Bromley ended an outstanding season in disappointing fashion at York Road on Saturday, with a bizarre opening five minutes very much shaping the rest of the game.
The Ravens had something of a nightmare start to proceedings in Berkshire, as just three minutes in, the visitors took the lead. Tyrone Sterling slipped out on the left side of the penalty area, allowing Nana Owusu time and space to pump a cross in towards the back post, where the towering Sam Barratt rose high to nod home.
Things would only get worse for the Ravens just two minutes later, as a Barratt corner was whipped into the six yard box with purpose, where David Gregory claimed it, but, after being impeded, dropped the ball, allowing Christian Smith to finish into an empty net. Bromley had it all to do with just five minutes on the clock.
The pitch continued to play a part in events as the game went on, and after Jack Holland slipped over in the right back position, Barrett nabbed the ball from his feet and drove into the box, before laying the ball back to Sean Marks, only to see his fierce shot bravely blocked and cleared by Sterling.
However, after 22 minutes, the Ravens would grab themselves a lifeline and pull themselves very much back into the game. After a George Porter long throw was only cleared back into his path at the corner of the box, the former Burnley front man rifled a crisp effort into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Carl Pentney. Game on.
However, the rejuvenation for the Ravens was short lived, as just ten minutes after scoring, Bromley would concede again. The impressive Owusu took a pass 20 yards from goal and spun, before dispatching a precise shot past the diving Gregory and into the bottom corner.
There was more drama to come before half time though, as early substitute Brandon Hanlan combined well with Porter to set the latter in down the right and send in a superb low cross into Josh Rees, who was unfortunate to see his goalbound first time effort blocked on the line and cleared by Alan Massey.
Unfortunately, after the Ravens started the second half on the attacking front, they were caught on the break after just four minutes. James Comley was the provider, confidently taking down the ball just inside the box and slipping it into the path of the onrushing Barratt on the left, who slotted past Gregory to extend the Magpies’ lead.
Gregory was then to thank for keeping the scores down twice in the space of five minutes, as he first acrobatically denied Remy Clerima’s fierce drive, before making a smart save from Owusu, who was causing a number of problems for Bromley.
Yet, it just wasn’t to be for Bromley, as the hosts added a fifth with half an hour still to play. Barratt, who was having a barnstormer of a game, assisted yet again as his pinpoint cross was converted by Marks, who beat Gregory with a looping header after jumping high to connect with the delivery.
Just minutes later, the hosts were unsure how it wasn’t six. Gregory made a superb save to deny Marks at the double, before Smith somehow headed the resulting corner into the bobbly ground and over the bar from a matter of yards out.
Yet, against the run of play, Bromley would pull another goal back with just over 20 minutes to play. Good play from substitute Louis Dennis saw him beat Rene Steer with pace and trickery down the left, before delivering the ball into the box on a plate for Omar Bugiel, who took a touch and slotted past Pentney from the edge of the six yard area.
After Barratt was again denied a hat-trick by a fine Gregory save, Dennis fired a dipping drive just over Pentney’s crossbar, and then curled a free kick onto the post from just outside the box, with the rebound ricocheting wide off the unknowing Porter.
It just wasn’t to be for Bromley on this occasion, and the Ravens will dust themselves down and pick themselves up for the trip to Wembley on 20th May, as they battle it out with Brackley Town in the Buildbase FA Trophy final.
Bromley XI: Gregory, Dunne (Hanlan), Rees, Holland (C), Raymond, Mekki (Dennis), Higgs, Sterling, Porter, R.Johnson (Chorley), Bugiel.
Unused substitutes: D.Johnson, Sutherland.
Report by Matt Hall // @hally_matt