Influenced by their FA Trophy run, Bromley have chopped and changed their line-up massively of late. They made three changes for their last game and four for each of their previous two, as they fielded a full strength side in both legs of the FA Trophy semi-finals and rested players for the intervening league matches. With two trips to the north east in the space of four days, Neil Smith rotated his side at Hartlepool on Tuesday, and is unlikely to replicate that line-up against Wrexham.
With the FA Trophy Final not in the immediate future, Smith’s attention can return to keeping his side’s outside shot at a place in the play-offs alive, he selected his strongest eleven in both legs of the semi-final against Gateshead, and is likely to field a similar team on Friday.
As they prioritise the FA Trophy, Bromley’s form has been understandably somewhat erratic of late, but a couple of other factors have also contributed. Firstly, their successful run to the final of the FA Trophy has mean their league schedule have been somewhat disrupted. They haven’t picked up any points since March 10th, distracted by their semi-final against Gateshead as they selected rotated sides and lost the two games which were sandwiched around the two legs of that tie.
Also, they haven’t played at home in three matches, which has contributed to their inconsistency. Away from home their form has been poor, with only one win, at Spennymoor, since late January, and only two away league wins since November. At home, however, they are much more solid: they’ve lost just one of their last ten home games, and won the last two.
At Gateshead Bromley fielded a 4-2-3-1 which often resembled a 4-4-1-1 as they looked to hold off a Gateshead side who were pushing for the goals which would bring them back into the tie. Louis Dennis, who plays off the main striker, is their main attacking threat with 13 goals this season, and is adept at running beyond the striker into dangerous positions.
Dennis is an extremely threatening presence. While he naturally looks to maintain his position in the hole rather than make a two up front, he is able to drive into the area to get onto the end of a move. He has scored and had decent attempts recently in the air, but it’s his work outside the box which is most eye-catching.
Dennis is predominantly right-footed, and is always eager to run at defenders when he receives the ball in the opposing half. Even when he gains possession in unpromising positions on the left, he will attack his man and look to manufacture an opportunity to shoot from a tight angle.
However, he is also capable of shooting from distance with his left foot, making it dangerous to force him onto his weaker foot.
It was noticeable how deep their right-sided midfielder, Jordan Higgs, dropped as Bromley looked to protect their lead, often slotting in alongside the defence to temporarily form a back five.
Bromley’s game at Solihull is the most recent one we have footage of, and it’s difficult to fully judge the side from that match as they rotated the team, played a couple of others in unexpected positions, and failed to appear to have any clear picture of their strategy in a match as they had a very unhappy time of things.
The opening passages of play immediately suggested Bromley would have problems as they looked worryingly open when they didn’t have the ball. Solihull pushed them back immediately and a failure to put pressure on the Solihull players allowed them to have a surprising amount of time on the ball when high up the pitch, enabling them to pick their passes and put accurate balls into the Bromley penalty area.
An inability to get players close to the opposing midfield has been an issue for them this season, and has seen Neil Smith shuffle between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 as he looks to balance getting outnumbered in the centre of the pitch with providing enough support for his striker.
Bromley were forced deep by Solihull’s pressure and struggled to break that pattern. There was a real lack of strategy when it came to trying to get the ball forward, with a series of hopeful long balls to the lone striker, Brandon Hanlan, who was very isolated.
When Hanlan was found, he had difficulty making the ball stick up front, possibly as a result of his isolation. He occasionally tried unsuccessfully to use his pace to turn the centre backs rather than wait for support. To be fair to him, he seems to be a great deal more effective when Dennis is looking to get close to him.
Things began to improve when Josh Rees was able to get higher up the pitch from his central position to offer some support for, and occasionally run beyond, Hanlan.
When Bromley were able to get the ball on the floor in Solihull’s half, they were able to get the three central midfielders into close proximity and look to exchange passes between them, with Rees more able to link up play than Hanlan had been.
However, it is expected that Higgs, who played in the centre of midfield at Solihull, will line up on the right against Wrexham. Adam Mekki, who has caused Wrexham problems in the past as a lively left winger who looks to cut inside when offered the opportunity, played on the right at Solihull and was kept quiet, but is liable to line up on the left on Friday.
On the left flank Luke Wanadio was extremely right-footed, and predictable as a result as he constantly looked to cut inside and was dealt with by the left back. Wanadio was very impressive earlier in the season playing on the right, when he put a number of dangerous crosses into the box during the 6-1 beating of Orient, but seems less threatening playing off the left flank.
Neither of the central defenders who played at Solihull featured in the FA Trophy semi-finals, with Jack Holland and Roger Johnson the first choice pair and likely to be reunited on Friday. They are a strong, physical pair who can be turned if they allow space behind them.
Options off the bench this season have included ex-Wrexham winger Iffy Allen, who could certainly add some pace to Bromley’s attacking play, but has started just three games this season. He featured as a substitute at Solihull, his only league appearance since November. Since then he has had a spell on loan at Wealdstone.
Bromley may be able to call upon on-loan striker Omar Bugiel. The Forest Green forward was an unused substitute for Lebanon on Tuesday night as they beat Malaysia in an Asia Cup qualifier, but won’t have had much time to recover from the journey back from Beirut. A strong, hard-running forward, he enjoys dropping off to look for a cut-back when wide players get into crossing positions.