Sunday, 16 October 2011

Bromley - Hayes Lane

Bromley FC
Hayes Lane

0208 460 5291 

Ground Number: 178
Saturday 15th October 2011
Cray Wanderers 1-2 Dartford
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round


Bromley FC was formed in 1892 and spent their early years in various leagues. There was a golden period between 1908 and 1910 when they won three titles in succession - one in the Spartan League and two in the Isthmian League. Between 1919 and 1952 they played in the Athenian League, winning the title on three occasions but also finishing bottom in two successive years in 1933 and 1934. In 1952 Bromley joined the Isthmian League and enjoyed a successful start, finishing as runners-up in their first season before winning the league in 1954, Another title followed in 1961, but soon they began to struggle. The league expanded in 1973 and within a couple of years, Bromley found themselves relegated to the second tier. They took time to recover, but by 1980 they were back up to the Premier Division, by virtue of a runners-up spot to Leytonstone-Ilford. For the next 25 years, Bromley tended to spend time either struggling in the Premier Division or excelling in the 1st, a highlight being a Premier Division runners-up spot behind Yeovil Town in 1988. The introduction of the Conference South in 2004 saw an upturn in Bromley's form and they celebrated two promotions in three years leading up until 2007 thanks to playoff victories over Horsham and AFC Wimbledon. Mid-table finishes were generally the order of the day in the Conference South but after a playoff semi-final defeat to Ebbsfleet United in 2014, they won the title the following year. Since then, they have been in the rebadged National League, following up two mid-table finishes with a challenge for the playoffs this season.

*The above newspaper cutting came from the excellent 'Chairboys Archive' website, visit it for a whole host of Wycombe Wanderers related clippings, including games against Bromley.

The club's record progress in the FA Cup came way back in the late 30's and mid 40's when they reached the 2nd Round. They even held Watford to a 1-1 draw in the second leg of the latter occasion in a rare season when the 'proper' rounds were played home and away. In recent times, they have to make do with a number of 1st Round appearances, the last coming this season when they lost 4-0 at Rochdale. Bromley were three-times winners of the FA Amateur Cup winning it in 1911 with a 1-0 win over Bishop Auckland at Herne Hill, in 1938 beating Erith & Belvedere at Millwall and then in 1949 beating Romford at Wembley Stadium. This cup was replaced by the FA Trophy in the first half of the 1970's and the present season represents by far their best progress so far, having previously only made the 3rd Round. There's been a whole load of success in local cups too with Bromley winning the London Senior Cup 5 times, the Kent Senior Cup on six occasions, the Kent Amateur Cup 12 times, the London Challenge Cup in 1996 and the Kent Floodlit Trophy in 1979. Bromley also won the Isthmian League 'Five-a-Side' Championship in 1979, beating my own team Wycombe Wanderers in the final. The victory inspired the book 'The 33rd Programme' by excellent author Dave Roberts.

Bromley's record attendance came in 1948 when 10,789 turned out to watch them play Nigeria in a friendly whilst their record win came a few years earlier with a 13-1 win over Redhill in an Athenian League game. George Brown has the record appearance and goals total for the club, netting a remarkable 570 times between 1938 and 1961. Famous past players on the books at Hayes Lane include Trevor Aylott, Harrison Dunk & Simon Osborn amongst many others. The town of Bromley has a population of around 72,000 and has had plenty of famous residents who have called the town home. These include music legend David Bowie, children's author Enid Blyton, pop star Billy Idol, comedian Frankie Boyle and footballer Jason Roberts. Then, of course, there is Dave Roberts, superfan whilst Bromley were enjoying one of their worst seasons ever in the late 1960's and author of three fantastic books on the subject - The Bromley Boys, 32 Programmes and Home & Away. 


As Wycombe were playing up at Hartlepool, which would have cost me a considerable amount in travel as well as the ludicrous £25 entry, I decided to try and visit a new ground for a game. A few days before the game, all of the football league grounds that I wanted to visit had either sold out, or were too far away, so I turned my attention to the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Ryman League side Cray Wanderers play at the home of Conference South side Bromley, and as I have nearly completed that league, that was the game I opted for.

I had planned to get into London early and have a look around, however, a late night after coming back from a night out and then staying drinking and chatting on Facebook, meant that I did not get to bed till well after 4am!. I woke on Saturday morning at around 10.30, and after having a bath, something to eat and generally farting around and not feeling like doing much meant I did not leave home till just after 12. 
I had opted to take the train from Amersham, as it worked out cheaper than petrol and also I wanted to take advantage of the Wetherspoon's Ale and Cider festival that was being held this month. I went to Tesco to get a paper and a snack. The snack turned out to be a mistake, however. I got some chicken bites off of the rotisserie counter. They were the most tasteless garbage I had ever eaten, totally bland. After that, I went and parked up on a road near Amersham Station and got the train just before 1. The journey down was fairly painless and I was in Bromley at around 2.30. After some chips I walked for just over 10 minutes to Hayes Lane, arriving at around 2.45.

Dartford's fans had turned out in force, providing around 500 of the 690 crowd. It was a big attendance for Cray, and to put this into perspective, their previous home attendances had all been under 200. It was a shame then, that they had not opened their club shop at all. There looked to be a decent selection of programmes in their and it seemed like a missed opportunity what with the large crowd. It was also a deciding factor in me picking this game in the first place - my other possible choice at Eastleigh had no firm details on their shop. As it was, all they got out of me was £10 entry and £2 for the programme - which to be fair was one of the better ones I have seen this season, with quite a bit to read in it.

Luckily, it turned out to be a fairly decent game too. Cray Wanderers had much of the first half play and were unlucky to go in level at half time. The home side got a deserved goal on 47 minutes through leading scorer Tommy Whitnell. They continued to press for a second, but Dartford's fitness and skill that they gained from being a league higher was beginning to create them some chances. They were having several attempts on the break and 20 minutes from time it paid off. Ryan Hayes hit a free kick from 40 yards, it evaded everyone and flew past Cray keeper Andy Walker and into the net. By now the visitors were the better team and they took further advantage on 82 minutes when Danny Harris drilled the ball home from just outside the area. A tad harsh on Cray, who had bossed large spells of the game, but the Dartford equaliser really knocked the stuffing out of them. That was how it finished, both sides having half-chances to add to their respective tallies, but not doing so.

After the game, I went into Bromley Town Centre which had a fair few shops and looked pretty decent. After picking up some stuff for the way home I called in at the Wetherspoons by the station as intended. I had a pint of Black Dragon cider, 7.2% ABV from a Welsh brewery. It didn't disappoint, though I prefer something around the 4% mark. I had to change trains at Victoria and 
so  I called into the Wetherspoons there to sample another tipple. This one was even nicer, Two Trees cider, 4.5% and a lovely delicate flavour. Thanks to engineering works, my journey home was prolonged. Insult was added to injury when a bus driver on the bus replacement service gave me a right roasting for getting on in the middle of the bus and was really rude about it.  I arrived at Marylebone, near Baker Street, just after 8, but had to wait nearly an hour for my train to Amersham, due to more engineering works on the Metropolitan Line. It was a frustrating end to a good day out, not completely ruined by London Transport's half-arsed service, but certainly tainted. I eventually got home just after 10 and watched Match of The Day before going to bed.


Thanks to author Dave Roberts who has published a number of books on his love for the club, I really wanted to pay Hayes Lane a revisit. His words painted a picture that I wanted to see and one that I felt I'd not seen on my previous visit to the ground when I watched Cray Wanderers. I wanted to save it for a big game though and as luck would have it my hand was forced for my second visit. Getting to football games had been a bit of a pain recently - my game at Lingfield on Tuesday had been called off at 7.15 as the dithering referee took 40 minutes to make a decision, before postponing the game just as I arrived, thanks to a damp pitch. I did make a late dash to Redhill, an unplanned revisit where I saw a terrific 4-3 win for the hosts on a sticky but perfectly playable pitch. Two days later, I started my 10 days off work. I was hoping to get to Hampshire side Stockbridge on Thursday to kick off my weekend, but this was cancelled due to the rain. It was just the start of a bout of unseasonable weather with minus temperatures forecast for Saturday afternoon. With that in mind, I wanted a game on 3G and Bromley v Gateshead in the FA Trophy fitted the bill. Added to that, entry was reasonable at £15 and it was a good game, with Bromley facing Gateshead in the first leg of the FA Trophy semi-final.

The previous night had been a fairly late one, with me going to sleep at 1 am. I woke around 7.30 on the day of the game and was pleased when I looked out the window and saw that the forecast snow was just a light dusting and wouldn't affect my drive to the station or the game itself. After having breakfast and getting ready, I left home at 9.20. The last few times I have been left with a long wait for my train from Amersham, but not on this occasion as I'd done my planning. I parked up and got to the station just after 9.40 and after getting cash out and getting a paper, I got the 9.47 train into London. Borough Market was my first port of call as ever and I knew the journey well. After changing to the Jubilee line at Finchley Road, I got there just before 11. Of course, my first port of call was the New Forest cider stall and I had bottles of 'Birdbarker' and 'Once Upon a Tree Dry' before going in search of food. I found the German Deli where I had an excellent Bratwurst to stave off my hunger. The next leg of my journey was a bit of a pain in the neck, platform changes and delays galore meant that my trip to Bromley was a lot trickier than it should have been. Finally, I took the train from London Bridge to Clock House, before getting the bus to Bromley North. On the bus were some irritating girls, the group insisting on singing crap modern pop songs at high volume, even after the bus driver rightly told them to shut up. I got to the Greyhound in Bromley at 1.30, having a great pint of Black Dragon and some chips with curry sauce. I left at 2, getting to the ground at 2.30. Getting in was hassle free and after getting some updated pictures, I took a place on the side terrace. I noted the fairly small contingent that had made the way down from Gateshead and thought it was a shame that they were segregated. The obsession with not letting fans mingle is one of my main bugbears in league football, it's a shame to see it creeping into non-league too.

The match report from the non-league paper is above. Bromley had looked well out of the game in the first half and could have been three down in 5 minutes. They improved massively in the second half but a draw would have been a fairer result. It had been a reasonable game in terrible conditions with temperatures in minus figures all afternoon, along with a biting wind. The game finished just before 5 and so I made my way back to the station. My original plan was to go and get some pictures of some London landmarks. With the cold showing no signs of abating though I decided to head off home. It was a pretty simple journey back with changes at Victoria and King's Cross where I got my final train to Amersham. I was in decent spirits, with Wycombe having won 2-0 at Barnet and a week off work to look forward to, where weather permitting, I should be seeing a fair few games. I stopped at Tesco on the way home, getting some drinks to have with Match Of The Day. I got through the door just as the Manchester United v Brighton game was starting and I watched the first half. I soon lost interest in Mourinho's sterile football and watched YouTube videos while I typed this blog. I watched Match Of The Day before going to bed, happy that I didn't have to be up early in the morning.


HAYES LANE is a traditional non-league ground and one of only a few of these type left around. The main stand is the John Fiorini stand, with seating for around 400, albeit on pretty uncomfortable seats. To the left is a covered terrace behind one goal, whilst the other end has wooden benches for seating, again under cover. Opposite is the only completely open area - a medium sized terrace area. There is also a bar, which is pretty big and had lots of football memorabilia on the walls. There is also a club shop for Bromley FC, as well as a tea bar that serves a limited range of food compared to my last visit. Around 15 minutes walk away is the town centre and this has a decent range of outlets, including two Wetherspoons pubs.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A decent mix of old and new (7) 

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Well linked by public transport and lots of parking. A mile from the town (7)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
A decent welcome (7)

4: Value for money
£15 is one of the cheaper in the Conference. Excellent value for an FA Trophy Semi-Final (8)

5: Social Media & Website
Both well maintained and informative (7)

6: Programme
Didn't purchase (N/A) 

7: Game entertainment
Players produced a decent spectacle in difficult conditions (7)

8: Tea Bar
Quite pricey and dull range (4)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
Smart and with a secondary bar, busy on my second visit (6)

10: Club Shop
Decent range of merchandise, old programmes too. Prices variable (6)



Some pictures below come from my visit to Hayes Lane in January 2007, when I did a tour of football grounds prior to Wycombe's League Cup semi-final game at Chelsea.

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