An above-average FA Trophy attendance witnessed another four-star display from a clinical Fleet side who were clearly keen to show high-flying Bromley that the 10 league points that separate them might not be a long-term situation.
Fleet made just one change from the defeat of Concord Rangers two weeks ago, Alex Osborn replacing the injured Andy Pugh while Preston Edwards had recovered from the knee injury that forced him off at half-time of the previous fixture.
An unchanged Bromley side found their feet quickly, with top scorer Bradley Goldberg catching the eye from the off as he buzzed across the Fleet back line. And the visitors had the first clear-cut opening on 9 minutes when Joe Anderson got on the end of a decent pass from Ashley Nicholls but saw his aerial delivery punched clear by Edwards.
While Bromley enjoyed more of the ball, the home side were knocking it around well and Osborn and May combined to set Michael Thalassitis free in the six-yard box, but former Fleet goalkeeper Joe Welch got down well to save at his feet. Straight back up the other end, Bromley continued to press and twice Edwards had to deny Goldberg. The first was a quick shot from the edge of the box that the Fleet goalkeeper turned behind the post and then, from the resulting corner, Goldberg’s second effort was pushed wide of the post by a stretching Edwards.
Anthony Cook then had an opportunity to show another Fleet old boy, Dean Pooley, a clean pair of heels as he raced down the left and cut inside but the final shot was high and wide of the upright.
It mattered not as Fleet took the sting out of the visitors on 15 minutes. Cook’s corner wasn’t dealt with and as the ball was headed out, Thalassitis composed himself and cracked home a fine volley that looked like it might have come off Ben May as it flew past Welch.
Bromley continued to distribute the ball well from midfield, forcing a number of corners, and were unfortunate not to equalise when Paul Lorraine’s header back across goal was just out of Jay May’s reach. Back came the Fleet and Cook was once again forced to shoot wide after a run down the left.
However, he was involved in the build-up to Fleet’s second goal on 33 minutes, combining with Osborn and Chris Sessegnon who sent in a cross that found Aiden Palmer lurking in the box and the full-back stooped ahead of his marker to squeeze a header past Welch – his second goal in successive games.
Fleet maintained their two-goal cushion going into half-time and must have been wary of a Bromley response early in the second-half – but the home side killed it off before it could materialise. Fleet won a free-kick four minutes into the second period and some lax defending allowed the ball to reach Lorraine at the far post who squirmed a low pass along the line where Ben May was on hand to divert it home for 3-0.
Four minutes later Osborn was sent clear and drew a low save from Welch but that was the last foray forward from the Fleet for some time as the visitors kept possession with a purpose that belied the scoreline. Brendan Kiernan fired a long-range shot just off target and substitute Elliott Buchanan looped an effort over the bar. The visitors also had a shout for handball waved away by the referee before the man in the middle enraged the Fleet instead, awarding a dubious free-kick after Lorraine and Nicholls went down in a heap. Buchanan took the free-kick and Jay May – Ben’s brother – was on hand to crack a shot past Edwards.
All credit to the visitors as they sensed they could still get something from the game and the Fleet looked momentarily wobbly, albeit without letting their opponents create a clearcut opening. Rob Swaine headed wide and Edwards twice saved from Buchanan, the second time as the Bromley man threatened to take the ball round him inside the six-yard box. And Edwards again dimmed Bromley’s brief glimmer of hope by getting down to Jay May’s low drive and Pooley’s follow-up.
With four minutes of time added on, a defensive error allowed substitute Billy Bricknell to nip in and fire a low shot past Welch with what must have been his first solid touch of the ball. It was the icing on the cake for the Fleet as they put four goals past Bromley once again in the FA Trophy – just as they did in the last promotion season of 2010-11.
TEAM: Edwards, Sessegnon, Palmer, McMahon, Lorraine, Sankofa, Osborn, Rance (Corcoran 67), May, Thalassitis (Bricknell 65), Cook. Subs not used: Hall, Howe, Long.