Bromley 0-2 Torquay United - I thought we let our fans down today, admits Bromley boss Neil Smith

Saturday 16th April 2016
Bromley 0 – 2 Torquay United
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 16/04/2016 15:00

Vanarama National League
Saturday 16th April 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says it’s been a roller coaster ride during their debut Vanarama National League campaign which will end in a respectable mid-table finish.

A crowd of 2,088 watched a poor Bromley performance as Torquay United’s brilliant 526 fans watched their side maintain their National League status with a 2-0 win at Hayes Lane.

Central defender and skipper Angus MacDonald powered home a free header to give the Gulls an early lead.

Bromley’s holding midfielder Ali Fuseini became the third Ravens player to be sent-off this season when he was shown his second yellow card for allegedly swearing at the referee early in the second half.

Torquay United sealed their 13th league win of the season through Courtney Richards’ beautiful free-kick towards the end.

“I didn’t think we started the game particularly well,” admitted Smith, 44, who took charge of his home-town club for the 15th time since Mark Goldberg’s departure.

“To have a corner go in, again, unmarked player was a bit poor, but we got through to half-time.  

“We obviously lost a couple of players, changed it around, playing the kids, who I thought Jordan Higgs came in and did extremely well.

“The second goal, another set-play, needlessly giving a free-kick away. He’s scored a great free-kick, you can’t take it away from him but we only got going in the second half when it was all too late.

“That hasn’t been us so I’m really, really disappointed because we’re better than that!”

Torquay United, in seventeenth-place in the table on 47 points, simply wanted it more than Bromley, who were in 12th place in the table on 60 points and had nothing to play for.

Smith said: “I said to the boys, I don’t want it to be about Torquay winning because they needed to stay up.

“I’ve got pride and I hope the boys have. We go into every game wanting to win the game and I don’t think we ever got started. It’s very unlike us over the last few weeks so yes, very disappointed.

“The plusses were the Jordan Higgs’ and Thomas O’Connors’ coming on, the kids sitting on the bench and I’m looking at them, they’ll be starting next week.”

Bromley are suffering with a crippling injury-crisis and lost central midfielder Lee Minshull through a strain to his right thigh in the first half and Pierre Joseph-Dubois, who slotted in at right-back, also hobbled off through a shoulder injury.

Bromley broke through man-of-the-match Adam Cunnington, who played the ball out to Moses Emmanuel, who slotted in at right-wing and he took a touch before whipping in a cross which only just evaded striker Bradley Goldberg, the ball being gathered by Brendan Moore inside the opening five minutes.

But Torquay United grabbed the lead, timed at 10:06, following their second corner of the game.

Left-winger Luke Young floated in a corner from the left and MacDonald’s towering header bounced past Alan Julian into the back of the net from six-yards to start Torquay United’s party.

“We know who the culprit was, I won’t be naming names but we know who should’ve been marking him. He said he got blocked but it’s no excuse,” said Smith.

“Other than that, that was it. There was no real efforts on goal. We hit the crossbar in the second half with Brad, but as I say it was all too little too late.”

Bromley left-back Joe Anderson swung in their first corner of the game which was knocked down by Minshull, the ball came out to Emmanuel who blazed his shot over the crossbar from 18-yards.

Bromley winger Adam Coombes played the ball inside to Goldberg, who teed up Fuseini, who dragged his right-footed shot about six-yards past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Bromley’s first shot on target arrived on the half-hour mark following a period of patient passing.

Joseph-Dubois and Fuseini linked up and Minshull teed up Anderson, whose low left-footed drive from 25-yards was saved comfortably by Moore.

“You just summed it up, it was comfortable,” said Smith.

“I think the whole game was comfortable for Torquay today. We never really got into our stride and went into it, my whole thing was we start lively, get in their faces on a bobbly pitch that was always going to be difficult to play on, but it took us at least 25 minutes to get ourselves going.”

Minshull was forced off the pitch with his right thigh bandaged up and he was replaced by Academy prospect Jordan Higgs, who has gained first-team experience out on loan to Ryman League Division One South side Carshalton Athletic this season.

Smith was full of praise for the Higgs, 18.

“He’s (Minshull) pulled his thigh so that’s another one out and as I say we had to swap it around a bit,” said Smith.

“I thought Jordan came in, he had to go into centre midfield, his position and then at the beginning of the second half we’ve got Pierre go injured with his shoulder.

“I said to Jordan can you do right-back? I brought Rohdell (Gordon) on and then someone else is struggling (Coombes) so I bring Thomas O’Connor on so I think that pretty much summed up the game.”

Smith revealed he was not happy at the break.

“There were a few choice words in there. Not happy with them at all!  I weren’t happy with the performance as well so I think we came out a little bit shaper and then Ali gets sent off and that pretty much killed us as a team.”

Former Millwall star Fuseini, 27, was needlessly sent-off in the 49th minute for a second yellow card for allegedly swearing at the referee just before he was about to take a free-kick inside the centre circle.

When asked about the incident, Smith replied: “A bit of dissent shown, I think.  I won’t go into the details but again an experienced player who is going to be guiding Jordan Higgs, who is just starting out in the game and it was the wrong message to send out.

“Now, Ali’s denying what he said. The referee obviously thought he did say it or he wouldn’t have been sent off. It was a needless sending off and it just puts us under pressure.  We needed everybody on the pitch.”

Bromley picked up only one red card during their Conference South title winning campaign last season and Fuseini joined Minshull and Paul Rodgers in the bad books this time around.

“We’ve been so good discipline wise and that’s where it’s really frustrated me because he’s an experienced player, he’s played at a very, very good level. He’s my mentor for the kids and that happens so yes, disappointing.”

Typically of Bromley though, they still created chances despite having a man short.

Coombes played a lovely pass to put Goldberg through on goal but Moore made a vital save with his legs, the ball looping towards goal and bouncing agonisingly past the foot of the far post.

“He’s through one-on-one and it just goes wide and that was pretty much us in a nutshell,” admitted Smith.

“We were nearly everywhere. We were nearly winning the second  ball, we were nearly getting a nice ball in to the box.

“We’re just not clinical enough and this is what we need to be, not just for this season but for next season.”

Emmanuel, who spent an awful lot of time during the first half sweeping up in his own defensive third, pinged a sublime 50-yard diagonal pass to Goldberg, who cut inside and clipped his left-footed shot agonisingly against the crossbar from 20-yards just before the hour-mark.

Smith said: “We’re down to ten men by the way and we’re still creating chances, probably had a couple more than they did but we’ve got to be more clinical when we get the chances and likewise when it’s in the box we have to be better.”

Smith was forced into shuffling his pack when Joseph-Dubois injured his shoulder and Higgs slotted in to that position while Goldberg moved out to right-wing, while winger Rhodell Gordon slotted into the middle of the park alongside fellow winger Coombes.

Torquay United offered little threat in attack and Nathan Blissett’s knocked down was hit on the volley by his strike partner Shaun Harrad, which sailed just over the crossbar from 20-yards with Alan Julian well-beaten.

Bromley’s players are now full-time but they never had an injury crisis as long as theirs currently when a part-time outfit.

Smith replied: “I’ve just said the same to the physio, why are we getting all these injuries?

“I know there’s a lot of players that have put themselves out over the past 12 weeks. I’ve asked them, I’ve demanded everything, high energy training sessions and they’ve given everything and maybe, just maybe a couple of them are feeling it a little bit.

“So in terms of do I know why we’re injured so much? No!”

A jinking run from Ifeayni Allen saw the Torquay winger play the ball out to Harrad, who from the right hand side of the penalty area stroked his shot towards the bottom near corner, forcing Julian to dive low to his left to make the save.

“That is what I’m saying, it’s not like they over-ran us, over-played us,” said Smith on Torquay’s limited chances.

“The set-play in the first half, I can’t remember anything after that and the second half, the set-play again, the free-kick.

“Other than that we’ve had a couple of chances go wide, huffed and puffed.”

It just wasn’t going to be Bromley’s day and that was summed up inside the final nine minutes.

Coombes rolled the ball out to Goldberg who cut the ball back to Higgs, who hung over a cross into the box.

Cunnington rose with keeper Moore, who dropped the ball and 20-goal striker Emmanuel hooked his volley towards goal but MacDonald ensured the ball didn’t bounce into the back of the empty net.

“Almost! It’s that word again,” added Smith.

“It was almost good today but we weren’t. I expected more. I am disappointed. I know the circumstances aren’t great with the players and their injuries and stuff like that. I expected a little bit more from us and I will always demand that.”

Torquay United grabbed their second goal with 39:14 on the clock.

Richards, who looked up to the shy and prayed as he walked out of the tunnel at the start of both halves, answered Torquay United’s supporters prayers with a beautiful finish.

The central midfielder stroked his right-footed shot over the wall and into the top near corner from 25-yards, giving Julian no chance.

When told about Richards’ pre-match ritual, Smith laughed, saying, “Maybe that’s what we need to do more off? Maybe I’m not doing that enough? If that’s what happens.

“Look, we’re sitting behind it. He’s just lifted it a foot over the wall. It’s gone in the only place that Jules isn’t covering because he’s obviously got the wall there and it was a great finish.

“But it was a point that it shouldn’t have been a free-kick. We shouldn’t have fouled anyone on the edge of the box and that’s my frustration.

“I think to sum it up our decisions weren’t the best today. Our final ball, our shot on target, not getting there with the corner, fouling someone on the edge of the box. I was disappointed with decisions today.”

Bromley created a couple of chances after suffering from that sucker-punch.

Anderson swung in their fifth and last corner from the right towards the near post and Jack Holland came up from the back to plant his header over the bar from five-yards.

Smith added: “Jack Holland right at the end had a header that just goes wide as well and that was with 10 men. If we can do that with 10 men, why aren’t we starting like that?!”

Emmanuel then cut inside from the left wing towards the edge of the penalty area to curl his shot around the far post, but Bromley’s penultimate home game ended with defeat in front of their second largest crowd of the season and their third crowd of plus 2,000.

Fuseini automatically serves his suspension immediately and will miss next Saturday’s trip to Gateshead, who sit in tenth-place, four points clear of the Ravens.

Bromley complete their first season at non-league’s top table with a home game against Aldershot Town on Saturday 30 April (17:30).

Bromley have won 17 games, drawn nine and lost 18 of their games, scoring 65, conceded 66 with 60 points.  The Ravens are 15 points adrift of the play-off zone and 17 points clear of the relegation zone.

“It’s going to be another difficult game,” Smith said of their trip to Gateshead.

“We’ve got to come in on Monday and see who I’ve got and it might be the kids again, we go out with the kids.

“I’ve got to find a team to put out. Paul Rogers will be back, Pierre probably won’t so that cancels that one out.

“Lee Minshull won’t be fit, Ali (will be suspended). Ben Chorley could be fit so as one goes out another might come in but you know what, if it means we’ve got to play the kids and it gives them a little bit of blooding for next season then I’ll do it.

“I thought Jordan (Higgs) came on and showed a maturity beyond his years. I’ve been banging the drum about him. I think he’s something for the future. He’s a Bromley boy through the youth, through the Academy and you know what, I probably need more players like that.”

Bromley celebrated winning their first league title for 54 years on 18 April 2015 when Mark Goldberg (who was in the crowd today and watched last Saturday’s goal-less draw at Altrincham) guided the club to the Vanarama Conference South title with THAT 3-0 win over Weston-super-Mare at Hayes Lane.

“I’m maybe looking for next season but we’ll get through this season first,” said Smith, who was Goldberg’s assistant.

“I know it’s been a roller-coaster of a ride. If someone had said to us at the beginning of this season you’re going to finish in the top half this season we would’ve snapped your hands off and all credit to the boys.

“The support, two thousand here again today, I know Torquay had 500, but it’s been immense, it’s been brilliant. I just don’t want it to fizzle out. I’m loving every minute and I don’t want it to just fizz out.

“I can’t wait for next season but I just want to make sure we finish this season on a positive. I want to give the supporters something that they can really grab onto for next year so that was my real disappointment because I thought we let them down today.”

Bromley: Alan Julian, Pierre Joseph-Dubois (Rohdell Gordon 54), Joe Anderson, Ali Fuseini, Rob Swaine, Jack Holland, Moses Emmanuel, Lee Minshull (Jordan Higgs 35), Adam Cunnington, Bradley Goldberg, Adam Coombes (Thomas O’Connor 84).
Subs: Alex Crean, Michak Stanic-Stewart

Booked: Ali Fuseini 28, Adam Cunnington 73

Sent off: Ali Fuseini 49

Torquay United: Brendan Moore, Aman Verma, Dan Butler, Josh Rees, Angus MacDonald, Ben Gerring, Ifeayini Allen (Andre Wright 68), Courtney Richards, Shaun Harrad (Sam Chaney 68), Nathan Blissett, Luke Young (Toby Ajala 46).
Subs: Grant Fisher, Exodus Geohagon

Goals: Angus MacDonald 11, Courtney Richards 85

Booked: Ben Gerring 26, Angus MacDonald 66

Attendance: 2,088 (526 away)
Referee: Mr Craig Hicks (Sutton, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Paul Yates (Maidstone) & Mr Sean Feerick (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Graeme Ions (Tunbridge Wells)