1 March 2024
Bromley summoned play-off pushers Rochdale for a frosty Saturday encounter in the latest instalment of the National League, with The Dale coming into the fixture unbeaten in three games, and only nine points separating the Ravens from the visitors. A late Olomola strike extended this gap to twelve points, a hugely important win for Andy Woodman’s men.
Adam Clayton kickstarted the game, and chances were few and far between in the opening ten minutes of the affair. Both of Rochdale’s top scorers, Kairo Mitchell and Tyrese Sinclair, found themselves absent from the starting eleven, with only the latter making his way onto the bench. Devante Rodney occupied the striker role in place of Mitchell, his first start since the visitors’ opening day defeat at home to Ebbsfleet.
Clever play on the right-hand side from Ian Henderson carved out an intricate chance for the Blues; Besart Topalloj exhibited his defensive excellence to retrieve the ball and draw a foul for his side. Tricky winger Jesurun Uchegbulam posed further problems for the Bromley backline, but the number 11’s long-range effort could not penetrate a brave and much-needed block from Jude Arthurs.
The next chance fell Bromley’s way – evasive movement from Josh Passley saw the Ravens full back twisting and turning away from his marker, before firing a cross into the six-yard box. Charlton loanee Deji Elerewe’s subsequent flick would have troubled keeper Louie Moulden, if not for a crucial deflection to change the trajectory of the effort.
A Moulden goal kick picked out a wide-open Jimmy Keohane half an hour in, whose simple pass to Rodney granted the number ten the opportunity to shoot from range; the forward’s tame effort failed to trouble Grant Smith.
Elerewe came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half time – after picking up the ball in his own half, the number three surged past four in black and blue, before laying off to Corey Whitely and continuing his run towards goal. Elerewe was re-united with the ball following Whitely’s cross, but the centre back’s header could not evade the gloves of Moulden. The referee’s whistle moments later brought a slow and uneventful half of football to an end.
The half-time break was exactly what Andy Woodman’s side needed, with the Ravens emerging from the tunnel seemingly re-energised – the hosts thought that they had won a penalty five minutes into the second half after Michael Cheek was brought down in the six-yard box, but the referee ignored any claims. Drama ensued at the other end seconds later, after Bromley number one Smith conjured up a magnificent double save following a Rochdale attempt from point blank range.
Uchegbulam continued to tease defenders with his trickery, and a mesmerising la croqueta allowed him to breeze past Ryan Jones, before cooly sliding a through ball into Rodney, whose powerful rocket was re-directed by the sturdy hands of Smith between the sticks.
A firm challenge to dispossess Whitely on the half-way line saw Clayton break away at speed – the following passage of play culminated in the threads of the Bromley backline being dismantled as Uchegbulam found himself in behind; the number 11 found Rodney in space, but the forward was charged down by Elerewe before he could fire towards goal.
Rochdale danger man Sinclair, who has notched two of his nine league goals this season against the Ravens, emerged from the bench on seventy minutes in an attempt to inject some dynamism into the game. Andy Woodman also opted for a fresh face, introducing bagsman Olomola into proceedings, with the number 29 boasting an impressive record of four goals in seven league games prior to this fixture.
A free-kick on the edge of the area 80 minutes in provided an ideal opportunity for Bromley to go ahead – Arthurs, Jones and Cheek stood over the ball, and it was Arthurs that struck towards goal. The number 20’s effort floated towards the top-left hand corner, thwarted only by the outstretched gloves of Moulden, whose hopes for a clean sheet remained alive.
These hopes were ruthlessly sliced through seconds later by substitute Olomola – a goalmouth scramble in the Rochdale penalty area seemed to last forever, but the ball eventually escaped from the sea of bodies and to the feet of Olomola, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot. A defenceless Moulden could do nothing but watch in agony as the Ravens’ number 29 hurtled home to make it 1-0, smashing the deadlock wide open for his fifth league goal of the season.
The full-time whistle confirmed all three points for the Ravens, solidifying their second place position in the National League table, whilst Jim McNulty’s Rochdale side remain rooted in eighth. Up next, Bromley face Slough Town at home next Saturday, hoping to bring the FA Trophy title back to BR2.