It must be the fabled magic of the cup that made me travel the 150 odd miles to National League Bromley on a Tuesday night. I don’t know why, but as I watched the Bromley fans spill onto the pitch at the Mem when their equaliser went in I knew I wanted to go to the replay.
At that point I only knew that Bromley was somewhere near London and I was hoping it would be on the Saturday when we were meant to play Sunderland. It wasn’t. The replay was scheduled for a Tuesday night and was live on BT Sport. For some reason the thought of sitting in a comfy warm pub didn’t appeal to me as much as standing on a freezing cold terrace. So I went.
Me and two friends set off from Bristol at 2 a combination of M25 traffic and finding parking meant we got to the away turnstiles at just before 7. This gave us time to get some chips on board and the pleasure of paying £3.50 for a small bottle of Fosters from the small canteen behind the away terrace.
The searches at the turnstiles were very thorough which did surprise me. On chatting to Gasheads in the away fans area it turns out the security guards were on the lookout for stickers. They didn’t do a great job as I saw Gas stickers up in the toilets.
The away terrace was a pretty classic bit of terracing. Similar to the Blackthorn but with the steps being pretty uneven. We were side on to the pitch close to the home fans terrace behind the goal. Credit to the home fans they made a ton of noise (minus points for having a drum) and even made an FA cup out of cardboard and tinfoil. I mean is it even FA cup tie without one?
They brought out classic songs about us being Welsh and driving tractors. Have to say I do enjoy getting shit from opposing fans. All adds to the atmosphere.
Onto the game and racing into a 3rd minute lead thanks to a hilariously scrappy goal from JCH. The stats from the BBC said we had 3 shots on target but I can only remember that JCH goal.
The rest of the game was spent watching us lump the ball forward for it to come straight back. The Bromley wingers, especially Luke Coulson were finding tons of joy getting crosses in. The three centre backs dealt with most of the bombardment well with Menayese standing out in particular. He deservedly got the MOTM award.
Their set pieces caused chaos in the Rovers box much like in the first leg. The main talking point of the match came from one of their long throws from Chris Bush. The ball went straight into the net with the referee appearing to give the goal initially. There were suspicions of obstruction on Van Stappershoef (who was excellent by the way), but the goal was disallowed as the ball hadn’t touched anyone on the way through. This didn’t stop the Bromley fans going mental and throwing a flare onto their plastic pitch. I’ll repeat that. They threw a flare on THEIR OWN PLASTIC PITCH! That promptly set on fire and there was a long stoppage for the fire to be put out and more of those black rubber pellets brought out to fill the hole.
That was the highlight of what was a poor game. Bromley looked a decent side and they looked especially dangerous on the counter on the rare occasions we pushed forward. Our midfield was anonymous with bad decisions and bad passes being made all over the shop. The strikers weren’t much better. No balls up to them stuck and we didn’t work their keeper at all from what I can remember.
A switch to 4-4-2 didn’t make any difference. I thought the Rollin was a bit better at right back than Little was at right wing back, but we still couldn’t put our foot on it in the middle and lumped balls to the strikers came straight back.
The plastic pitch didn’t seem to make much difference to us in the end as we spent 90% of the game hoofing it. I did think the Bromley players managed to judge the run and bounce of the ball better so there was probably a small advantage for them there.
We are going to need much more than we have shown against Bromley to get past Plymouth and into the promised land of the 3rd round.
Trudging out of the ground towards the car with frozen feet knowing I wouldn’t be in bed for another 3 or 4 hours I did wonder if it was all worth it. Probably. At least this year we avoided going out to a non-league team again. Small mercies!