Dagenham & Redbridge 1-1 Bromley - As a bunch of boys you either throw the towel in or you keep going but they kept going, says unbeaten Bromley boss Neil Smith

Wednesday 04th September 2019
Dagenham & Redbridge 1 – 1 Bromley
Location Victoria Road, Dagenham, Essex RM10 7XL
Kickoff 04/09/2019 19:45

Vanarama National League
Wednesday 4 September 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Victoria Road

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he is feeling absolutely delighted after his side snatched a last-gasp equaliser to preserve their unbeaten record after nine games.

Peter Taylor’s Dagenham & Redbridge took the lead after only 71 seconds through Angelo Balanta’s free-header, the striker scoring his fourth goal of the season.

There was drama for the BT Sport viewers when Bromley snatched their equaliser right at the death, through Reeco Hackett-Fairchild’s clinical finish to score his fifth goal of the season.

Bromley remain in third-place in the Vanarama National League table with 19 points (five wins and four draws), just three points adrift of both FC Halifax Town and Woking, while the Daggers climb up one place into twelfth with 12 points (three wins and three draws).

Dagenham & Redbridge have a 100% home record over Bromley in the National League in three previous seasons, winning 3-0, 5-1 and 2-1 and Bromley had five former Daggers’ players in their ranks with goalkeeper Mark Cousins, holding midfielders Billy Bingham and Frankie Raymond and strikers Michael Cheek and Hackett-Fairchild, 21, who was born in Redbridge.

Smith said:  “There were patches that I was really, really pleased with, a couple of bits I was frustrated with as well.  Obviously, the goal being the first one.  To give a goal away so early on but we’ve got a belief in our team at the moment and in our squad that we can keep on going to try to get something back from it. I just don’t like them leaving it too late! I thought we deserved a draw, minimum, today."

“We’ve worked hard this season, pre-season especially, making sure the boys’ were fit and strong and knowing they have to last for longer than 90 minutes because I think last season it was against us, we were letting in late goals.

“We knew we had to change that but to be scoring them so late as well, just full credit to the boys’ fitness levels and recovery as well.

“We had the hangover from The FA Trophy Final the year before and I kept a few of the boys on from that final and this year we just thought we’d change it and bring a new energy and kept what I class as the better players’ from last season but the new boys that have come in have gelled, they’ve really worked hard.

“It’s only early days, we’re not shouting from the rooftops, we’re not saying we’ve cracked it. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do but you couldn’t have asked for a better start.”

Dagenham & Redbridge took the lead following their first attempt on goal.

Right-winger James Dobson whipped in a great cross which was met by an unmarked Balanta, who glanced his header across Cousins into the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

“Disappointed it wasn’t great,” admitted Smith.

“As a bunch of boys you either throw the towel in or you keep going but they kept going.”

Taylor’s men were on the front foot for the majority of the first half as Bromley’s tactic of trying to hit long balls over the top of the home side’s back four wasn’t working.

“I felt we kept possession really well, in fact I felt we needed to pass it forward a little bit more aggressively and a little quicker,” explained Smith.

“We were playing it around in safe areas and then losing possession for them to have a break on us.”

Bromley right-back Joe Kizzi gave the ball away in his defensive third to Joe Quigley, who played in Joan Luque, who skipped past Cousins but a poor touch ensured the ball rolled behind for a goal-kick as the winger reached the by-line.

Bromley produced a good move in the 27th minute and struck the base of the near post from distance.

Sam Wood played the ball down the line to Hackett-Fairchild, Luke Coulson’s ball in was blocked and fell at Hackett-Fairchild, who drilled a low left-footed angled drive against the base of the near post with goalkeeper Elliot Justham getting down low to his right beside his near post.

“Again, a great bit of play. I think there was about a 15-man passing move and it finished off with a shot on target but it hit the post and I think it showed our intent,” said Smith.

Coulson had played in three positions during the first half for Bromley, starting out wide on the left, drifting in the middle before playing in a right-sided central midfield position.

Josh Rees, who once again played wide on the right, released Cheek, who shrugged off Dagenham & Redbridge’s centre-half Kenny Clark down the right channel and cut into the box but instead of shooting he slipped a pass straight to Daggers right-back Will Wright who cleared the ball away.

Bromley’s set-piece specialist, Raymond curled in a left-footed free-kick towards the bottom far corner from 35-yards, forcing Justham to smother the ball low to his left four minutes before the break.

Bromley linked-up well down the left through Raymond and Coulson, who rolled the ball back to Wood, who took a touch before whipping in a deep cross but Cheek ghosted in at the far post to hook the ball wide.

Balanta slipped winger Luque in behind Kizzi and as Bingham pressed him on the by-line, the ball was cut back to Dobson, who lofted the ball up towards the roof of the net from the corner of the box but the Bromley keeper made a comfortable catch.

“I told them at half-time to just believe in yourselves – lets get forward, let’s get at them and something might happen,” added Smith.

Bromley upped their tempo and dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half but the home side weathered the storm after this spell.

Bromley created one chance during this period, in the sixth minute.

Coulson floated in a free-kick from 35-yards, which Justham flicked the ball behind for a corner to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom far corner after Chris Bush's flicked header.

Dagenham & Redbridge then had a spell of dominance and created a couple of openings after the hour-mark.

Dobson floated in a deep cross from the right, the ball was headed up rather than away by Kizzi and Luque watched the ball drop out of the sky and flashed a shot on the turn just past the foot of the near post from 18-yards.

Dobson picked up the loose ball and found a pocket of space before drilling a left-footed drive flashing across Cousins and past the far post from 35-yards.

Halfway through the second half and Bromley created a decent chance when Wood lofted the ball up field, the ball was flicked on by target-man substitute Adrian Clifton and Cheek played in Hackett-Fairchild, but a poor first touch ensured his second touch, a low driven shot, was blocked by Justham at his near post.

Dagenham & Redbridge swiftly hit Bromley on the counter-attack and just 10 seconds later Cousins was forced into making a flying save.

Quigley released Dobson charging down the right, his attempted chip forced from inside the box forced Cousins to dive high to his right to push the ball over his crossbar.

“Mark Cousins has been amazing since he’s come in. He had a couple of shots, he pulled off a save, obviously did really well,” added Smith.

Clifton’s introduction earlier on in the game gave the Dagenham & Redbridge defensive something else to think about as he held the ball up well and gave Bromley another option up front.

“Second half it was a little bit more aggressively getting forward and that’s why I brought Adrian Clifton on.  I felt once he came on balls were going up to him and they were staying up there and it gave us an impetus to attack,” explained Smith.

Bromley centre-half Chris Bush launched a long throw into the penalty area and Clifton flicked his towering header straight at Justham.

Dagenham & Redbridge went close to killing off Bromley in the 29th minute when Luque lofted the ball into the Bromley box from the left, a spell of head-tennis occurred inside the box before the ball came out to Brundle, who drove a first time shot through a crowd of players and flashing just past the foot of the far post from the edge of the box.

A poor pass from Raymond, which was intended for Hackett-Fairchild, was intercepted by substitute right-winger Bagasan Graham, who used his pace to sprint down the right before cutting in to the middle of the pitch and testing the visiting keeper with a left-footed drive from 35-yards, which Cousins made a comfortable save on his knees.

Bromley centre-half Marc Anthony-Okoye delivered a ball into the Daggers box, the ball was knocked on by Hackett-Fairchild and Clifton’s right-footed hook on the turn from 20-yards looped up and was caught by Justham, standing beside a post.

With less than five minutes left to play, Bromley threw bodies forward as they went in search for an equaliser.

Substitute Adam Mekki floated a free-kick into the Daggers box and Cheek’s diving header was gathered by Justham, diving to his left to prevent the ball trickling past the post.

Despite Bromley knocking on the door, Dagenham & Redbridge were dangerous on the counter-attack.

Luque played a ball in from the left, the ball was cleared out to Brundle, whose left-footed drive was kept out by Cousins, diving to his left to parry before the ball was cleared towards safety.

Bromley seemingly had one last chance when they were awarded a free-kick by referee Adrian Quelch 25-yards from goal.

The clock was showing 45:37 when Hackett-Fairchild’s left-footed free-kick was tipped over the crossbar by the excellent Justham, preventing the ball sailing into the roof of the net into the top far corner of the goal.

“Reeco’s had the free-kick that was tipped over. I think the penalty appeal (Wright clearly fouled Hackett-Fairchild close to the by-line after great skill from Bromley’s hero), watching back you just heard (BT Sport pundit) Daryl McMahon say there was a slight contact, so contact he’s gone down, it’s a penalty.  Also the last second to get that effort on goal.”

With Bromley’s unbeaten record at danger of going at a bogey ground, Bromley kept pressing and were rewarded when they notched a deserved equaliser with just TWO SECONDS of the game remaining, the goal timed at 48:58.

With victory just seconds away, Dagenham & Redbridge tried to keep the ball in the corner of the pitch, Bromley cleared their lines and Wood lofted one last ball up field, Cheek controlled the ball, fell over and kept the move alive.

Mekki skipped past Balanta inside the final third.  Balanta appeared to give up by bending over, as Mekki fed Hackett-Fairchild within a crowd of players.

A sublime touch of the ball saw him spin centre-half Onariase before drilling his left-footed shot underneath Justham to score from 12-yards to spark wild scenes of celebration at the away end and in the technical area too.

The commentary from BT Sport: “Whistles around Victoria Road, they’re desperate for the final whistle. Oh, what a brilliant check, oh fantastic! Right at the death, Bromley’s top scorer, Reeco Hackett with a moment of real quality. The finish was even better than the initial turn and look what it means to Neil Smith. Brilliant from Bromley, right at the very end and they’re going to preserve their uneaten record,”

Smith has found his home-town club a new superstar and you can now put Hackett-Fairchild in the same bracket as Louis Dennis.

He said: “He came to us at the end of last season (on loan from Charlton Athletic).  He really impressed. He broke his nose, missed the last few games but we’ve been talking all through the summer and I think he had a couple of offers from other people but I wanted him to come here but you can see a player that’s absolutely delighted to be here. He’s happy, you could see that.

“He was a centre-forward before he came here and I’ve sort of moved him out on the wing and I think it’s paying off.  I think there’s a lot more to come from Reeco, he’s out there training right up to the last and he’s getting the fruits of his labour.

“It was Mekki that played the ball into Reeco, who turned the player, first touch in the box and obviously got the shot off, so it was a great finish.

“On Saturday (a 2-2 draw at home to AFC Fylde) he had a couple of chances that he didn’t put away that we got frustrated with but full credit to him. He was putting himself out there.”

Bromley welcome struggling Chesterfield to Hayes Lane on Saturday (15:00). 

John Sheridan’s side are in the bottom three with five points (all draws) from their nine games and with it being an international break, Smith calls for 2,000 fans to flock through the turnstiles at Hayes Lane.

“I’ve said it all along, I just want to better every season.  Last season we finished midtable and we want to be better than that, we believe we’re better than that,” said Smith.

“We have got the new stand, there’s a new energy around the club. We’ve got a new chairman in Robin Stanton-Gleaves as well, who supports this club unbelievably and it’s now up to us as a management and players to repay that belief in us.

“There are no easy games and as soon as you think this is an easy game, that’s when you come unstuck,” warned Smith.

“We prepare every game and give them the utmost respect and someone like John Sheridan and with a club like Chesterfield and everything that they’ve got and the history they’ve had, we give them the utmost respect.

“But we are at home and we want to win so we have to put on a show. We have to work hard, get the supporters’ behind us, who are very important at the moment and make it a very difficult place to come to.”

On attracting new fans during the International break, Smith said: “We want everyone to be proud to be a Bromley supporter, even if it’s your second club, be really proud if it’s your second club. You can’t always watch the Premiership but it’s an easy access to get down to Bromley and hopefully we’re putting on a spectacle that people will want to keep coming back.”

This was Bromley’s first National League point away at Dagenham & Redbridge and Smith added: “Absolutely delighted! Like I was saying earlier, they’re our bogey team, at a bogey ground where we never get anything so to go a goal down after two minutes there’s frustration and the boys’ believed in it and hopefully we’ve changed that now.”

Dagenham & Redbridge: Elliot Justham, Will Wright, Luke Croll, Mitch Brundell, Manny Onariase, Kenny Clark, James Dobson (Bagasan Graham 72), Matt Robinson, Joe Quigley, Angelo Balanta, Joan Luque (Harry Phipps 90).
Subs: Reece Grant, Will Wood, Andrew Eleftheriou

Goal: Angelo Balanta 2

Booked: Manny Onariase 84

Bromley: Mark Cousins, Joe Kizzi, Sam Wood, Frankie Raymond (Michael Klass 82), Marc-Anthony Okoye, Chris Bush, Luke Coulson (Adrian Clifton 58), Billy Bingham, Michael Cheek, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, Josh Rees (Adam Mekki 70).
Subs: Jack Holland, Korrey Henry

Goal: Reeco Hackett-Fairchild 90

Booked: Frankie Raymond 73

Attendance: 1,526 (128 away)
Referee: Mr Adrian Quelch (Christchurch, Dorset)
Assistants: Mr Martyn Holmes (King’s Lynn, Cambridgeshire) & Mr Darin Geary (Norwich, Norfolk)
Fourth Official: Mr Jack Packman (Margate)