Bromley stand on the brink of the Football League as Andy Woodman chases more Wembley success

Woodman has brought success to Bromley (The FA via Getty Images)
Woodman has brought success to Bromley (The FA via Getty Images)

The journey from Bromley to Wembley cuts a perfect diagonal across the heart of the capital, a crow-flying dart from London's south-east to its north-west.

But for Andy Woodman and his players, Sunday's trip to the national stadium marks the culmination of a greater trek, through a 46-game National League season, English football's harshest and most ruthless promotion race, and now to within 90 minutes of a place in the Football League for the first time in the club's 132-year existence.

As a player, Woodman was a journeyman goalkeeper throughout the divisions, starting out in Crystal Palace's youth ranks where he met his best friend, a certain Gareth Southgate, and later becoming a coach, first following Alan Pardew across stints at West Ham, Charlton and Palace and then becoming head of goalkeeping at Arsenal. He was 49 by the time Bromley came calling with the offer of a serious crack at managing.

The south London native has done a superb job in turning Bromley into perennial playoff contenders and he already knows Wembley glory, having led the Ravens to FA Trophy success two years ago.

Michael Cheek, the match-winner that day, remains the spearhead going into Sunday's play-off final against Solihull Moors, having scored 21 times in the league this term, but it was a nomadic figure in the Woodman mould who proved their semi-final hero.

The Ravens tasted Wembley success two years ago (The FA via Getty Images)
The Ravens tasted Wembley success two years ago (The FA via Getty Images)

Myles Weston, perhaps best known for a fine spell at Brentford as a lively young winger more than a decade ago, missed his mother's 60th birthday party to score twice in Sunday's 3-1 comeback victory over Altrincham,

Getting out of the National League is known to be among the pyramid's most daunting tasks, with only the champions promoted automatically each season and often at least one club head and shoulders clear of the rest in terms of both quality and resource.

This season, Chesterfield won the league by 12 points, despite losing four of their last five matches after wrapping up the title in March. Last season it was Wrexham, who have since been promoted again after finishing second in League Two behind Stockport, who won the National League a year earlier.

As challenging as the odds are, Bromley owner Robin Stanton-Gleaves has been shrewd in ensuring the club is ready for this moment, steadily improving infrastructure and facilities at Hayes Lane to turn it into a Football League ground. The final step, should Woodman's men triumph at Wembley, will be to rip up the artificial surface and replace it with grass, a small inconvenience for an almighty prize.