Saturday October 13th 2007
Kick Off 1:00pm
Weather: Warm and dry
Distance travelled: 96 miles
Stepping into Bromley's ground felt like stepping back in time. The club was founded in 1892 and moved to Hayes Lane in 1938 and I'd hazard a guess that, with the exception of the new John Fiorini Stand and several coats of black tar and paint, little much has changed. Much of the old ground is black and white. There are two black stands at either end of the ground each with white supports; black benches behind one goal; white barriers on the terracing with one of the terraces being completely open down the length of the ground. The club colours are black and white. Many Bromley supporters were adorned with the old fashioned long, knitted, black and white striped scarves. Relics from years gone by (the scarves that is, not the supporters).
All this seemed to create an evocative and nostalgic air to the place. The club shop window (within the ground) displayed ageing black and white and sepia toned photographs of past glories. Pictures of big, proud footballers peering through the mists of time in their big leather boots and big shorts. Even older team shots with players sporting between-the-war caps, the obligatory football middle centre with it's big laces.
I liked the place as soon as I walked into it, and I don't recall visiting a football ground that felt so immersed in it's past. The PA announcer added to this ambience; the Mr Cholmondley-Warner voice evoking memories of post-war radio football and FA Cup finals played out in black and white. I thought I even heard the sound of an odd rattle or two echo around the old stands. In many years time I'm sure I''ll remember yesterday's match in monochrome, a variety of shades of grey.
And what a glorious day it was to enjoy the game. Sunny and short-sleeve shirt warm, not bad for October. The supporters were out in force, over 1000 including an estimated 400+ from Dartford. And we were all treated to a good game of football. At the final whistle we headed for the bar to watch England stroll past Estonia; a great way to finish off the visit. The new stand and and bar at Hayes Lane are quite impressive, but I'm not sure why they put the two Plasma TV screens in such awkward to watch positions behind the bar. Ho hum.
The 1-0 scoreline suggests that there was little between the teams, and this was almost the case, but not quite. Dartford did well against a Bromley team who looked very comfortable on the ball. Playing their league football at two levels above Dartford, Bromley seemed to have a lot more time on the ball and managed to regularly find that extra yard of space. I always felt that Bromley would win this tie, but they didn't seem to finish Dartford off as easily as their dominance suggested. And in all honesty, they were dominant without totally domineering. Erm, strange thing to say I know, but they didn't quite take a strangle-hold on the game. Yes, Bromley had lots of possession. Yes, they made the better use of the big pitch. Yes, they stroked the ball around technically well and confidently. But at the end of it all they failed to turn their superiority into goals.
And this allowed Dartford to have some spells in the game whereby they may well have contrived to snatch a draw. Dartford resorted to hitting Bromley on the break, but Dartford's lack of firepower up front resulted in few shots that really tested the Bromley keeper. The only sign of weakness for Bromley was their rather static back three (or was it five?) and Dartford managed on a few occasions to get behind them. Unfortunately for Dartford they failed to inflict any damage.
On the 55th minute Bromley were awarded a penalty when a strong flat run across the edge of the area was unceremoniously ended with a hearty man and ball challenge just inside the box which left the referee with little choice but to point to the spot. The incident occurred at the opposite end from where we were standing so it was difficult to say if it was a valid penalty or not. There seemed to be little protest from the Dartford players. Danny Hockton took the kick which was well saved by Tony Kessell but Hockton pounced on the rebound to turn it into the net.
The goal seem to spark a little more life into Dartford. The Dartford fans upped the noise level and the away team regained some control of the game. But as in the first half, they lacked any quality in the final third and just couldn't lay off the killer pass. Andy Walker in the Bromley goal had very little to do. At the same time, Bromley seemed to be cruising in a lower gear; they played some neat football out from the back and most of their game was calm and controlled. But you always sensed that Bromley were perhaps a little too laid back, and a late equaliser from Dartford always seemed feasible.
But this never came. Bromley finished with a flourish and a couple of very good saves from Kessell kept the score at 1-0. Overall just about a fair result, but only just. I was particularly impressed with Bromley's nippy little number 11, Sam Wood, who possessed a great deal of pace and never stopped running for the cause. Kessell in the Dartford goal also played his part. A good cup game.
And so my FA Cup Road to Wembley baton now passes to Bromley. And sadly, it is goodbye to Dartford.
I have seen Dartford play five times on this run and I feel as if I have grown to know the club a little. Their supporters are a great advert for the game in the lower leagues. They support their team in numbers both home and away, are most vocal and have been a great bunch to correspond with.
At this point I must say hello to 'custdart' and 'eagle88' both of whom I met at the game yesterday. Thank you for your very kind comments about this blog, it means a lot to me. I'm sorry to see Dartford go out. One thing I do know is that there is every chance I will pay a visit to Princes Park again in the future. My son keeps nagging me!
And now onward with Bromley. With a ground that oozes a sense of the past it is time for Bromley to look ahead and dream of a potential money-spinning FA Cup run. Only one more round before the 1st Round Proper. Bromley fans have every reason to be excited of what the future may bring.
And why not? After all, nostaliga is not what it used to be.
At the final whistle we headed for the bar to watch England stroll past Estonia; a great way to finish off the visit. The new stand and and bar at Hayes Lane are quite impressive, but I'm not sure why they put the two Plasma TV screens in such awkward to watch positions behind the bar. Ho hum.