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Rochdale AFC 2-2 Bromley
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Andy Woodman called Friday’s 2-2 draw with Rochdale another building block and said he’s enjoying the challenges this season has thrown at him.
While the league table says Bromley have just three points from their first five games, another resilient performance, where a ten-man Bromley came from a goal down to share the spoils at Rochdale, suggests the table doesn't reflect the bigger picture.
That said, it may be three games without defeat for the Ravens, but the hunt for the season’s first W goes on.
As ever, I reflect on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Friday’s game at the Crown Oil Arena.
Have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Line-up vs Rochdale AFC
Gaining a point in trying circumstances, against all odds, means Bromley can look at this game as another step in the right direction.
Until the game-changing sending-off, for the first time this season, Bromley produced a performance worthy of last season’s promotion contenders.
Andy Woodman was forced into three changes for this game. Callum Reynolds replaced the suspended Cole Kpekawa, Sam Woods made his debut for the recently departed Billy Bingham, and Bim Pepple replaced the injured Soul Kader.
These changes had a positive effect as Bromley played their most enterprising attacking football this season.
Sam Woods, to his credit, played a deeper screening role than Billy Bingham, which added stability to the midfield. In front of him, meanwhile, Corey Whitely and Ben Krauhaus put in a fantastic shift both defensively and offensively. This gave a balance to the midfield that we haven’t seen this season.
At the top of the field, Bim Pepple’s strong display showed why Andy Woodman was so keen to sign him. Michael Cheek has been crying out for a mobile runner to work with; someone who can be direct but also physical. Pepple showed signs that he’s the man for the job.
The new-found balance across the midfield and attack went a long way to fixing the disjointed attacking transitions we’ve seen so far this season. This was supplemented by Josh Passley and Besart Topalloj picking the right moments to drive forward from wing-back.
Prior to Chin Okoli’s opening goal, and immediately afterwards, Bromley had worked their way into several dangerous positions. On another day, Cheek might’ve had a hat-trick.
That’s not to say Rochdale didn’t play well or showcase their pretty approach play, but Bromley were perfectly set up to sit deep and spring counters.
For the first time this season, Bromley took the lead. And, until the sending-off, they were very much good value for it. More on the sending-off later.
Of course, once Passley had been sent off and Sinclair had dispatched the resultant penalty, Bromley were up against it. Even more so when Rochdale took the lead six minutes into the second half.
Yet, much like the Kidderminster game, Bromley showed a lot of heart. Not only did they equalise, they came close to stealing the win late on.
Corey Whitely entered a league of his own in this game, creating myriad problems with his counter-attacking speed. One of his forward bursts led to Cheek’s equalising goal, and another led to the referee evening things up with another sending-off.
As gutsy as Bromley were, they needed Grant Smith to produce two brilliant saves to ensure they left with a point. Once again, the shot-stopper showed why he is regarded as one of the league's best.
If Bromley can keep eleven men on the pitch in future, and Smith continues to excel, maybe, just maybe, wins are around the corner.
Sam Woods played his first minutes of the season, 99 of them to be exact.
Billy Bingham’s surprise departure in midweek meant that someone new would have to slot into the midfield anchor role.
In the last Good/Bad/Ugly, as he was yet to get any minutes at that point, I pondered what role Sam Woods would play this season. Speaking to Andy Woodman after the game, it seems a big knee operation in the summer has meant that Sam has taken time to reach the required fitness level.
In that light, putting him in The Bad might be a little misleading. I saw some comments after the game that implied Sam had a bad game. I don’t buy that. And I’m not sure the 39 Bromley fans in the stand alongside me would, either.
Sam played a very specific role that entailed closing down and disrupting the man or ball that was played in front of the back four. Aside from corners, we rarely saw Sam play outside of the defensive third, and I think this improved Bromley’s solidity.
The added defensive protection may also go some way to explain why Passley and Topalloj were able to get forward more frequently.
In terms of The Bad, there were a few aspects of Sam Woods’ play that weren’t easy on the eye. He wasn’t the most mobile and looked cumbersome when he was required to create forward initiative, but I would argue that wasn’t his role.
What people need to ask themselves is, given he’d played no minutes this season, did Sam succeed in screening the defence and getting the ball to the people who can play?
I think he did. Do you?
Another week in the National League, another discussion about referees.
Last week, I spoke about referees trying to be more officious in light of the rule changes. This contest seemed to fall victim to the same curse.
First, let’s look at Josh Passley’s sending-off. Was it a penalty? From the referee’s vantage point, yes, 100%. However, from our angle in the away end, where the incident took place, the contact was minimal at best.
Cameron John went down easily because he’d managed to get on the wrong side of Passley. You can’t really blame him, and you can’t blame the referee for buying it. John sold it well.
What I can’t fathom is the red card.
John went through on the angle, not straight at goal, and at no point did he have the ball under control. In other words, as the full-back still had a lot of work to do, it was not a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Some might say: “Mash, you’ve got it wrong, that was a clear penalty and sending-off.” Fair enough, football is a game of opinions. But if that was a red card, then a lot of penalty-area incursions are going to end up with red cards this season. Is that a good thing?
Even harder to explain was the decision to send off Rochdale’s Adam Clayton. The midfielder pulled Corey Whitely to the ground when he was leading a break-away 35 yards from goal.
While I think Corey would’ve outstripped the midfielder for pace, Clayton had a teammate next to him who might have been an obstacle on Corey’s route to goal. In other words, it wasn’t a clear goal-scoring opportunity. It wasn’t violent conduct, either. So what was it?
You know a referee has blundered when even the away fans are questioning a decision.
But what do you think? Have I got it wrong? Was the referee bang on the money on both occasions?
Get at me in the comments below.
Grant Smith 8
Josh Passley (7)
Chin Okoli (8)
Byron Webster (8)
Callum Reynolds (8)
Besart Topalloj (8)
Sam Woods (7)
Corey Whitley (8)
Ben Krauhaus (7)
Bim Pepple (7)
Michael Cheek (8)
Louis Dennis for Michael Cheek 86’ (6)
Jude Arthurs for Bim Pepple 46’ (7)
Todd Miller for Corey Whitely 80’ (6)
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