second balls and then they broke and scored two goals. Two sloppy goals to give away.  One at the far post where Joe Anderson unfortunately didn’t open up his body to see the defender at the far post and he allowed to be free to just slot it home.”

Bishop’s Stortford created more chances to claim their fifth league win of the season.

Spencer McCall swung in a wind-assisted corner from the right, the ball was sliced back towards goal and Sellears stabbed his shot past the near post when well placed.

But Bishop’s Stortford doubled their lead through Sellears.

Goalkeeper David Gregory pumped the ball into the wind and a mistake by Bromley right-back Ugo Udoji gave Sellears the chance to cut inside before producing an excellent right-footed shot, which he bent around Seb Brown, into the bottom far corner from sixteen-yards.

Goldberg added: “Again, to go 2-0 down with the way that we did.  Again, a sloppy ball that we allowed to bounce. It was a good finish but we shouldn’t have allowed it! We should’ve cleared it straight away before the ball bounced.”

Bromley were clearly struggling to cope with the conditions and took 30 minutes to create their first opening.

Joe Anderson floated in a free-kick into the penalty area and central defender Jack Holland rose unmarked to head wide from 12-yards.

Swaine brought the ball under control in midfield and swept the ball inside to Anderson, who clipped the ball down the line to winger Damian Scannell, who whipped in a cross towards the near post but Moses Ademola sent his header wide.

Bishop’s Stortford created a couple of chances before the break to kill off their high-flying hosts.

Winger Auger floated in a cross from the right and central midfielder Frankie Merrifield took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot narrowly past the left-hand post.

Bromley striker Ademola progressed forward before drilling his right-footed shot over the bar, before a wind-assisted kick by Brown was picked up by Sellears, who drove forward before stroking a low right-footed drive which the diving Bromley keeper held low to his left.

Goldberg said: “I was really disappointed to go in at half-time without pulling at least one back because I felt that we would need to do that.

“Anyway, obviously second half was a totally different story and delighted that we got the win.”

Bromley needed some inspiration during the interval and Goldberg offered his side some home truths inside the warmth of the home dressing room.

“We gave them a bit of a talking to at half-time,” revealed Goldberg, whose side threw away an eleven point lead at the top of the table at one stage last season before handing the title to Eastleigh to finish a personal best of third.

“I think 2-0 at half-time was probably deserved as far as they were concerned.

“I knew that we had to pull ourselves back if we are going to challenge for the title this year.

“We’ve got to be able to show resilience and a bit of steal about ourselves and we also knew that we’ve got it in the locker. If we can score an early goal in the second half then we’re back in the game.”

Goldberg’s wise words had the desired effect as the Ravens camped themselves in Bishop’s Stortford’s half of the pitch for the entire second half.

Reece Prestedge – who was playing against his old club – and Waldren linked up well and a kind ricochet fell at Scannell’s feet and his left-footed shot was blocked by Gregory’s legs after only sixteen seconds. It set the tone for the rest of the half.

Ademola set-up Prestedge, whose left-footed drive forced Gregory to dive low to his right to push the shot around the post.

Bromley pulled a goal back from the resulting corner in the 49th minute.

Louis Dennis whipped in a corner from the left towards the far post where Swaine rose to plant his header into the top right-hand corner, despite Gregory getting his left hand to the ball, but prevented the Bromley skipper scoring his second goal of the season.

Goldberg said: “We got the early goal, which was important to us, so it got us back in the game.

“It was a great header from Rob Swaine at the far post.  Getting that goal does change games. We were in the ascendancy and we had plenty of time to get back in the game so that was wonderful.”

Ademola then cracked a right-footed shot on the turn from 18-yards, which screamed just past the left-hand post, before Prestedge’s left-footed drive from 35-yards was caught by Gregory.

Bromley went close again in the 61st minute when Jamie Slabber swept the ball out to Anderson, who whipped in a cross from the left and Dennis and Waldren both went for the same ball and Waldren’s header looped over the bar from six-yards.

But Bishop’s Stortford weathered the Bromley storm and created an opening in the 69th minute.

Set-piece specialist McCall delivered a free-kick which was cleared out to former Dover Athletic striker Donovan Simmons, who cracked his right-footed half-volley wide of the far post.

But Goldberg pulled off a tactical masterstoke with twenty minutes remaining.

He kept strikers Slabber and Ademola on and withdrew wingers Scannell and Dennis and on came strikers Jordan Robertson and Birchall, who played behind the front three.

“I’m very fortunate, on the bench I had two more strikers. Instead of replacing strikers for strikers, I went for a little bit more aggressively. I felt we could get back into it so I kept my two strikers on and put two more strikers on and took my two wingers off.

“In a way we went 4-2-4, almost four up front. I was actually looking to just mixing it up a bit and make sure our movement was better and it paid dividends.”

Anderson floated in a cross form the left and Ademola’s header looped over, before Bromley deservedly equalised through Waldren’s ninth goal of the season.

Robertson was pulled to the ground by Bishop’s Stortford right-back Cheye Alexander and Waldren punched the air in delight after seeing his right-footed free-kick from the left wing curl around Gregory to find the far corner from 35-yards.

Goldberg added: “Great free-kick! For our captain and our vice-captain to score, Rob Swaine with the first, Danny Waldren with the second, with the free-kick, I’m absolutely delighted that Birch got the winner.”

Bromley continue to throw the kitchen sink at their battered opponents and the Hayes Lane faithful felt confident that their side would turn it around.

Anderson found Robertson down the left channel and he whipped in another excellent cross which flashed across the face of goal and the sliding Slabber couldn’t poke over the line.

Waldren found himself on the by-line and clipped over a cross for Robertson to loop his header over.

Prestedge then swung in a corner from the right towards the far post where substitute central defender Callum McNaughton nodded wide.

But Bishop’s Stortford squandered an excellent chance to snatch victory with 16 seconds of normal time remaining but Auger’s right-footed free-kick from 25-yards was comfortably caught by Brown.

But Bromley won it with 46:37 on the clock through Birchall’s beautiful finish.

Bromley pumped the ball into the box one final time and the ball came out to Birchall, who flicked the ball up before guiding his right-footed volley into the bottom left-hand corner from 18-yards.

Goldberg said: “Oh, we’ve been waiting for this all season!

“I’ve felt so sorry for him. He’s been working so hard. He trains so hard. He’s such a great character around the place and it’s just so fitting that he got the winning goal.

“He’s a great player and a great finisher who’s just not had the rub of the luck and today he showed his class and you can’t knock him. It was a great goal and at a great time.”

Birchall then cracked a dipping right-footed drive just over the bar from 35-yards, before Bromley’s fans behind the goal began to chant “we’re going to win the league.”

League titles are won or lost on wet and windy nights in December and Bromley still have one game in hand on Boreham Wood.

Golberg said: “That was the key tonight to take advantage of the fact that we could close the gap and now allow them to go nine points clear at the weekend when they play in the league and we play a cup game.  They can only go back six points clear rather than nine points clear.

“Nine points gives them a little bit of an advantage so we’ve stopped that from happening.

“I think these are the sort of games in the past where we might’ve buckled and lost by more. We showed signs of this last year when we went to Concord Rangers and we went to Whitehawk and we won games that we shouldn’t have won and today was great.”

It is hoped that Birchall now goes on a run of goalscoring form to rekindle the form shown at Dover Athletic, where he scored 45 goals in 42 games in Conference South during season 2010-11.

“It was a difficult game, difficult conditions. The wind and the rain was very difficult,” said Birchall afterwards.

“Second half, the boys really put in some hard work in the first 10-15 minutes, clawed a goal back and equalised and we won it in the end.

“It was a hard fought victory and they’re the ones you’ve got to win, with games-in-hand, so it was important to us.”

When asked what Goldberg said to him before making his usual cameo role as substitute, Birchall replied: “Nothing much! Just go and have a good game like he always says. He supports his players. He wished me luck and instructed what he wanted me to do and how he wanted to play.  I came on as an attacking midfield role in the middle of the pitch, which I’m capable of doing. It all worked out ok in the end.”

When asked about his match-winning strike, Birchall said: “I don’t really remember much about it! The only thing I do remember is hitting it cleanly and then celebrating!  It’s very much a team effort and the boys done really well and that’s a few wins on the bounce at home now which is very important.

“Goals are going to make any player feel confident. For me this is what I’m known for, what I’m good at.

“I’m working very hard behind the scenes, I don’t think people realise how hard and how much and how brave you’ve got to be to come back (from a severe ruptured knee ligament injury).

“Hopefully it (the goal tonight) effects my confidence in a good way. I’m very much focused on my job here at Bromley and what the task in hand is and what we want to achieve as a club.”

Good trainer Birchall insists Bromley fans will see more quality goals fly into opponents net as the club bids to win their first league title since 1961.

“It’s the way I’m brought up, all the way since I was at Arsenal. I always do the same. I was the first (player in) and the last to leave (training). It’s just who I am. I always think about my football and I really care deeply when it’s not going right or whether it’s going right.

“I can get better so you can always improve, no matter how old you are, no matter what you’ve done in the game. It’s the way I look at it and I enjoy trying to improve. That’s what I enjoy, that’s why I like going out there and really giving it a good go.”

“I wanted to go on a (goalscoring) run right from the beginning of the season. God willing. Hopefully my confidence will take a positive step forward from this.”

Bromley: Seb Brown, Ugo Udoji, Joe Anderson, Reece Prestedge, Rob Swaine (Callum McNaughton 65), Jack Holland, Damian Scannell (Adam Birchall 70), Danny Waldren, Jamie Slabber, Moses Ademola, Louis Dennis (Jordan Robertson 70).
Subs: Paul Rodgers, Pierre Joseph-Dubois

Goals: Rob Swaine 49, Danny Waldren 75, Adam Birchall 90

Booked: Rob Swaine 45, Callum McNaughton 89

Bishop’s Stortford: David Gregory, Cheye Alexander, Johnny Herd, Frankie Merrifield, Joe Tabiri, Phil Anderson, Sheldon Sellears, Spencer McCall, Mikel Suarez, Donovan Simmonds (James Walker 78), Ryan Auger.
Subs: George Sykes, Ryan Melaugh, Rod Young, Ashley Miller

Goals: Ryan Auger 11, Sheldon Sellears 24

Booked: Mikel Suarez 62, Cheye Alexander 75, Phil Anderson 87

Attendance: 292
Referee: Mr Lee Venamore (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Steven Parmenter (Southend-on-Sea, Essex) & Mr Dele Sotimirin (Brixton, London SW9)