Bromley 1-0 Woking - While we're up there we'll give it our best shot, says unbeaten top-of-the-table Bromley boss Neil Smith

Tuesday 24th September 2019
Bromley 1 – 0 Woking
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 24/09/2019 19:45

Vanarama National League
Tuesday 24 September 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he would never had dreamt about his side’s unbeaten start to the season.

The Lillywhites celebrated reaching the summit of the non-league pyramid for the first time in their 127-year history on Saturday when Notts County were beaten 2-1 in front of 3,122 fans at Hayes Lane.

Many fans took screenshots of the Vanarama National League table with Bromley sitting top of the tree with 26 points from their 12 games, while tonight’s game was an even bigger one, especially as Alan Dowse’s Woking arriving on a 10 match unbeaten run, having drawn their last four outings and with only one defeat under their name in third-place with 25 points on the board.

Bromley extended their unbeaten run to 15 games (including two games at the end of last season) by beating Woking, courtesy of Michael Cheek’s sixth goal of the season, just seven minutes before half-time, watched by an crowd of 2,358.

With FC Halifax Town going down to a 1-0 home defeat to Harrogate Town, Bromley remain top of the table and four points clear of FC Halifax Town, Woking and Yeovil Town.

“I’m really, really pleased with the result but I think we should’ve taken our chances and killed the game off, especially second half,” said Smith.

“We were through one-on-one, there was another couple of chances and then you’re always maybe open to a free-kick or something that goes against you but at the back I thought we were resolute, we were strong and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win.

“I think teams aren’t going to give you those amount of chances so when you have got them you’ve got to take them and I thought we earnt the right today to have those chances but there you go, we won!”

Smith made one enforced change to his side with Josh Rees coming in for the injured Frankie Raymond, while Woking made five and were without strike pair Dave Tarpey (four goals) and seven-goal threat Jake Hyde.

The start of the game was an open affair with both sides trading punches at each other like heavyweight boxers.

A long ball over the top caught out Bromley left-back Sam Wood and let in the lively Jamar Loza, who cut into the box and from a tight angle his shot was blocked by advancing Bromley keeper Mark Cousins after only 122 seconds.

The opening exchanges and Woking were a threat and should have scored following their first corners.

Max Kretzschmar floated in a corner from the left towards the far post where central midfielder Shaun Donnellan steered his header just past the right-hand post from within a crowded goal-mouth.

Woking goalkeeper Craig Ross, 29, had an outstanding game and thwarted Bromley on several occasions, the first time coming with just three minutes and 46 seconds on the clock.

Bromley right-back Joe Kizzi clipped the ball up and Luke Coulson, who started the game on the right, cut inside before drilling a right-footed drive towards the far corner from 25-yards, which forced the Woking keeper to dive to his right to palm the ball away.

“We said we put a marker down, let’s show what we’re about, intent,” said Smith.

“We did it on Saturday and scored really early on and Coulson did it again. I thought first half Coulson caused them a lot of problems but it was a great save from the keeper. I thought he was outstanding today, Craig Ross.”

Coulson swung in the resulting corner from the left and Kizzi’s towering far post header couldn’t get through a crowded six-yard box.

Woking were a threat down the right-channel through Loza’s pace and he latched onto Kretzschmar’s pass before reaching the edge of the penalty area before flashing his angled drive past the far post.

“We had so much possession, I had a go at them at half-time about being a little bit lax and a little bit sloppy and maybe over-doing it a little bit but with someone like Loza, you give him a sniff and he’ll normally take it,” added Smith.

Woking were on the front foot at this stage of the game and should have been in front at the halfway point.

Right-wing-back Jack Cook played the ball down the line, Kretzschmar dummied the ball and Donnellan sprinted down the right. He looked up and swept a crossfield pass into space for left-wing-back Josh Casey, who was left in acres of space after winning a foot race comfortably against Reeco Hackett-Fairchild but the Woking skipper drilled his first time left-footed drive over the top of the near post from eight-yards out with only keeper Mark Cousins to beat.

“He just drilled it over. Again, it was something we created, our own problems I thought today for them.  We opened teams up and play fantastic football to get a goal and we’ve gifted them chances.”

Woking went close again in the 28th minute when Bromley centre-half Marc-Anthony Okoye poked the ball straight at Godfrey Poku, who fed the ball into Loza, who cut inside and bent his right-footed curler around the foot of the far post from 18-yards.

Woking kept knocking on the door during this good spell and Kretzschmar stroked a right-footed free-kick towards goal from 30-yards, the ball bouncing once before being comfortably gathered by Cousins, who stooped down to make the save.

Woking’s fifteen minute spell of dominance gave Bromley a wake-up call and they went on to press for the lead.

Coulson floated in a free-kick from the left which was met by Cheek’s near-post free-header, which he placed towards the top left-hand corner, only for Ross to flick the ball over the top of the crossbar, high to his right.

Smith said: “I thought Craig Ross was outstanding but the set-pieces have been vital for us over the last few years and we should be doing better with the delivery that we’ve got coming into the box, whether it’s Frankie Raymond, Luke Coulson and tonight Alfie Doughty. We’ve got to do better on them.”

Loza drove a shot into the base of the side netting after the Bromley defence failed to clear their lines but Loza or Kretzschmar were the two players that had the quality needed to unlock the Bromley defence.

Bromley scored the only goal of the game with 37 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock.

The Lillywhites built-up patiently with Kizzi playing the ball inside to Rees, before Kizzi played another ball inside to Alfie Doughty, who teed up Billy Bingham, who cut into an area of space before sizing up a shot on goal from 35-yards.  However, he threaded the ball through the Woking back-line to put Cheek in and he slid the ball across the grounded keeper to roll the ball into the bottom far corner from six-yards out.

“Cheek just follows it in. Cheek does what he does. He’s a sniffer around the box. I thought he was isolated at times tonight but I’m really pleased for him. His hard work paid off tonight,” said Smith.

“He’s scored six goals and I think he should’ve scored more but we’ll create chances for him and his work ethic out of possession is just as good when we’re in possession.”

Bromley should have doubled their lead three minutes before the break when Coulson drove down the left and put it on a plate for Cheek by hanging over a cross but the striker’s downward header bounced into Ross’s hands for a comfortable save.

“Again, Craig Ross, in the right place,” said Smith.

“I think it was hard for Cheek to get any pace on it because it wasn’t the toughest of balls but he did well to direct it.”

Despite this being a vastly-improved performance than Saturday’s famous win over Notts County, Smith revealed he wasn’t happy during the half-time interval.

He said: “I had a go at them! I wasn’t happy. I thought we were playing within ourselves. I thought we were over-playing, got sloppy and got complacent, stuff like that and I think we came out second half with a rocket up their backside and I think that’s when we should’ve taken our chances!”

Bromley squandered a glorious chance to kill off Woking with only 197 seconds into the second half, on the counter-attack.

Doughty’s attempted diagonal pass should have been cut out by last-defender Nathan Collier – one of three central defenders – but he slipped over on the soaking 3G playing surface – and this put in Coulson, but a poor touch allowed Ross to come off his line to make the block. The ball came out to Rees, whose shot from just inside the box was blocked as Woking managed to get men back.

“Coulson just over-touched it, a heavy touch takes it a little bit too close to the keeper and he fails to take the opportunity,” added Smith, who was asked why he substituted the winger in the 69th minute.

“Coulson just came off because we needed to sit in behind them and Alfie Doughty came off just because he had a tight hamstring and he should be ok for Saturday and that’s when I brought Adrian Clifton on just to be a bit of a nag up front.”

Bromley continued to dominate and kept knocking on the door but they needed a second goal to seal the points as Woking offered very little threat going the other way.

Wood hit a first time left-footed clearance down the line from his left-back position and the ball was cleared to Hackett-Fairchild, who cut inside to curl his left-footed drive sailing agonisingly over the top of the far post from 30-yards, as the former Charlton Athletic man sprung to life despite a quiet game.

“Again, Reeco wants a goal so he’s shooting so I’m not going to stop that, you earn the right, take it,” added Smith.

The Hayes Lane faithful got behind their side with excellent vocal support from the North Bank terrace during the second half and Smith calls for the same when Barrow visit on Saturday 5 October.

“It’s getting better and I’ve said to them they don’t know how important they think they are. They get behind the players, they give them a lift when they might be flagging a little bit.

“I’ve said it, I want that every week, they’re amazing! They’ve been amazing since I’ve been here and I say that every week.”

The game got a bit nervy for Bromley the longer it went on with just a slender single goal lead as Woking enjoyed a short spell of possession outside the Bromley box, with Loza now operating down the left-wing.

But Bromley should have wrapped the game up in the 28th minute when Doughty cut the ball back from the right by-line to tee up substitute Shawn McCoulsky – who scored the winner over Notts County on his debut after coming off the bench – but his near-post poke across goal was pushed away by Ross, getting down swiftly low to his right, before the ball was stabbed behind for a Bromley corner.

There were three moments of quality in the final 13 minutes as Ross pulled off a world-class save to prevent substitute striker Adrian Clifton scoring his first goal for Bromley.

Wood’s first time ball released Hackett-Fairchild sprinting down the left wing and he hung over a great cross which was met by Clifton’s bullet header from eight-yards and Ross pulled off his save of the night, diving to his right and getting a strong hand to the ball to push it around the post.

“I think you’ve got to give the keeper some credit! I thought he was outstanding today and I think he kept them in it,” said Smith.

“I can’t blame the forwards but they’re getting into the positions to work the keeper and hit the target and on another day you score a couple.”

Dowson pushed three men up front for the final 14 minutes with Loza (left); Nathan Collier (central) and substitute Paul Hodges (right) but Bromley centre-half Marc-Anthony Okoye put in another outstanding performance at the back to ensure Cousins was protected behind him.

“You only need to go too tight and the referee gets sucked in and thinks it’s a free-kick and gives a free-kick and they score from it and you’re frustrated but they dug in. We kept a clean-sheet, which I’m really, really pleased with because I said to the boys if we do keep a clean-sheet we will win today and they did,” said Smith.

“I think we’ve been better. We’re playing a team that are third in the division, haven’t lost in 10 and I think that’s a massive result for us tonight.”

Despite pushing men forward, the best it got for Woking was when Loza and substitute Toby Edser linked up down the left and the ball was cut back to Casey, who took a touch before delivering a deep cross, which was plucked out of the air by Cousins, who dropped to the ground and held the ball in both hands on his goal-line.

Man-of-the-match Ross was called into action to make his final save of the night with five minutes remaining, diving to his left to keep out Chris Bush’s right-footed drive from the edge of the box after the ball was cleared out to him after Rees’ swung in Bromley’s penultimate corner from the left.

Bromley sit proudly at the summit with 29 points from 13 games and the six play-off places consist of FC Halifax Town (25 points), Woking (25), Yeovil Town (25), Dover Athletic (23), Dagenham & Redbridge (22) and Barrow (19).

Yeovil Town welcome Bromley at Huish Park on Saturday having won six games on the bounce, a 3-1 win at Aldershot Town tonight..

On Bromley’s unbeaten start to the season, Smith replied: “Never had dreamt it and we haven’t cracked it by any stretch of the imagination!

“We’ve now got a tough game against Yeovil. Again, the players’ have put a shift in. We’re going to have to see what we’ve got but we go there knowing it’s going to be another difficult game, against another team that are in form.

“It’s a tight league, anyone can start a run. I think they’ve won six on the trot now.  It’s whoever wants to take it and while we’re up there we’ll give it our best shot. There’s teams that are going to have a run and there’s teams that are going to have a dip and we’ve just got to make sure we get as many points on the board as early as we can.”

With only 23 more points needed for survival, this has been some week for the Lillywhites with people getting behind their home-town team that is managed by one of their own.

“The boys have given me everything,” said Smith.

“I went to school across the road, my daughters go to school in Bromley. I know most of the supporters from when I was first here and I’m meeting up with old school friends and old school teachers so of course it means a little bit more to me because it’s my club and where it’s come from, where it was, to where it is now you wouldn’t recognise but off-the-field and on-the-field, we’ve got a long way to go but it’s been an amazing week.”

Bromley: Mark Cousins, Joe Kizzi, Sam Wood, Billy Bingham, Chris Bush, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Luke Coulson (Shawn McCoulsky 69) Josh Rees, Michael Cheek, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, Alfie Doughty (Adrian Clifton 77).
Subs: Jack Holland, Adam Mekki, Michael Klass

Goal: Michael Cheek 38

Booked: Adrian Clifton 79

Woking: Craig Ross, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Manny Parry, Nathan Collier, Moussa Diarra, Kane Ferdinand, Shaun Donnellan (Christ Tiehi 60), Jamar Loza, Max Kretzschmar (Paul Hodges 76), Godfrey Poku (Toby Edser 76).
Subs: Sam Howes, Jack Skinner

Attendance: 2,358 (251 away)
Referee: Mr Matthew Russell (Waterlooville, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Shaun Farrer (Reigate, Surrey) & Mr Declan O’Shea (Chippenham, Wiltshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Connor (Farnham, Surrey)