Bromley show fight in cup loss to suggest they could yet follow Sutton path into league
FA Cup First Round
Bromley 0-2 Blackpool
The fact their press box could not cope with demand for access was probably a good sign. It suggests the Ravens are starting to turn heads with their ambitious progress and making real headway in their battle for attention in the crowded market that is London football.
Plenty of neutrals were among a Saturday night crowd not put off by drenching rain. Supporters of Millwall were among those who had hot-footed it to Hayes Lane after their home game against Southampton to see Andy Woodman's National League side take on League One Blackpool - famous winners of the FA Cup in the Stanley Matthews final of 1953.
As well as the stands being packed for the occasion, the community hub bar was doing a roaring trade as the game went on - many enjoying a break from watching the game outside to having a pint and watching on TV screens indoors.
For many, it would have been quite the novelty to see their team's match being screened live on terrestrial TV. They wanted to sample that experience as well as the real thing and could do both by taking a few steps through some double doors towards the impressive home stand.
Bromley are daring to dream, and why not? But the National League is notoriously difficult to get out of, with only one automatic space for elevation to League Two. And just look at the almighty pace set by Notts County and Wrexham last season.
Chesterfield, beaten in the play-off by County at Wembley, currently lead the division, with Barnet second. Then come Bromley, whose seven wins in nine home games have underpinned an excellent start to the campaign.
They hadn't been beaten at home since an August defeat to Barnet and went into their cup tie with the Seasiders full of understandable confidence.
There is also some trepidation, though, because players at this level would not be human if they did not wonder, deep down, whether they were good enough to compete with an outfit two divisions above them who do not want for a bit of class and sit eighth in their league.
That extra bit of quality was soon very much in evidence and two superb goals in the opening half hour, courtesy of Shayne Lavery and the livewire ex-Celtic striker Karamoko Dembele, on loan from Stade Brest.
It would have been so easy to shrink into shells at that point. There was an unmistakeable sense of deflation among those expectant home fans. But to their great credit, the Ravens battled back and kept searching for a toe-hold back into the game.
They made chances. They passed well. They pinned those famous tangerine shirts back well during a second half they largely dominated. Probably Woodman learned more about his players' abilities and mentality than if they had scrambled a lucky 1-0 win.
Sure, that dream of making the second round for the first time in 78 years went out of the window, and hopes finally faded after Michael Cheek missed a sitter, but the spirit is good.
Their artificial surface perhaps gives them in edge in home games and that arguably also helped south London neighbours Sutton United make that giant leap up into the EFL a couple of seasons ago. Were they to make it up, that surface would have to be traded for grass to comply with league regulations. But that would be a price worth paying.
With only one defeat in their past 16 league fixtures - a 2-0 reverse at Chesterfield, who beat them in last season's play-offs - Bromley can instantly park their FA Cup disappointment and get on with the real business of pursuing this unlikely tilt at promotion.
They make a shortish trip to Boreham Wood next weekend before back-to-back home clashes with Fylde and Aldershot. On Saturday's evidence, their brush with League One standards will have whetted the appetite rather than crushed it.