An impressive cup run comes to an end! Thwarted by unbeaten Bromley Rooks at the top of the Tandridge A division, we went into this game on the back of an unbeaten six game winning streak ourselves – which included just one home fixture, so we had little reason to feel initimidated by the calibre of the opposition.
It was crucial then that we got off to a bright start to set the tone, and the boys did not disappoint. We took a bit of risk changing the formation for this game to a 3-5-2 but felt we needed to gain a foothold in midfield and attack, rather than sit back and soak up the inevitable onslaught. Their 'goals for' tally was too impressive!
The boys adapted to it really well - playing up the slope at Knole Academy the boys attacked the flanks using our pace and made full use of the width of the pitch. Biased as I maybe – but in patches we looked like the A division side and largely enjoyed greater possession and territory in the first half. Small margins but we were slightly quicker, even a bit stronger and with subs to spare in abundance, plenty in the tank to maintain the momentum throughout.
We had anticipated a quicker more ruthless start by Bromley but whatever the reason –tactics, desire or our own unbeaten run perhaps - the boys quickly sensed that we were in with a real chance. Never more so than when we were awarded a free kick 10 to 15 yards outside the box when, for the second week in succession, Dillan Guelfand curled a beautifully flighted ball into the roof of the net on 20 minutes. Either side of that we had point blank shots saved from David and then Jakey went wide with a couple of headers and a half-volley just over the bar from a pinpoint cross.
The away side were definitely having a bit of a wobble and I would like to think had cause for concern. For all that, they still managed to hit the bar themselves and have a goal ruled off for offside but they realised from the first minute they were in a match which would take them to the wire.
Half time and we were looking relatively comfortable, almost in disbelief that we were ahead – unlucky not to be two or three to the good.
As we generally do, we rung a few changes for the second half which has carried us through so impressively this season to inject some fresh legs after an incredibly high tempo first half.
However, possibly due to the quality of the opposition and some smart tactical changes by Bromley after the break and perhaps an error or two from our own coaching perspective, the pendulum began to swing the other way and we found ourselves coming under increasing pressure. At some point it was inevitable – certainly a game of two halves.
Kaspar, our goalkeeper, was a bit part player at times in the first half but was forced into making several point blank saves in the second half and for this alone probably edged Man of the Match.
Bromley began to exert more influence and quality with crisper passing and movement. But we were holding firm and still held a threat searching for another goal. However, we were just lacking the cohesion of the first half.
Pressure told in the end and the opposition equalised with about 15 minutes to go and started to look worthy of their status at the top of the Tandridge pile.
In hindsight we should have parked the bus a bit but honestly felt this was counter-productive in a cup game. None of us (well parents and coaches at least) could possibly go through another penalty shoot out.
We almost managed to force extra time but with about 5 minutes to go, a killer blow - 1-2 and surely the game was up. However, this team never disappoints and Bromley nearly blew it in the last gasps of the game as Sam Collens intricately weaved his way into the centre of the box, pulled the trigger, over he went...to shouts of “PENALTY!” –who knows, but it was a very very close call...
On balance, extra time would have been the 'cracking' but fairer option. But the boys deserve huge credit once again for making this another thrilling cup tie and competing with a top side in the league.