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Bromley 1-1 Wealdstone
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
This time last season, Bromley had one win from their first three games yet ended the season as National League play-off semi-finalists.
Tuesday night saw them pick up their first point of the season and lay down some kind of foundation for the team to work from.
It wasn’t pretty but it was better than the Halifax and Barnet games. Is this the beginning of the season or a false dawn?
As ever, I reflect on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Bromley’s 1-1 draw with Wealdstone.
Have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Line-up vs Wealdstone
A goal and a point.
When you start the season with two straight defeats, and look toothless in the process, you’ll take anything but a defeat.
Bromley put in their best performance of the season in the first half, hitting the crossbar twice through Ben Krauhaus and Michael Cheek.
Andy Woodman gave Bromley National League debuts to Josh Passley, Cole Kpekawa, and Soul Kader and had clearly instructed his side to play with a better tempo from the off.
For the first time this season, we saw crosses coming into the box and Krauhaus and Whitely ball-carrying into the final third to bring some chaos. Was it perfect? No. Did it inspire the crowd to get behind the team? Yes.
Similarly, when Jude Arthurs came on in the second half to add bite in the middle, and Todd Miller came on to add pace down the right, it lifted the crowd.
Are Bromley still a bit disjointed and taking time to gel? 100%. But at least we’ve seen the green shoots of positive play.
In terms of the debutants, Josh Passley showed what he is all about from an attacking perspective. Time and time again he got forward and whipped crosses into the box. You can see why he was a top assist-maker in the National League South last season.
It was his first game with a new defence, so let’s hope they can gel as a unit and improve as the season progresses.
Similarly, Cole Kpekawa made his debut and provided some necessary steel and stability at LCB. The long-term plan is for Cole to cement that position once he’s back up to speed with full-time football. He showed enough defensive prowess across the 90 minutes to suggest he will be a very solid addition.
Lastly, a special mention for Soul Kader. It was a brave decision to select a 19-year-old academy graduate with no National League senior appearances to his name.
As Andy Woodman mentioned in his post-match interview, there have been signs that Soul has been ready for a while. Last season, at the age of 18, he scored double figures in the Ryman One South East for VCD. This was followed by a very impressive pre-season for the Ravens.
It takes a brave manager to drop Adam Marriott and gamble on Kader’s youth, but it paid off. The youngster did exactly what was asked of him: press from the front, run in behind, and finish if you get a chance.
Finally, it’s rare I use The Good to focus on the opposition, but Wealdstone deserve full respect.
They are so pleasing on the eye and their passing and movement and ability to break a press is phenomenal. If they have a Premier League equivalent it’s Brighton.
Given that Wealdstone are part-time in the truest sense, what Stuart Maynard and his backroom staff are able to achieve with such limited contact time and resources needs to be studied. They’re doing things that full-time clubs can't.
I said Wealdstone may struggle this season as clubs would most likely cotton on to what they do, but if anything Wealdstone look even better than last season.
Would they be better with a prolific goalscorer? Most likely. But that’s the same for 75% of the National League.
Why was George Alexander let go? A weird question given I answered it a week ago.
However, when it was announced that Soul Kader would be making his National League debut, with Adam Marriott on the bench, the implication was clear. Woodman wasn’t impressed with the Cheek/Marriott partnership and wanted a mobile runner to get beyond Cheek.
I have no problem with the choice of Kader, he’s a talented youngster with some bite and spirit. I mean, heck, he scored, so Woodman was vindicated.
Undoubtedly, part of the game plan focused on Kader pressing the Wealdstone defence and setting traps. But given we had someone at the club with more experience than him, why was Alexander sent out on loan? Given Kader’s performance does it even matter?
Even if there are plans for another striker to arrive, which I’m certain is the case, the decision posed a lot of questions. It also poses some pertinent questions about Adam Marriott’s contribution to proceedings. Notably, Adam remained on the bench, even when the high-pressing front line was tiring.
In midfield, a desire to play ‘front foot’ football and fight fire with fire must have been the reason why Corey Whitely and Ben Krauhaus started the game on either side of Billy Bingham and Jude Arthurs started on the bench.
On one hand, this decision led to a highly offensive approach and made the first half the best half of football this season. On the other hand, it was far too open.
There are a few teams you don’t cede space to in the middle of the park and Wealdstone, with their excellent movement in possession, are one of them.
On more than a few occasions, it felt like Bingham was the only defensive-minded individual in the midfield and Wealdstone simply ran past or pressed him into mistakes as a result. This only improved when Ben Krauhaus made way for Jude Arthurs, who added steel and legs around Bingham.
Finally, I have a lot of hope for Besart Topalloj and genuinely believe he will be the next player to move to the EFL, but he’s had a very subdued start to the season. Some might even say a bad start.
The driving runs we’re used to seeing have almost disappeared from his game, and he has appeared a bit ponderous in possession.
Is the knock he picked up at Halifax affecting him, or is this just a slow start to the season?
He isn’t the only member of the back line looking out of sorts, but given his consistency last season his drop off has been noticeable.
In the post-mortem following the Barnet defeat, Andy Woodman repeated a now familiar mantra: Get back to basics and keep clean sheets.
All of that went out of the window within four minutes against Wealdstone as a poor clearance from inside the six-yard box left Tahvon Campbell with time and space to shoot beyond Smith from the edge of the box.
From my position, Webster could have made the job harder for Campbell. But whichever way you look at it, it was soft and left Bromley with a mountain to climb once again. This, of course, is the last thing you want to do when you are low on confidence and bodies.
Overall, the performance showed our defensive deficiencies. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Wealdstone could have put the game to bed in the second half if they had taken one of their many chances.
Part of that was due to the high line that Bromley employed and the lack of midfield protection, but when you analyse the last three games, every defender has made individual errors.
This won’t have escaped Andy Woodman’s attention. The trend needs eradicating or Bromley will find themselves on the backfoot all too often.
It won’t have helped that, due to injuries and absences, Woodman hasn’t been able to field the same back five for any game this season. But his team heads to Kidderminster with all options available, so it will be interesting to see how he configures the setup.
Does Whitely replace the under-performing Topalloj at left wing-back? Does Reynolds come in for the raw Chin Okoli? Or does he keep it as it is?
Does this squad need time? Does Woodman need to be ruthless in his decision-making? Or is this club’s current situation a recruitment issue?
Get at me in the comments below.
Grant Smith (8)
Josh Passley (7)
Chinn Okoli (6)
Byron Webster (6)
Cole Kpekawa (7)
Besart Topalloj (6)
Billy Bingham (5)
Corey Whitley (6)
Ben Krauhaus (6)
Soul Kader (7)
Michael Cheek (6)
Jude Arthurs for Ben Krauhaus 75’ (7)
Todd Miller for Chinn Okoli 65’ (7)
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