26 February 2024
Bromley summoned fellow play-off occupants Gateshead for what promised to be an enthralling encounter in the latest instalment of the National League, with the team from Tyneside sat one place above the Ravens, and level on points. The hosts extended their unbeaten streak to 11 games thanks to a Michael Cheek brace and a Byron Webster header.
Both sides came flying out of the traps as Andy Woodman’s side looked to leapfrog the Heed in the league table, and an early chance came in the form of a free kick for Gateshead. A sturdy header from Webster cleared the danger, but only as far as midfielder Kyran Lofthouse; the number 28 blazed his shot over the crossbar.
A chance presented itself at the other end five minutes later – a mazy run from Arsenal loanee and birthday boy Kido Taylor-Hart culminated in a clever pass to Cheek, whose one-two with Corey Whitely saw him one-on-one with Notts County playoff hero Archie Mair; the number one’s outstretched leg denied Cheek from notching an early goal.
A heroic piece of defending from Besart Topalloj ten minutes in left Gateshead fans wondering how they had not gone 1-0 up; a swinging ball in looked destined for the head of Lofthouse, but the Ravens number 23 produced a brave header to change the trajectory of the ball, culminating in a nasty clash of heads and the ex-Millwall man having to be substituted, with James Vennings coming on in his place.
Gateshead danger man Marcus Dinanga showed why he is the National League top scorer, after the number nine was quick to pounce on a defensive error; Grant Smith came to Bromley’s rescue, denying the prolific striker from netting his 12th goal of the season.
It was the visitors who seemed more and more in control as the half progressed, dominating possession and pressing relentlessly; the best chance of the game came mere minutes before the interval, as Regan Booty flashed a ball across the face of goal, narrowly missing Dinanga, for what would have been his easiest goal this season.
The start of the second half saw another golden opportunity, this time for the boys in black and white; substitute Arabim Pepple pierced the heart of the Gateshead backline, before firing goalwards – an exquisite save from Mair denied the number 19.
The Ravens received a scare 50 minutes in, as the ball found itself in the back of Smith’s net, but the raised flag of the linesman cut through the cheers of the Gateshead fans in the away end.
The deadlock was finally smashed open on 60 minutes, as Bromley bagsman Cheek capitalised on a sloppy error, providing him with ammunition to strike towards goal; Mair had no chance as the number nine’s effort whistled past him and into the bottom right hand corner, for Cheek’s fifth of the season.
Both sides continued to exchange attacking momentum, and Gateshead refused to relent. Booty thought he’d levelled proceedings after his long range effort was narrowly deflected out for a corner, and Bromley skipper Webster came close at the other end minutes later; Lewis Leigh’s inviting corner beckoned, but the number 17 could not keep his header in play.
The visitors drew level 70 minutes in against the run of play, after Dinanga latched onto a ball over the top of Webster. The frontman struggled to control the ball, but eventually issued a cool chip over the head of Smith, igniting the cheers of the Gateshead faithful.
The flames were quickly extinguished by captain fantastic four minutes later, following an inch-perfect corner from Leigh, for his second assist in as many games. Webster muscled through the forest of claret and blue shirts, before planting a bullet header into the roof of the net, leaving a defenceless Mair strewn across the six-yard box.
The home crowd had grown vociferous, heightened when Pepple, who had won the corner that led to the goal, took custody of the ball at the halfway line, before displaying supernatural strength to power through the opposition backline, who might as well have been statues. The number 19 summoned Krauhaus, who ran in behind; the youngster could not quite manage to stay onside.
As full time beckoned, the Ravens received a blow in the form of a controversial Leigh second yellow card – the number four challenged Ed Francis for a header, with the referee opting to put the Bromley midfielder in the book, following an earlier booking for time wasting.
Heart rates rose for Bromley fans in the final minutes when an ambitious Robbie Tinkler strike struck the crossbar, but any qualms were immediately put to bed in the following counter attack, when Cheek latched on to a long ball over the top, applying the cherry on top of a hugely important three points with a composed finish to beat Mair at his near post, abolishing any chance of a Gateshead comeback.
A 3-1 win for Andy Woodman’s men sees the Ravens zoom past Mike Williamson’s Gateshead side in the league table, now soaring in fourth place, and only two points behind an unbeaten Solihull side in third.
Written by Daniel Catlin