On this day two years ago Bromley took to the hallowed turf at Wembley stadium in the FA Trophy final. The road to the final was almost as dramatic as the final itself…
Round 1 – Hartley Wintney (A)
The road to Wembley began in December. On Saturday 16th December Bromley travelled to Hampshire to take on Hartley Wintney with the home side putting up a hard fight for most of the match.
Bromley were almost made to rue their missed chances as The Row went close on a number of occasions, testing David Gregory in the Bromley goal and having a goal ruled out for offside.
The Ravens did seal the victory late on with Josh Rees and George Porter scoring goals to send Neil Smith’s men into round 2 of the competition.
Round 2 – Blyth Spartans (A)
Bromley were drawn against Conference North side Blyth Spartans in the next stage of the competition, the first of many trips to the north of England during the journey to the final.
Bromley were clinical on the day as Josh Rees and Louis Dennis both notched braces in the tie. Blyth Spartans did score in the second half but it wasn’t enough to mount further pressure on Bromley, with the Ravens sealing their place in the next round.
Highlights courtesy of Blyth Spartans
Round 3 – Workington (A)
Bromley would once again face a trek to the north of England, this time to Cumbria.
The scores remained level in the first half between Workington and Bromley. Workington then made the breakthrough on 49 minutes, Phil McLuckie driving home Nathan Waterston’s cross.
A replay was needed to settle this tie, with Hayes Lane waiting for its first taste of FA Trophy action in this campaign.
Round 3 Replay – Workington
Workington made the trip to Hayes Lane on Tuesday 6th February 2018, and it would be a night to forget.
Bromley made no mistakes in reaching the next round, comfortably dispatching seven goals past the away side on the night.
Goals came from Hanlan, Porter, Wanadio, Higgs, Holland as well as a brace for Louis Dennis. Bromley were repaid for their efforts in the third round with a home draw in the quarter-finals.
Quarter Final – Spennymoor (H)
The Quarter Final draw had Bromley supporters keeping everything crossed for that elusive home draw. Finally, those hopes and prayers paid off, as National League North playoff contenders Spennymoor Town were the visitors to Hayes Lane.
In what would be a dull affair, neither side were able to break the deadlock, with the game ending 0-0, meaning Bromley had the small matter of yet another long trip North, this time a midweek one.
Quarter Final Replay – Spennymoor (A)
The replay of this fixture would be one of the more strange and eventful proceedings Bromley fans would have experienced in recent times, and unfortunately we’re not talking about the match itself!
With the tie set to take place soon after the original match on a Tuesday night, players, staff and fans were all set to board trains North, only to receive communication that the pitch had failed an early pitch inspection, resulting in a U turn for most and a change in plan for all, as the match was postponed.
The following attempt to play the fixture would be even more eventful. In an afternoon where the pitch had supposedly passed an early inspection, not only had the entire team, staff and many supporters already arrived in County Durham. When the team arrived at the ground, it became clear that the pitch was nowhere near playable, and after an inspection, the match referee called the game off. This left something of a sour taste in Bromley mouths, having travelled the length of much of the country and incurred some cost, only to find out the playing surface was most certainly not safe.
This led to one of the most iconic photos of the FA Trophy run, as the team, management and staff joined supporters in a local pub in Spennymoor.
That added preverbial fuel to the fire for the third attempt, at which a ball was finally kicked, albeit at Darlington FC’s Blackwell Meadows.
Spennymoor started the game much the brighter side and took a deserved early lead, whilst Bromley still appeared to be trying to get a foothold in the game. However, they did just that and then some, as Louis Dennis equalised, before Frankie Raymond’s free kick crept in to send the Ravens through to the Semi-Finals.
Photos courtesy of David Nelson
Semi Final 1st Leg – Gateshead (H)
Not for the first, or second time that season, the Ravens were pitted against a side from the North East, meaning yet another substantial trip would be required for the second leg.
However, there were uncertainties over the first leg for a brief period, as sudden and sustained snowfall covered the Hayes Lane pitch. Yet, with Club groundsmen and staff all pitching in to get the game on, and with Gateshead already on their way to London, the snow was cleared, ensuring the pitch passed its inspection.
After all that, Bromley got off to the worst possible start, falling behind after two minutes courtesy of Richard Peniket’s deflected strike. Brandon Hanlan was then fouled in the box, and picked himself up to convert the penalty awarded, levelling the scores. However, Bromley would concede once again not long before half time, as Danny Johnson tucked the Heed into the lead.
The second half though, as many will remember, was the Louis Dennis show. Two sublime strikes, in particular the first, sent Bromley to a 3-2 victory at a snowy Hayes Lane, taking a precious one goal advantage into the second leg.
Semi Final 2nd Leg – Gateshead (A)
After what seemed like years, Bromley made the long trip to the Gateshead International Stadium for a match which would ultimately decide who would play at Wembley Stadium that May.
Backed by nearly 250 supporters, after a 10 minute delay to the match starting, this time it would be Bromley who made the perfect start. Just five minutes in, having been played in behind the Heed defence by Louis Dennis, Brandon Hanlan and Fraser Kerr engaged in a game of pinball, which saw goalkeeper James Montgomery parry the ball onto the unfortunate Kerr, before the ball looped into the net, giving Bromley a two goal aggregate lead.
Scott Barrow made things interesting on 69 minutes, with an unstoppable long range strike to give Gateshead hope, but the Ravens clung on for a historic 4-3 aggregate victory.
The Final – Brackley Town
We’ll keep this part short and sweet…
On a historic day, Bromley’s first trip to the new Wembley Stadium, and first Wembley trip in general since 1949, backed by an astonishing 19,000+ supporters, the Ravens were by far and away the most well supported Club on Non-League finals day, with one end absolutely teeming with black and white.
Those supporters were in raptures on 25 minutes, when Adam Mekki’s neat pass found Omar Bugiel, who made no mistake and slotted Bromley into a deserved lead. The Ravens would go on to control the first half, but couldn’t add to the one goal lead.
The second half, however, was a different affair, as a determined and gritty Brackley Town side put up a fight and had the better of the second 45. That could have been irrelevant had Brandon Hanlan netted Bromley’s second on 89 minutes when one on one with the goalkeeper, but unfortunately, as we know, things soon turned on their heads.
With barely 15 seconds left on the clock, Roger Johnson, a rock at the back for Bromley since joining at the start of that season, scored an own goal to set up extra time.
With chances few and far between for either side, penalties were on the cards. Having led and having the chance to win the shootout, things didn’t go Bromley’s way, and the lottery of a penalty shootout saw Brackley hit the jackpot.
Nonetheless, this was a historic achievement for Bromley who had competed against the odds in this competition from minute one, racking up several thousand miles in travel to away games in far, far places. The support on that day was astonishing, with seemingly most of the Borough of Bromley in attendance! Yes, the result didn’t go our way, but each and every Bromley supporter can look back on that day and be proud of what their side achieved.
So, Wembley, until next time…