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Kidderminster Harriers 0-0 Bromley
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
One goal in four games. No wins yet this season. No defeat in two. First clean sheet.
Football is a funny old game.
Down to ten men from the 20th minute onwards, the Ravens returned from Aggborough Stadium with a hard-earned point.
On the surface, it seems like another building block in the attempt to reconstruct the Bromley DNA. But, depending on your level of optimism, you may have a different view.
As ever, I reflect on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Kidderminster Harriers.
Have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Line-up vs Kidderminster Harriers
The fabled clean sheet has finally shown its face this season thanks to a dogged performance from Bromley.
Down to ten men for 70 minutes (plus 10 minutes of injury time), the Ravens produced the definition of a backs-against-the-wall 'Bromley DNA' display to take a point back to South East London.
Make no mistake, in the 25 minutes after the sending-off, Bromley had to ride their luck. First, Grant Smith made three extraordinary saves in the space of 30 seconds. Then, some last-ditch defending prevented several goal-bound shots from finding the onion bag.
Kidderminster’s pressure in that 25-minute storm was so incessant that getting to half-time without conceding was a key moment in the match.
Half-time provided an opportunity to tweak the shape and clarify roles, galvanising the Ravens for the second half.
From that point on, while Kidderminster continued to muster some pretty approach play, they simply didn’t make Grant Smith work hard enough. For the most part, that was due to hard work off the ball from the entire Bromley side.
Kidderminster are a side that work you from right to left while looking for an overload, but they failed to pull a back four of Besart Topalloj, Byron Webster, Chinn Okoli and Josh Passley out of position.
While the whole Bromley team deserves credit for their rearguard action, there were a few standout performers.
Grant Smith showed all of his National League experience with a faultless display in goal. What made him stand out was his ability to take the drama out of the situation. His unflappable demeanour and calmness permeated the rest of the side.
In front of him, Chin Okoli and Besart Topalloj put in their best performances of the season. In Bes’s case, he showed all the hallmarks of what made him such a consistent performer last season. For Chin, it was a dominant aerial performance, but more importantly, he displayed a better all-round reading of the game.
Was it a coincidence that Chin looked better in a flat back four?
Following the sending-off, Alan Dunne (deputising on the touchline for Andy Woodman) substituted Ben Krauhaus for Jude Arthurs. It was the right move in the circumstances given the amount of defending that was about to happen.
For my money, Jude was exceptional. His tireless running ensured that Bromley’s midfield didn’t get overrun, and he fortified the team’s disciplined shape out of possession.
It’s no secret that injuries and suspensions have played havoc with Andy Woodman’s options, and the side has looked disjointed as a result. But, for the first time this season, Bromley were able to field the same starting XI.
That positive light was quickly extinguished as Bromley came away from Kidderminster with yet more injury and suspension woes.
Soul Kader was the recipient of a bad tackle that meant he left Aggborough on crutches. He’d looked lively in the opening 12 minutes and may have had a big impact on the match, but his day ended early.
A short time later, Cole Kpekawa departed the field courtesy of a straight red card.
Andy Woodman will have to shuffle the pack once again when he takes his side to Rochdale on Friday.
For the smaller teams to compete in the National League, luck with injuries and suspensions is integral. Suffice it to say, luck has deserted Bromley so far this season.
These things often even themselves out over the course, but Andy Woodman could be forgiven for wondering when a little good fortune is going to come his way.
The fact that Bromley had ten men for three-quarters of the game will put an asterisk next to this result. However, there is still an overwhelming sense that Bromley are not clicking in the final third.
Until the sending-off, there were promising signs that Corey Whitely and Ben Krauhaus were developing a good partnership. Even so, there appears to be a Louis Dennis-shaped hole in the side.
I can see why Andy Woodman wants to give game-time to Ben Krauhaus. The 18-year-old has the ability to pop up in holes and attack space. But I remain unconvinced that the side as a whole is transitioning well between midfield and attack.
While Louis Dennis remains sidelined, and another creative midfielder isn’t brought into the side, you sense this problem won’t be easily solved.
I was surprised to see Andy Woodman not raise concerns about the referee’s performance on Saturday. In fact, his opinion was quite the opposite.
In his post-match interview, Woodman said that he agreed with the decision to send Cole Kpekawa off.
Now, don’t get me wrong. After watching the incident seven times, I too understand the decision. But it seems that Andy instantly felt the same way.
Let’s face it, if you raise your hands in anger, particularly in these over-officious times, you’re forcing the referee to make a decision. As soon as the referee’s assistant decided it was a punch or slap from Kpekawa, he had to go.
I still think it was a soft decision, but this is modern football.
That decision notwithstanding, I feel it was an erratic refereeing performance on the whole.
A lot has been made about the new rules and the emphasis on referees taking ownership on the pitch. Yet, if our first four games are anything to go by, this has caused officials to become even more officious. Worse still, they seem determined to make their mark on proceedings.
This was laid bare on Saturday, with four yellow cards and one red card dished out in the first half of a match that wasn’t particularly feisty.
This was compounded in the second half when Grant Smith was booked for supposed time-wasting, only for the referee to allow a substitution immediately afterwards.
By the time the match ended, we’d seen six yellow cards and two reds. Was it really a game that needed that many cards?
Away from the field, there was a notable subplot developing, as neither Adam Marriot nor Sam Woods made the bench.
What is Sam Woods exactly?
I enquired with some Barnet associates of mine and they said he’s a defensive midfielder who can play centre back.
A handy signing on paper, but his lack of opportunities thus far points to one of two things. A) Woodman doesn’t rate him. B) He has yet to rise to the level expected of him.
Given there have been games where Billy Bingham has struggled this season, if Sam Woods hasn’t been able to pressure him for minutes by now, when will he? Is there more to this story than perhaps we know?
Further up the field, Adam Marriott’s Bromley career seems to have run aground. He’s a goal scorer, of that there is no doubt, but his situation offers another A or B conundrum. A) Our system doesn’t suit him. B) Marriott and Cheek don’t/can’t work well as a pair.
Colin Head raised this issue in The Deep Dive following Bromley’s loss to Barnet, where the pairing of Marriott and Cheek didn’t click and never looked like it was going to.
Following that game, Adam was benched against Wealdstone and didn’t feature, despite the hard-pressing front-line looking leggy (and with one substitution still to use), and he was left out entirely against Kidderminster.
On the face of it, Adam has lost his place to untested youngster Soul Kader and new arrival Bim Pepple. Where does he go from here?
Dare I say, should Bromley cash in on Marriott? Or should Adam just bide his time because, ultimately, football is a squad game?
Get at me in the comments below.
Grant Smith (9)
Josh Passley (8)
Chin Okoli (8)
Byron Webster (8)
Cole Kpekawa (6)
Besart Topalloj (8)
Billy Bingham (7)
Corey Whitley (7)
Ben Krauhaus (6)
Soul Kader (6)
Michael Cheek (7)
Jude Arthurs for Ben Krauhaus 26’ (8)
Bim Pepple for Soul Kader 14’ (7)
Todd Miller for Bim Pepple 85’ (6)
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