A Game To Be Raven About, As County Hold Leaders!
A long midweek schlep to South East London for the Hatters’ first-ever meeting with the ‘Ravens’ of Bromley, and their third adventure of the campaign on a 3G surface, saw them score twice, and earn a highly-creditable point, against the National League leaders at Hayes Lane.
Elliot Osborne and Tom Walker got their names on the scoresheet during a pulsating contest in which all four goals arrived before half-time, and both sides hit the woodwork following the break.
County took to the field showing two changes from the starting line-up at even-more-faraway Dover Athletic three days earlier. Paul Turnbull and Devante Rodney, having suffered respective foot and facial injuries on that occasion, were replaced by Jordan Keane and Osborne – with Ash Palmer wearing the captain’s armband for the evening in Turnbull’s stead.
The table-topping hosts forced much of the pace in the early stages, albeit without creating a chance of note until the quarter-hour mark – when a break from their own half culminated in Luke Coulson’s shot that was comfortably gathered up by Ben Hinchliffe.
But just two minutes later, Bromley broke again, after Festus Arthur was dispossessed on the halfway-line, and this time made it count. Coulson again saw his shot saved by Hinchliffe, but not held, alas – and the parried ball spun into the path of Reeco Hackett-Fairchild who tapped home.
Hinchliffe prevented a doubling of the lead around the first half’s mid-point, when he kept out Adam Mekki’s snap-shot. And within seven minutes of going behind, the Hatters were back on level terms, as Sam Minihan fed Osborne, who embarked on a 40-yard run before cutting in from the right and firing past home goalkeeper Ryan Huddart to equalise.
Eleven minutes ahead of the break, County went ahead. Jordan Keane’s cross from the right was half-heartedly flicked on by Sam Wood, and into the path of Tom Walker who converted from beyond the far post.
The Hatters’ lead was eroded even more quickly than their hosts’ had been earlier, but when the second Bromley goal arrived it owed much to a huge slice of luck – with leading scorer Michael Cheek’s squared ball from the left ricocheting off Minihan and into the net.
Cheek propelled the ball over the line more directly in added time, but a flag had already been raised for offside and his effort was ruled out.
HALF-TIME: Bromley 2 (Hackett-Fairchild, 19; Minihan (o.g.), 36), County 2 (Osborne, 24; T Walker, 34).
While half-time had given those present an opportunity to catch breath, the fast-moving drama continued within two minutes of the resumption, when Wood’s looping cross from the left found Cheek whose low shot struck the near upright. And shortly afterwards Hinchliffe saved with his legs after Mekki had been played through on goal.
Cheek saw a header caught by Hinchliffe, before Mekki unleashed a low drive beyond the left post, as the hosts applied some further early second-half pressure. And with 56 minutes on the clock, they hit the woodwork for a second time when Hackett-Fairchild’s free-kick from near the County ‘D’ bounced off the crossbar.
Adam Thomas got into the woodwork-striking act three minutes after the hour-mark, courtesy of a shot from just inside the home area that was deflected on to the bar. And while Bromley continued to push forward, a County break came close to separating the two sides when Nyal Bell just missed getting a final touch to fellow substitute Ben Jackson’s low cross from the left.
With five minutes left on the clock, Hackett-Fairchild’s free-kick from 25 yards out narrowly cleared County’s bar. And during added time, the striker threatened to end the contest in front of goal as he had begun it – only to fire wide of the right post with Hinchliffe beaten.
FULL-TIME: Bromley 2 (Hackett-Fairchild, 19; Minihan (o.g.), 36), County 2 (Osborne, 24; T Walker, 34).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Palmer (Capt.), Arthur, Garratt; Keane, S Walker; Thomas, Osborne (Cowan, 89), T Walker (Jackson, 52); Mulhern (Bell, 62).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Hammill.
Booked: S Walker, Minihan.
Attendance: 2,205 (197 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.