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FC Halifax Town 2-0 Bromley
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
It’s almost as if we never went away.
This season feels like it started hot on the heels of the last one. Perhaps that’s because Bromley’s season only ended on May 7th, or maybe it’s because the new season seems to start earlier each year.
Either way, this game came too soon for the Ravens as Andy Woodman’s side travelled to FC Halifax Town in the midst of an injury crisis.
As ever, I reflect on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Bromley’s opening-day defeat to FC Halifax Town.
Have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Line-up vs FC Halifax Town
Some will say there weren’t a lot of positives in this 2-0 defeat, and that would be true to an extent.
However, I would argue that the first half was good. The team stuck to the game plan and kept it tight with their compact defensive shape.
As a result, apart from a few enterprising attacking thrusts from Millenic Alli, Halifax didn’t really test Bromley’s young goalkeeper, Teddy Sharman-Lowe.
In fact, the two best chances of the half fell to Bromley. Andy Marriott and Jude Arthurs were denied by smart saves from the long arms of Sam Johnson in the Halifax goal.
Not to labour the point, but Bromley went into the match missing Tate Campbell, Louis Dennis, Cole Kpekawa, Grant Smith, Josh Passely, and club captain Byron Webster, who was only fit enough for the bench.
And, given their lack of game-time in pre-season friendlies, you could probably add Callum Reynolds and Corey Whitely to that list as they were no doubt undercooked for kick-off.
In his post-match interview, Andy Woodman was at pains to stress that he didn’t want to use the missing bodies as an excuse. But, in reality, it was always going to have an impact. Bromley don’t have the resources to counter such a glut of absences.
That’s why I argue that, given the context, Bromley’s first-half performance was more than acceptable.
While I wouldn’t go as far as saying any one player had a brilliant game, I do think James Vennings deserves some props.
I’m a fan of his, but it’s fair to say he tailed off in the second half of last season. His first half at Halifax, however, seemed like a return to form. He was Bromley’s key midfielder in terms of linking passes in the attacking phases and transitions, and he was probing more advanced areas of the pitch, which is something that Andy Woodman has been keen to encourage in his game.
It was such a shame that he pulled up with a hamstring injury early in the second half. Bromley just weren’t the same after he left the field.
Bromley haven’t won on opening day since the 2015/16 season when they beat Wrexham in their first-ever National League game.
Since then, it’s been a litany of draws and losses and this depressing trend continued at Halifax.
Solid as the first half was, the second half was its mirror image. From the moment they conceded the first goal, Andy Woodman’s men never looked like getting back into the game.
Let’s not forget that Halifax are a savvy team. With a goal in their back pocket, they were happy to sit deep in banks of four and strike on the counter-attack. They did this to good effect.
The situation wasn’t aided by Bromley’s patchwork midfield. With Vennings sidelined, a central trio of Billy Bingham, Marcus Sablier, and Ben Krauhaus struggled to get a foothold.
Under pressure to chase the game, the Ravens struggled to string together cohesive patterns of play. And when they did get into advanced positions, their shooting was wayward to say the least.
Even more disappointing was the ease with which Halifax took advantage of gaps in the backline.
Andy Woodman and Alan Dunne take great pride in setting up defensively resolute Bromley teams, but they were picked off all too easily in this game. Lax defending led to both goals, and Millenic Alli should have scored before he netted the game-clinching goal.
It was a baptism of fire for Millwall loanee Chin Okoli. He looked physically imposing and comfortable on the ball in the first half, but was unsure and flat-footed in the second.
He’ll learn from this experience and be a better player for it, but it was a rude awakening for the young centre-half. In comparison to high-end U23 football, the National League offers harsh realities.
For the first goal, Chin didn’t track the run of Jack Evans, which allowed the midfielder time and space to dink the ball over Sharman-Lowe.
Soon afterwards, his under-hit back-pass put Millenic Alli through on goal, but the Halifax front-man inexplicably fluffed his lines.
Chin completed a hat-trick of errors in the 73rd minute when a long ball caught him flat-footed. As he struggled to recover, Max Wright out-sprinted him and squared the ball to Alli, who finished the game as a contest.
He wasn’t the only player to have a subpar game, but he was the only one whose errors had catastrophic consequences.
Away from Okoli, it was evident that Besart Topalloj and Corey Whitely looked injured or fatigued by the end of the game.
It may be something, it may be nothing, but ahead of Bromley’s next game, at home to Barnet live on BT Sport no less, Andy Woodman has a lot to think about.
Before the Halifax game, it seemed like reinforcements were needed all over the pitch. In the aftermath, it seems glaringly obvious.
Woodman has been frustrated by some of the doors that have closed in his transfer pursuits, but with an injury crisis threatening to damage the club’s start to the season, he will have to explore new options. And quickly, too.
But will haste compromise his famed due diligence?
Get at me in the comments below and catch Peter’s editor’s footnote while you scroll.
Teddy Sharman-Lowe (6)
Jude Arthurs (6)
Chin Okoli (5)
Callum Reynolds (6)
Besart Topalloj (6)
Corey Whitely (6)
Billy Bingham (6)
Ben Krauhaus (6)
James Vennings (7)
Michael Cheek (6)
Adam Marriott (6)
Marcus Sablier for James Vennings 58’ (5)
George Alexander for Adam Marriott 83’ (6)
While the doomsayer in all of us will declare Bromley’s season DOA, it’s worth remembering that in their opening game last season, a loss away at Wealdstone, the team were similarly off-kilter. Nine months later, with a few personnel changes, that team was challenging for promotion via the play-offs.
However, seven years of poor starts suggest the club’s use of pre-season should be reassessed. Behind-closed-doors games are a wild card. What people do behind closed-doors is their business, but getting spanked by a Championship club every year is an unusual fetish. Still, the lack of a consistent first-team lineup in the open-door friendlies does raise questions.
This was particularly evident in the much-hyped game with Crystal Palace’s U23s, where the young squad on display left many fans feeling cheated. Andy Woodman didn’t want to risk his threadbare first team in a friendly; you can’t argue with the logic. But if your squad reach the end of pre-season in bits, you’re not doing pre-season right.
With an injury crisis engulfing the club, and some players looking shattered already, the management team might like to sit down with the Sports Science team and have a chat. Item one: Pre-season.
Thanks for taking the time to read the match synopsis above.
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