Bromley – a club on the up
Bromley – a club on the up

2021 has proven to be a real turning point for Bromley Football Club and we look back at an eventful past six months.

After the FA Trophy victory over Hemel Hemsptead just before Christmas Bromley had to take an enforced break due to a Covid 19 case in the squad.

Former Ireland Under 12 International forward Courtney Duffus signed from Yeovil Town, but it wasn’t until mid-January that The Ravens played again when they lost on penalties in the FA Trophy to Woking after a 1-1 draw and then suffered another loss 2-1 at home to Halifax Town.

This was followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Woking in the league three days later, having lead 2-0 at one stage. January ended on a positive note though when Neil Smith’s side defeated Aldershot at home live on BT Sport 2-0, with goals from Jack Bridge & Michael Cheek lifting the spirits. 

The effects of teams having to survive with no financial income from fans came to the fore when grants from the National League ended and clubs had to apply for loans to continue their seasons. Some teams furloughed staff and brought in cheaper loan players, others carried on regardless and Dover Athletic stopped playing completely, eventually having their record expunged with all points won in games against them removed.

Bromley losing three points and four goals scored having beaten them 4-1 at home in October. By the end of the season the league table would reflect the haves, have nots and those just getting by.   

February started with a very disappointing 2-1 defeat at Weymouth both Chris Bush & Charlie Wakefield sent off on an afternoon to forget. Smith condemning his players indiscipline in the post match interview and promised changes. A 2-0 home win over Kings Lynn Town followed before snow saw the away game at Wealdstone postponed.

The following Tuesday The Ravens fell to a 1-0 loss away at Dagenham & Redbridge as the struggled to get any form together to keep in touch with the top seven, losing Harry Forster to a hamstring injury. Creditable draws away at Boreham Wood and at home to Maidenhead Utd followed, before February ended with a 3-1 home win over Altrincham, goals coming from a Cheek double & Kizzi, Bush was again sent off late on though, his third of the season. His suspensions meaning that Frankie Raymond had to be deployed as an emergency left back in several games.  

March began with a trip to the league leaders Sutton Utd and in a dramatic game The Ravens lead twice through Cheek & Duffus before eventually losing 3-2 conceding two goals in the final four minutes. A rare win at Eastleigh followed, but again progress was frustrated by a 2-2 home draw with bottom side Barnet.

A midweek 2-1 win away at Yeovil Town followed, Bromley’s first ever win there courtesy of a Michael Cheek strike and an injury time own goal, and that was followed up by a hard fought 1-0 home win over Solihull Moors thanks to another Joe Kizzi header in the second half. With The Ravens in seventh place, March came to an end with a home game against leaders Sutton Utd with all to play for, but they were very much second best losing 3-1, barely laying a glove on Matt Gray’s side.

Two days later the club announced that Manager Neil Smith had been relieved of his duties with immediate effect, owner Robin Stanton-Gleaves stating that he did not believe Smith would be able to fulfil the goal of making the play offs. Reaction to the sacking was split down the middle with some fans saying it was long overdue and others hugely disappointed by the move, ending Smith’s six year spell as manager.      

With Roger Johnson & Alan Dunne taking temporary charge of the team, Bromley travelled up to North Wales to face fellow play off challengers Wrexham and they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 to end the month sitting in ninth. 

On the following Monday the club announced it’s new first team manager in Andy Woodman. Woodman became a coach after a long career in the professional game and he would work with Alan Dunne & Roger Johnson as the management team. 

Woodman’s fist game in charge saw Bromley fall 2-0 down to Wealdstone before they rallied and pulled back to secure a 2-2 draw on Good Friday. Left back Charlie Fox joined the club after a spell at Walton Casuals, he’d previously had a spell with the club in pre-season before picking up an injury. A 0-0 draw away to Stockport County on Easter Monday followed, but they lost Byron Webster to a serious hand injury, which would rule him out for the remaining league fixtures.

The first win under the new manager came on the Saturday with a 1-0 win over Dagenham & Redbridge courtesy of another Michael Cheek goal and three more wins away from home followed. A dramatic 4-3 victory at Woking saw Bromley score three goals in the final eleven minutes to come from behind and pick up the three points.

Woodman then brought in two players on loan in the shape of defender Alex Mitchell from Millwall and midfielder Tate Campbell from Birmingham City, prior to the 2-1 wins at play off challengers Chesterfield & Halifax Town. April ended with the teams first loss under Woodman as they were edged out 2-1 at home to Chesterfield, but over all it had been an impressive first month for the new manager winning four and drawing two. 

There was still no luck with injuries though as Taylor Maloney and Courtney Duffus both picked up injuries that would end their seasons & Liam Trotter was having to limit his games and play through the pain, although Jack Holland & Billy Bingham both returned after lengthy spells out and fit again Watford loanee Harry Forster came back for another spell. Kory Roberts and Charlie Wakefield both found themselves not included in the match day squad for the rest of the campaign and Luke Coulson barely featured.         

The May Day Bank Holiday saw Jeff Stelling visit Hayes Lane with his Hartlepool Utd side and in an enthralling tight game The Ravens came out on top with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Jude Arthurs.  Four away games followed, a 0-0 draw away at second place Torquay Utd in front of the BT Sport cameras, a hard fought 1-0 win at Wealdstone thanks to another Joe Kizzi goal, converting a corner from close range and then a very impressive 2-2 at Notts County.

Another dramatic late winner away at Aldershot saw Bromley win 3-2, Michael Cheek & James Alabi putting Bromley in front twice before Kizzi popped up with the later winner again. The game at Aldershot was the first to see the return of a limited number of home fans to attend matches in the ground since December and Bromley fans would have the opportunity to see their side at Hayes Lane for the last league game.     

The win set Bromley up requiring a final day victory at home to Notts County, and hope for other results to go their way, in order to make it into the promotion play offs. And so it happened, a second half goal from Ben Williamson in front of the fans on the North Terrace was enough to secure the three points and with Wrexham dropping points at Dagenham, Bromley moved into seventh place and the final play off birth. The Ravens would travel to fourth placed Hartlepool Utd the following Sunday for the first elimination game.

Live on TV for the fifth time this season The Ravens travelled up to Hartlepool Utd on the first Sunday in June. With 1,700 home fans in Victoria Park, but no away support. Sadly, within the first 24 minutes the game was over as Bromley trailed 3-0, looking uncharacteristically vulnerable in defence and unable to control the midfield. Second half sub James Alabi pulled one back just after the break, but there was no further way through for Andy Woodman’s team until deep into injury time when Alex Mitchell made it 3-2, but it was just too late in the day for another memorable comeback and the season was over for Bromley.

Michael Cheek netted 23 league goals, James Alabi scored 8 on limited game time & Joe Kizzi contributed 7 vital goals from right back, while January signing Courtney Duffus got 5 before injury ended the striker’s campaign early.

Bromley only played five games in front of supporters all season, winning two and losing three, but they achieved their highest ever National League finish and sampled the promotion play offs for the first time at this level. Suspensions were a major problem with 9 red cards shown to Bromley players.    

Picture supplied by Dave Budden.

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