Discover more from From Bromley with love
Bromley 0-2 Barnet
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
A warm east wind blew across the Hayes Lane pitch on Saturday, taking with it a few napkins and a lot of goodwill.
Frustration was rife at full-time, principally because Barnet’s 2 - 0 win over the injury-hit Ravens wasn’t a demolition, it was an uncontrolled implosion by the home side. So where do we go from here?
Into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, of course.
Have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Line-up vs Barnet
Whatever your thoughts on Bromley’s pre-season preparations, the fact remains that a sizeable and quite talented portion of the squad has started the season either injured or unfit.
With injury news hard to come by thanks to the club’s secrecy policy, the rumour mill has been churning. One of the rumours from t’mill was that Grant Smith had broken his thumb and would be out for a month or more, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the experienced shot-stopper on the team sheet.
In fact, his rival for the #1 jersey, Teddy Sharman-Lowe, was the name missing from the squad. More fodder for ye olde rumour mill.
Grant Smith went about his business with the confidence of a keeper who knows the level. His ball distribution was Swiss-watch stuff, as expected, but his pinnacle was the full-stretch bottom-corner save from a fierce Kabamba shot to keep the game at 1-0. Barnet should have killed the game off there and then, but Grant’s heroics kept the Ravens’ pulse ticking. For a while, at least.
Louis Dennis and Cole Kpekawa were also included in this match-day squad, albeit on the bench. On the surface, this suggests they’ve recovered from injuries they suffered in pre-season, but in Louis Dennis’s case I’m not so sure. I’ll explain my suspicion in The Ugly.
On Thursday, Bromley signed Todd Miller, a winger released by Brighton U23s this summer. He played a string of games in League Two last season, so he’s not a complete greenhorn, but it seems Bromley had had to wait for him to trial at other clubs before they could make their move.
When Bromley found themselves chasing the game, they changed shape to something akin to a 4-4-1-1, which made space for Miller on the right wing.
From the moment he was hail-mary’d into the fray, the long-haired wide-boy showed a determination to take on his man and ask questions of a tiring defence, which Bromley have been missing all pre-season.
Todd couldn’t change the tide of the game, but he didn’t hide. If he can bulk up and get his shooting boots on, Hayes Lane may prove a great canvas for his artistic talents.
Finally, in a game where long shots were the order of the day, Billy Bingham and Corey Whitely came close to scoring a brace of wonder goals.
Corey Whitely tried to make something happen in this game, and I have to give him credit. In the first half, he seemed a pass or two away from cracking the Barnet defence, but it just didn’t quite happen for him.
Without Louis Dennis to dovetail with, Corey cut a frustrated figure at times. His long-range effort in the first half had shades of “fine, I’ll do it myself.” Had an angel whispered in the direction of that first-half thunderbolt, we might be talking about an entirely different game.
The starting line-up seemed sensible enough given Bromley’s noted injury woes. It was an interesting blend of youth and experience, with the seven players either in or near their 30s seemingly tasked with guiding their fresher-faced colleagues.
But, as the game evolved, there seemed to be a dearth of leadership. That might seem like a dig at Byron Webster, and perhaps it is, but I’m alluding to a palpable sense of helplessness that enveloped the team and sloshed up into the stands like cold soup.
This was particularly apparent when the first goal went in. Heads went down and never came back up. Sure, there was gesticulating and “we go again” noise-making on the pitch, but it seemed hollow, like the players knew there was no way back. (Here) we go again.
In the first half, Bromley’s tactic, and only tactic as far as I could tell, was to play a long ball into Michael Cheek for a flick-on to Adam Marriott. There was a tiny bit of cunning to it, as Cheek frequently drifted onto the right wing to target the left side of their defence, but he lost duel after duel and Marriott wasn’t in position for a flick-on anyway.
Cheek and Marriott are wily operators, but they both do their best work in the penalty area. Marriott is the archetypal fox-in-the-box, while Cheek is an aerial and goal-poaching threat. They need the kind of service that takes advantage of that. They need wingers!
The game was crying out for wide players to get to the byline and ask questions, yet time and time again the ball was punted from deep in hit-and-hope fashion. Bromley looked painfully static as a result and Barnet were dealing comfortably with the mediocre balls thrown their way.
Barnet’s attack, by contrast, was much more dynamic, with players overlapping and surging into the box at different times. It didn’t create their goals, Bromley did that for them, but they looked the polar opposite of their static opposition.
Personally, I think the squad is crying out for another fast, tricky winger. What do you think?
In his post-match interview, Andy Woodman praised Ben Krauhaus (in the middle of our street) for a good performance in midfield. He’s certainly holding his own for a player of his age, and showed some nice turns and touches, but it felt like he was making up the numbers a lot of the time. It was all a bit safe, and he was too easily muscled off of the ball.
For me, Jude Arthurs is better in that position. His physicality and knack for arriving late in the box gives the side more central thrust, and he rarely plays a safe sideways ball. Jude is not, however, a right wing-back. Much as he has the engine, he never looked able to take on and beat his man, which left him recycling the ball inside all too often. Josh Passley’s return from suspension can’t come quickly enough. Let’s just pray he stays fit.
I also hope the club work with Jude to reduce the amount of needless, over-aggressive fouls he commits. The bench looked like they were getting fed up with it. I certainly was. He’s better than that.
Barnet were a solid team and looked exciting going forward at times, but they didn’t earn their goals, they were gifted them.
The first was the result of a set piece that was given away cheaply in a dangerous area. The delivery was average, but a static defence, and a missed clearance by the usually reliable Callum Reynolds, saw the ball land at the feet of a clump of Barnet players who were queuing up to smash the ball home. Down went Bromley heads.
TV replays showed that Barnet’s Danny Collinge handled the ball before netting the first, but it would’ve been hard to spot at full speed. Much easier to spot was the handball that should’ve gifted Bromley a penalty in the first half. Barnet didn’t so much as get off the hook as shake hands with it.
The second goal was the result of a ridiculously soft turnover that put Barnet’s sharp striker, Nicke Kabamba, through on goal. Bromley deserved to be punished for such sloppy play and the defenders need to take stock.
The central trio of Okoli, Webster, and Reynolds looked uncomfortable in each other's presence. Teenager Chin Okoli, bar a few overhit passes, had a reasonable game, but his experienced counterparts looked below their usual standard and a yard off the pace.
Reynolds gave a particularly sub-par performance and was substituted on 69 minutes to facilitate the change of shape. For me, that he was chosen for the axe over Okoli or Webster was a statement from the bench that he’d fallen short of expectations. I expect to see Cole Kpekawa pull on a Bromley shirt against Wealdstone on Tuesday night.
With Bromley chasing the game, and time running out, the bench looked to Louis Dennis to save the day. We all did. But our Obi-Wan Kenobi looked like the force wasn’t quite with him.
Louis is on the way back from a pre-season injury and I got the feeling he’d been rushed back ahead of time. He replaced the rather anonymous Adam Marriott in the 60th minute, but never really got his hooks into the game. If anything, he looked like he was trying not to overdo it.
Indeed, in extra time, Bromley readied Sam Woods to replace him. Woods was dressed, the sub board was glowing, but the switch didn’t take place. Were the bench looking to rest Louis with the game out of reach, or had his injury flared up again?
Either way, he probably shouldn’t have been on the pitch. And he certainly shouldn’t have been expected to save the day. It all points to the collective sense of hopelessness that I mentioned earlier.
Lose consecutive games in the middle of November and no one bats an eye, but lose your first games of the season and alarm bells ring. Is it a double standard? Perhaps. But a club’s opening fixtures are seen as an indicator of where the team is and how its new recruits have gelled.
In Bromley’s case, it all feels a bit rudderless. And with new faces supposedly arriving soon, it may be some time before anyone takes a firm grasp of the wheel.
On social media, pre-match, FBWL contributor Colin Head noted that Bromley are still effectively in pre-season. I completely agree. It shouldn’t be the case, but it is.
So when is our real first game of the season? Is it Wealdstone on Tuesday night? Probably not, but it certainly feels important. Another loss at home and I fear the warm east wind will start to blow much colder.
Over to you. Let’s mull it over in the comments section.
Grant Smith 6
Callum Reynolds 4 (SUB OFF 69’)
Chin Okoli 5
Billy Bingham 6
Byron Webster © 5
Jude Arthurs 4
Besart Topalloj 5
Corey Whitely 6
Ben Krauhaus 5
Adam Marriott 5 (SUB OFF 60’)
Michael Cheek 5
Louis Dennis 5 (SUB ON 60')
Todd Miller 6 (SUB ON 69')
Thanks for taking the time to read the match synopsis above.
This article was written and edited by Peter Etherington you can find him here
If you haven’t as yet make sure you read the other articles in the archive.
If you’d like to show an appreciation for the work that goes into this newsletter you can buy the team a coffee through the link below.
You can also find FBWL founder Machel St Patrick Hewitt on Twitter - here
Most importantly of all subscribe to the newsletter to ensure you get these updates direct to your inbox.
Thanks for reading From Bromley with love! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.