Report | Bromley (a)
Vanarama National League | 04 March 2023
Luke Williams’ Notts side were unable to completely lift another away curse, as a late Macaulay Langstaff equaliser salvaged a point on Saturday afternoon. The Magpies always struggle at Hayes Lane, and Saturday was no different. The 2 dropped points weren’t significant in terms of the title race though, as rivals Wrexham also dropped points in the late kick off. However, it was the Welsh side who were on the receiving end of a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw away at Maidenhead. That goal ensured the title race maintains its razor thin margins.
The team selection was the source of great surprise pre kick off, as Sam Slocombe, the only Notts player to not miss a single minute this season, was ruled out due to injury. Luke Williams’ choice of replacement raised eyebrows even further, as he opted against fielding Norwich loanee Archie Mair, and instead handed 20 year old Tiernan Brooks his professional debut. A huge moment for both Brooks and the club, as a product of the club’s academy took the field for the first time.
He was to be kept a busy boy on his debut, and a poor start from the visitors meant he was called into action early. Credit must go to Bromley for their high energy start, constantly pressing and closing down the Notts side. They took advantage of a Notts side that looked disjointed, not only in play but in shape. Nobody could quite decipher what shape Luke Williams had gone with, with Bajrami in particular looking awkward. In the end it is probably best described as a 3-3-3-1, but in truth it was a bit messy.
This early Bromley pressure resulted in Bajrami getting the wrong side of his man in the area. A tug of the shirt later the referee pointed to the spot, a nightmare start for the visitors. Sam Slocombe has never saved a penalty in a Notts shirt, so the travelling Magpies were used to seeing opposition penalties hit the back of the net. When you also consider that this penalty came just 8 minutes into Tiernan Brooks’ professional career, the task to keep it out seemed monumental.
It was to be a moment to remember then, as Adam Marriott stepped up, seeing his effort denied by debutant Brooks. In truth the penalty was poor, but that mattered little to the travelling support who were sent into raptures. A fine save by the young man, and a wake up call for Notts.
It wasn’t one they heeded however, as 10 minutes later Bromley had a 2nd penalty. This time it was hero Brooks who gave it away, but it appeared, from the stands at least, that Brooks had gotten a full glove on the ball. Nevertheless, a penalty was awarded, and this time Marriott didn’t fluff his lines, sending Brooks the wrong way to open the scoring. The goal was deserved for Bromley, even if the circumstances surrounding it were dubious.
Brooks entered the book for that misdemeanour, which served to rile Notts up. They began to attack with pace and purpose, seeing Reece Charles-Cook being called into action for the first time that afternoon. He sprang to his right, making a fine acrobatic save to deny Sam Austin.
With 10 left to play there was a compelling argument that Notts should have been down to 10 men. A period of playing it round the back eventually became too risky, as Bromley’s relentless press almost became their undoing once more. Brooks took too long in possession, inviting an opposition challenge. Slightly panicked, Brooks made a mess of his clearance, and appeared to have brought down the Bromley attacker in the box. It would have been the 3rd penalty of the game, but fortunately for the Magpies the referee adjudged the incident to have taken place out of the box. The foul could still have been a yellow, but Brooks escaped with a final warning, leaving the Magpies with 11 men on the field.
They seemed to take this blessing as a call to attack, and on the stroke of half time the 2 sides should have been level. Nemane got down the right hand side and clipped a wonderful ball into the box. It found the head of Langstaff, but in a rare misfire the in form striker headed the ball into the ground, and straight into Charles-Cook's hands. A massive opportunity went begging in what was the last meaningful action of the half.
Change was needed at half time, and change would come, as Bajrami’s difficult afternoon came to an end. He was replaced by Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, much to the delight of the away support. This meant Chicksen dropped into the back 3, with Jones moving to LWB. It also meant Cameron took up a role in the centre, while Rawlinson shifted across to RCB where he looked far more comfortable.
It was a change that clearly worked, as chance after chance fell the Magpies’ way. It was the substitute Lemonheigh-Evans who had the first chance, arriving at the back post late to meet a Jones cross. His header was sent narrowly wide, but it was the first sign of positivity since the break.
The substitute then found Rodrigues, after beating a few men, and the Portuguese midfielder took his chance to shoot. Unfortunately it was denied once more by the Grenadan keeper, keeping Bromley ahead. Lemonheigh-Evans’ impact was monumental, and he was at the centre of everything Notts did at the start of the 2nd period.
He had the best chance of the game just 10 minutes into the half, as Nemane danced down the right touch line superbly. He entered the box after some tricky footwork, and picked his head up to spot the Welsh midfielder. From just outside the 6 yard box Lemonheigh-Evans inexplicably missed this wonderful chance, one which would be looked back as a game changing moment.
The game, which had been played at a frantic pace after the interval, began to settle, as both sides looked to make changes. Louis Dennis replaced goalscorer Adam Marriott up top for the Ravens, while John Bostock entered the action in place of Sam Austin. Billy Bingham also made his way onto the pitch for the hosts, replacing Harry Forster, who had seen a right footed shot fly high and wide just moments before.
Attack after attack down the flanks fell Notts’ way, as both Nemane and Jones did everything they could to make something happen. Both wing backs were dazzling with the ball at their feet, driving forwards, but their crosses into the box were dealt with every time. Notts were lining attackers up, but for a side with the height Bromley possess it was an easy afternoon’s work.
With Notts committing men forwards they left themselves vulnerable to the counter. Bromley had 2 quick fire chances on the break, both through Louis Dennis. He got in behind Notts’ high line, and twice he was unable to add to the score. First Brooks kept him out with a fine stop, before the substitute missed the target altogether.
An air of desperation began to creep into Notts’ play, as time was slipping away, so too their title hopes. Deep into stoppage time Ruben Rodrigues tried a speculative ball through the middle, but as the Portuguese midfielder so often does, he got the pass just right. It carved through the Bromley defence, perfectly between defenders, picking out Langstaff. His first touch was excellent, especially considering he had barely had a sniff. He raced through 1 on 1 with Charles-Cook, and for what felt like an eternity Magpies fans waited with baited breath. The prolific forward made no mistake, cooly rolling the ball past the keeper for his 33rd and arguably most important goal of the season.
It wasn’t to be the final action of the game though, as a similar ball once again saw Langstaff set free. Bromley were quicker to react this time though, closing him down, as the forward went down looking for a penalty. The appeals were strong, but the referee decided against awarding his 3rd penalty of the game, and instead blew his whistle for full time. The penalty protests didn’t stop there though, as Matty Palmer was booked for his ongoing protestations. While we certainly felt their frustration, the Notts players must learn to control their emotions, as Luke Williams said so himself in the week, as to have 2 players carded after the final whistle in consecutive games is poor.
Another "game of two halves" for Notts where a poor performance first half is followed by a vastly improved second half, something that is quite evident in the match xG timeline chart.
Bromley, despite their energetic start had just 3 attempts from open play and their xG is greatly impacted by the two penalties meaning the other three chances accounted for just 0.26 of their 1.78 xG total.
Lemonheigh-Evans had two high value goal scoring chances, one of which might have been easier to score than miss, Langstaff probably bagged the more difficult of his three chances with the saved header from 5 yards out on 40 minutes a gilt-edged high value chance and Rodrigues just couldn't get his head over the ball for a close range header at the back post which also registered as a good chance.
Ultimately the two penalties for Bromley make the xPTS and win% look much closer than maybe it should have been given Notts' second half performance.
Season stats updated below.
Langstaff moves onto 33 goals for the season and Rodrigues now has 14 assists to go with his 14 goals.
We've done away with the points needed chart as it seems pretty pointless.
Player Stats - National League:
With Slocombe missing out due to injury Cameron now has the most league points for the season and Brooks marks his debut with a penalty save and a yellow card.
The young keeper becomes the 24th player used by Luke Williams in the league and 29th in all competitions.
Next up Dorking at home in another late kick-off. Preview to follow.
In the meantime why not check out our comprehensive VNL Q3 report where we cast our usual data led eye over the National League for the 3rd quarter of what is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing National League seasons in recent times.
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson