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Chesterfield 3-2 Bromley
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
What a season. What a journey.
Bromley were always going to be underdogs in their play-off semi-final at Chesterfield. And the knock-on effects of a quick turn-around after the Woking game seemed destined to play a part, too. Regardless, the plucky Ravens gave their fans a performance to be proud of.
From the high of taking the lead, to the low of the sending-off, and the euphoria of Cheek’s 99th-minute equaliser, it was an unforgettable ride. But there was a palpable sense in the away end that Chesterfield would make the man advantage count in extra time. And so it came to pass.
Bromley looked dead on their feet for the final 30 minutes, and understandably so. Having given everything on Wednesday night to beat Woking, then doing it all over again to force the game into extra time on Sunday, the last half-hour was just a hill too far.
As ever, I reflect on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Bromley’s dramatic 3-2 play-off semi-final defeat at Chesterfield.
Have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Line-up vs Chesterfield
Is there such a thing as the right way to lose? If so, there was no shame in Bromley’s defeat at Chesterfield.
As fans took their seats in the sold-out Technique Stadium, there was an underlying sense that Bromley would need a little luck if they were going to come away victorious.
The omens weren’t good. Pre-match, it emerged that Louis Dennis would play no part, making Bromley’s task seem that little bit more daunting. More on this later.
When you consider that Bromley had to dig deep to reverse a half-time deficit at Woking three days earlier, every gruelling minute of the Chesterfield game was likely to take a toll on tired legs. Winning in normal time seemed like a must.
That said, until the sending-off, Bromley had acquitted themselves well. By no means were they dominating the game, but they were doing what Bromley do best: hanging in there and refusing to be beaten.
A lesser team would’ve shrivelled after Darren Oldaker’s 80th-minute free-kick, which, to everyone in the ground, looked like being the winner. Yet Bromley inexplicably summoned some hidden grit to find a dramatic equaliser in the 99th minute.
That goal. That moment. It will live with me.
In many ways, it perfectly encapsulated why, after 27 years, I still cannot tire of watching this team up and down the country. To the left and right of me were friends that I’ve watched Bromley with since I was a teenager. Celebrating Cheek’s goal took us right back to those years.
At one point, I ended up on the floor between the row of seats one flight down; adrenaline masking the pain I would feel in my shins and hips 24 hours later.
I think we all knew deep down that this was as good as it was going to get, but it didn’t matter. It was a goal for the ages and the culture.
It almost seemed like the emotional euphoria of that goal took so much out of both the players and the fans that it added to the fatigue in extra time.
The Ravens were there in body for those thirty minutes, but it was clear that many were running on fumes. Corey Whitely was so spent that he had to go off, and it looked like Cheek, Topalloj, and Sowunmi were playing on muscle memory alone.
Taking the game to penalties would have required an almost superhuman effort, so there was no shame in their failure to do so. You could even question whether we had five fully-functioning penalty takers left on the pitch.
On an individual level, in a game that demanded defensive solidity and hard graft, there were several heroic performances.
Although he didn’t win Player of the Season, Callum Reynolds showed why he is rated highly by many fans. The epitome of consistency, Callum was exceptional and was one of the few players to still be going strong in extra time.
As I’ve stated in previous articles, when he acquired Callum Reynolds, Andy Woodman got an experienced National League pro with bags of play-off experience. Callum’s knowledge of what it takes to compete at the business-end of the league was on show in both play-off games.
In goal, the statistics may say he conceded three goals, but Reice Charles-Cook couldn’t do anything about them. His influence was felt elsewhere.
As I often say, unless a goalkeeper pulls off several world-class saves, it is easy for people to think they haven’t been brilliant. But, on a day where Chesterfield bossed possession, his calm marshalling of the backline helped to quell threats before they began.
Charles-Cook is yet another player who, but for the injury lay-off earlier in the season, could easily have won the Player of the Season award. He capped his strong season with yet another confident show in goal.
Further forward, Jude Arthurs was tireless and put in another strong performance that complemented his great run of late.
Arthurs is a perfect midfield option for Woodman when he needs someone to up the work-rate levels in the middle of the park and provide a bit of bite.
At just 21 years of age, Jude is still nowhere near his prime, yet he’s game for a scrap and great at moving the team up the pitch. The young man has taken his game to another level this season. If he can add more goals, he could be the perfect #8 for Woodman in the future.
After the Woking game, I wondered if we would rue the loss of Louis Dennis to injury. Sadly, they were prophetic words.
A gallant, backs-against-the-wall performance it may have been, but truth be told we had very little going forward for the majority of the game.
Yes, Adam Marriott scored, and so did Michael Cheek, but Louis’ absence meant that the creative burden weighed heavy on Corey Whitely’s shoulders.
It’s one of the reasons Andy Woodman was honest in his post-match interviews, admitting that Bromley were largely second best.
Does this speak to a recruitment issue that Bromley will need to sort out over the summer, or was it just a bad day at the attacking office?
I’ve seen Bromley play like that against other teams in the league and pull off the W, but there are levels to this league. Against the very best, extra guile is needed to decide tight games. On the day, we didn’t have enough of it and that’s why we deserved to lose.
At the other end of the pitch this may be harsh on young Deji Elerewe, who’s been such a stand-out performer of late, but we have to acknowledge that his sending-off tilted the game in Chesterfield’s favour.
The Spireites were the better team in the second half and had engineered a great head of steam in the run-up to the red card. The man advantage gave them even more incentive, and the fact that they capitalised on that advantage immediately added salt to Bromley’s wound.
In terms of the sending-off, I’ve read in some quarters that people thought it was harsh. I disagree.
Deji went in with his studs up. This would be a risk in a home game, let alone away at a sold-out Technique Stadium. He gave the referee an obligation to make a decision. And, with the home crowd baying for a dismissal, the man in the middle duly obliged.
Look at it another way. If that challenge happened at Hayes Lane and the perpetrator was a Chesterfield player, we would expect them to be sent off, right?
I get that emotions were running high, and banter is banter, but why did some Chesterfield fans camp themselves in front of us at full-time?
Several of their likely lads, behind the cushy confines of a police barrier, mockingly performed the gesticulations and contortions of delirium and liberally threw the wanker sign in our direction.
Not only was it embarrassing, if my team had just won their way through to the National League play-off final, the last thing I would care about is the away fans. Let alone a team nowhere near us geographically.
*Disclaimer: The large majority of the Chesterfield fans duly spent their time celebrating with friends and family in ecstatic bliss.
Part of me wonders if we deserved it as pay-back for our wild celebrations and mickey-taking following Bromley’s goals. But that wouldn’t explain why some fans ran from the other end of the ground to mug us off.
I think Chesterfield’s likely lads began to feel a bit silly when they realised that the majority of Bromley’s fans were clapping their victory and passage through to Wembley.
Perhaps the swollen number of travelling fans gave them the wrong impression. As we know, by and large, once outside of the M25, Bromley’s travelling support will always be decidedly non-league. It is what it is.
With the season done and dusted, however, there’s another UGLY on the horizon.
Soon we will know the retained and released list, and our loanee stars will return to their parent clubs.
While this was Bromley’s best league season in the modern era, thoughts will soon turn to how the club can replicate it or go one better.
As things stand, our Player of the Season, Omar Sowunmi, has not signed a new contract and it seems likely that he will depart to the EFL, assuming he can find the right club.
We know that loanees Ryan Stirk and Deji Elerewe are also likely to be playing EFL football next season. And, while I believe Louis Dennis and Reice Charles-Cook will sign new contracts, they have both reached the end of their current deals.
The point here is clear. There will be no rest for Andy Woodman and his backroom staff this summer. When it comes to recruitment, as one season ends, another begins.
The question is, can Andy pull more rabbits out of his recruitment hat?
Get at me in the comments below.
Reice Charles-Cook (8)
Kellen Fisher (7)
Omar Sowunmi (8)
Callum Reynolds (8)
Deji Elerewe (6)
Besart Topalloj (8)
Ryan Stirk (7)
Jude Arthurs (8)
Corey Whitely (7)
Michael Cheek (7)
Adam Marriott (7)
Byron Webster for Corey Whitely 95’ (7)
Mitchel Bergkamp for Kellen Fisher 88’ (6)
Harry Forster for Adam Marriott 64’ (6)
Thanks for taking the time to read the match synopsis above.
Please note all photographs in this article are by Martin Greig - please follow him on Twitter here
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