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Bromley FC – A season in review
Bromley FC – A season in review

Following the FA Trophy win in May 2022, Bromley started their second full season under manager Andy Woodman looking to take the positive momentum into their new National League campaign with an eye on making the play off places at the end of the season.

The core of the trophy winning squad were retained for the start of 2022/23 with the addition of Callum Reynolds in defence, striker Adam Marriott and eventually Reice Charles-Cook in goal who had played all of pre-season as a trialist.

James Vennings made his move from Charlton permanent to add extra strength to the midfield.

After a pre-season of games mainly against under age Premier League opposition the side looked a little ‘under cooked’ as they travelled to Wealdstone for the league opener and they went down 3-2 with Omar Sowunmi & Michael Cheek on target for The Ravens.

A 0-0 draw at home to Altrincham followed before the first win came in a 1-0 win at home to Torquay thanks to a goal from Louis Dennis.

Once Bromley got going, they went on a run on winning three consecutive games 1-0, spawning the mantra ‘if you don’t conceded you don’t lose’, which would seem to be Woodman’s managerial philosophy.

Hit by injuries and suspensions the run came to a halt at Dagenham & Redbridge on August Bank Holiday Monday though where a depleted side lost 4-1.

Full back Reece Hannam joined on loan from Crystal Palace, adding to a number of young players on loan from league clubs including Charles Clayden from Charlton, Ethan Coleman from Orient and Zak Bradshaw from Ipswich.

Three wins out of four league games in September kept Bromley in touch with the promotion places, a 3-0 home win over Oldham Athletic was the club’s first win over a former Premier League side, Omar Sowunmi who was impressing at centre back also adding goals to his game, but Charles-Cook was injured in the 3-0 home win over Maidstone Utd and would be ruled out for several weeks, with Arsenal loanee Tom Smith taking over in goal for the rest of the year.

October proved to be more tricky, exiting the FA Cup and only winning once, 2-0 away at Boreham Wood. November started with a very creditable 1-1 draw at league leaders Notts County, a 2-0 home defeat to Woking followed and then a draw with Halifax Town, before it ended with a very entertaining 3-2 win at Dorking Wanderers, despite having had Corey Whitely sent off in the first half.

Long serving defender Chris Bush was on the bench for the Dorking game, but this would prove to be the last time he was named in a Bromley squad.

December began with the tragic loss of supporter Keith Hoare at Hayes Lane, only six minutes into the home game with Yeovil Town. The match was abandoned and would be re-scheduled for January. Academy graduates Kellen Fisher and Ben Krauhaus came back to the club after impressive loan spells at Cray Wanderers and went straight into the squad, with Billy Bingham & Reece Hannam injured.

A week later The Ravens drew 3-3 at home to Wealdstone, before freezing conditions delayed the FA Trophy game at Bath City by four days and consequently saw the cancellation of the away game at Wrexham, which had already been re-arranged once.

The year ended with a fine 1-0 win at Southend Utd, Louis Dennis scoring the vital goal, Woodman opting for a back four for the first time with defender Besart Topalloj starting at full back on loan from Millwall.

Chris Bush signed for Boreham Wood and Mason Bloomfield went to Farnborough prior to a 0-0 home draw with Southend Utd on New Year’s Day, which saw the welcome return of Charles-Cook in goal, James Vennings and Omar Sowunmi also returned to the bench after injury & suspension.

Topalloj signed on a permanent basis, while Kellen Fisher and Ben Krauhuas returned from successful loan spells at Cray Wanderers. Fisher cementing his place in the starting line up at right back for the rest of the season.

Chairman Robin Stanton-Gleaves reiterated his aim for the club to be promoted to the Football League in his Christmas message to the fans and details of plans to develop the side terrace at Hayes Lane were revealed.

The Ravens exited all three cup competitions they enter at the first stage, losing to 2-1 Hereford in the FA Cup, 1-0 to Cray Valley PM in the Kent Senior Cup and their FA Trophy defence ended with a defeat on penalties away at Bath City after a 2-2 draw, having lead 2-0 with ten minutes to go.

The positive spin on this is ‘concentrate on the league’, but the Trophy defeat in particular was really hard to take, although of course this would be softened come May.

As they headed into a busy January it really was still all to play for in the National League for Bromley, midfielder Ryan Stirk joined on loan from Birmingham City and proved to be an inspired signing and he would later be joined by impressive 19 year old defender Deji Elerewe on loan from Charlton Athletic.

Woodman’s side were very unlucky to lose 2-1 away at Wrexham live on BT Sport, but then went seven games unbeaten into February, including four draws along with wins over Yeovil, Altrincham and Dorking Wanderers.

Defeats to Woking & Torquay either side of a 0-0 at Eastleigh saw The Ravens slip down towards midtable and despite a very creditable 1-1 draw at home to Notts County at the beginning of March, where they lead until injury time, there were also home defeats to Wrexham 1-2 and York City 0-3, the York game saw Bromley play with ten men and Topalloj in goal after Charles-Cook had been sent off in the first half.

The Wrexham game saw over 5,000 people packed into Hayes Lane and indicated that even if the on the pitch the team were ready for the Football League, off it the club had a lot to work on.

The positive side was that the performance against The Red Dragons was excellent and Bromley could have had a penalty late on for what looked a clear foul on Sowunmi in the box.

From the Wrexham loss in the middle of March to mid-May, Andy Woodman would then over see his side go unbeaten in ten matches and move right back into the play off places.

Charles-Cook came back after his one game ban and put in some inspired performances over the run in, Elerewe would step in for the injured Byron Webster and Stirk proved himself in the heart of midfield.

Up front Louis Dennis proved himself once more to be that special player with the x factor and Michael Cheek found his goal scoring touch again on a regular basis eventually finishing on 17 goals for the season.

Wins away at strugglers Maidstone & Yeovil were followed by a 4-0 home win over Solihull Moors, momentum was building and fans were slowly starting to believe that the play offs could be possible.

1-1 draws with fellow challengers Barnet & Boreham Wood kept Bromley in the picture and a 3-0 win at Gateshead followed by a point at Halifax Town set things up nicely for the final home league game against Chesterfield.

A 2-0 win in front of over 3,000 secured a play off spot for The Ravens with Billy Bingham scoring his first of the season in spectacular fashion. The final day of the season saw several players rested in the 1-1 draw at Oldham Athletic which saw Bromley finished the campaign in seventh the final play off spot.

This meant that all of Bromley’s play off matches would be away from home, but with the side clearly full of confidence no team would fancy the prospect of playing them.

The eliminator game saw Woking defeated 2-1 at Kingfield, cheered on by nearly 1,000 away fans Bromley coming back from 1-0 down to progress to the semi finals with goals from Cheek and Elerewe.

Chesterfield awaited in the semi final, they had finished third in the final table,13 points ahead of Bromley, but both sides had won their home games in the regular season.

On a sunny May afternoon the teams served up a classic for the BT Sport cameras with Bromley going in front, before losing Stirk to injury and Elerewe to a red card. The Spireites then came back to lead 2-1 until the 8th minute of injury time when Cheek popped up for the ten men, to take the game to extra time.

In the end Bromley just didn’t have enough in the tank to take the match to penalties and lost 3-2 having given everything not only in this tie, but all season.

As the dust settles on the season Bromley fans will look back on it as a special one, history being made with a record points total in the National League and reaching the play off semi final for the first time by a squad who bonded with the fans on the way.

Who knows what might have been if they could have converted some of the seventeen draws they had into wins, but they remained hard to beat, losing only eleven conceding just 53 goals over 46 league matches.

If the club can retain the same squad and management team then this could be another building block in the incredible progress Bromley have made over the last 20 years.