Saturday 20th February 2021 – National League at Hayes Lane, Bromley
There’s never day without some incident or issue in the world of football and in a week where we’ve seen the return of European competition and Manchester City continuing their unbelievable winning streak, it has been the events in the Non-League game that have grabbed many of the headlines.
Whilst the apparent finality in the announcement that Step 2 was to cease with immediate effect took centre stage, Step 1 continued as normal (normal today being no fans in the ground and many clubs having to seek funding options until the end of the season), with two sets of fixtures, which is now the norm as the National League looks to complete the season by the end of May.
With games coming every 3 or 4 days, clubs resources are stretched thin, which has led to results that can go any way and no one team running away with the league. Whilst Torquay United cam into the latest round of games on top of the table, they’d one just once in their last five games. With almost identical records in the same period, and separated by just two points, the game between Bromley and Maidenhead United had a draw written all over it.
At this stage of the season, a couple of wins back to back could see a club challenge for the Play-off spots, and both clubs certainly have their eyes on that prize. Three points from this game would see either club move up to put pressure on the top seven.
It has been a few weeks since I was last at Hayes Lane and the redevelopment work continued at a pace. For those who are familiar with the ground you may be interested to know that the marquee structure on the main stand side has all but been removed (the beer pumps are the last parts to be dismantled) and the new directors box in the main stand is operational. The ground still has such as juxtaposition with the new Glyn Beverly Stand to your right and the part covered terrace dating back decades at the far end showcasing the Non-League ground of the past and the future.
If there was ever a game of two halves, this was it. From the first whistle the home side pressed the Maidenhead defence with Trotter pulling the strings in midfield and the league’s leading scorer, Michael Cheek dragging the centre-backs out of position and trying to get Duffus in behind.
Bromley took the lead after a defensive howler on the 15 minute mark. A long ball over the top saw the Maidenhead keeper come rushing out of his area, but too far and too fast for Parry, the centre-back who tried to head it back to him, the ball flying over the keeper’s head and Bromley’s Luke Coulson ran onto it, took the ball into the area and fired it into an empty net.
There was something nearly as simple about Bromley’s second just after the half-hour mark. A surging run down the left-hand side by Duffus inexplicably drew the Maidenhead keeper towards the ball but the Bromley man pulled the ball back to Cheek who smashed it home from ten yards. It could have been three just before half-time when Bingham’s shot from 25 yards hit the foot of the post and rebounded to safety.
Bromley started the half positively as Duffus had a golden chance to score but he shot straight at the Maidenhead keeper. That was the turning point as instead of it being game over at 3-0, within 60 seconds, Maidenhead had pulled a goal back to make it 2-1 when Upward headed home a good cross from the left-hand side.
The action switched from end to end but it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous, with the Bromley defence called into action with regularity. Cheek had a chance to put the game beyond doubt for Bromley with a couple of minutes to go, blasting the ball wide of the target when he was played in by Alabi.
With four minutes of injury time signalled, it was the visitors who found a burst of energy and they got their point when a similar move down the flank saw the ball delivered to the far post for Wiltshire to slot home.
It has been a tense time for the National League clubs, with the uncertainty of whether the season will continue and the availability of funding to cover the operating costs of clubs. In normal circumstances Bromley fans would have left Hayes Lane, disappointed to have conceded so late and to have dropped two points but we no longer operate in the normal and so for those who tuned into the stream of the game, they will have enjoyed two evenly matched teams trying to play football, looking forward to the day they can return.