No. 5 in an occasional series.
Bromley played the first of their 105 seasons of FA Cup campaigns in the Nineteenth Century when as an original Kent League member they drew 3-3 at West Norwood in 1898 before winning 3-0 in the replay, beating West Croydon 1-0 in the First Qualifying Round before exiting the competition 3-2 at the hands of Metropolitan Railway in the next.
This initial run to the Second Qualifying Round wouldn’t be bettered until 1907 when as a Spartan League side the club beat Depot Battalion Royal Engineers 1-0 to face Maidstone United in the Third Qualifying Round to whom they lost by six goals to two. The Fourth Qualifying Round was reached two seasons later when Bromley were playing in the Isthmian League this time going down 8-1 at Southern League side Watford. This was still two rounds away from the ‘Proper’ Rounds, but the club almost made the step up in 1914-15 season when reaching the Sixth Qualifying Round. This time a 5-1 defeat at Luton Town was their undoing.
The Lilywhites came close to breaking into the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup in each of the first two seasons after World War I, but they would have to wait until almost the onset of the Second World War before they’d actually crack it. Playing in the Athenian League in 1937-38 the club’s FA Cup run began in the Extra Preliminary Round with a 4-0 home win over Beckenham, a Kent Amateur League Western Premier League side who would eventually be absorbed into the Bromley club 30 years later. Darenth Park from the same League were beaten 4-1 in the Preliminary Round, and Aylesford Paper Mills from a league below were despatched 3-0 in the First Qualifying Round. London Paper Mills was next winning 4-2 before facing Sittingbourne in the Third Qualifying Round winning that tie by two goals to nil. Isthmian League side Wimbledon stood between Bromley and the First Round, but the Lilywhites had a comfortable 3-0 win to cap six victories with a grand total of 20 goals scored.
There was to be no Football League opposition now that Bromley had finally made it to the First Round, but their scoring spree continued winning 4-0 away at Eastern Counties League outfit King’s Lynn. Again the club wasn’t rewarded with League opposition in the Second Round coming up against Scarborough from the Midland League. This time it was Bromley on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat.
As a consequence of making the Second Round Bromley was exempted from participating in the Qualifying Rounds the following season. Again they were to be drawn against non-league opposition in the First Round at home to Spartan League side Apsley (Hemel Hempstead Town) who they beat with a tight 2-1 victory. The Second Round sent the club to Football League opposition for the first time at last in the shape of Lincoln City from Division Three North. As it turned out the wait wasn’t to be worth it as the League side romped to an 8-1 victory.
Following the Second World War Bromley began their FA Cup campaign in the First Qualifying Round. They started with a 5-1 win at Sheppey United, followed by a 2-0 home win over Gravesend United, a 4-3 away win at Lloyds (Sittingbourne) and finally a 2-0 home win over Short’s Sports from Kent in the Fourth Qualifying Round to advance to the ‘Proper’ Rounds for the third successive time.
The FA Cup ‘Proper’ Rounds in the 1945-46 season were played over two legs because the Football League programme hadn’t resumed. However, Bromley were drawn against Slough United from the Corinthian League. The first game was abandoned because of fog with Bromley leading 2-1 after 80 minutes, a fortuitous event as it turned out because they went on to win the re-arranged first leg 6-1, losing the second 1-0 to progress on goal aggregate. Bromley were then drawn to play a Football League side for only the second time, Watford, ostensibly from the Third Division South. A terrific 1-1 second leg result at Vicarage Road was only marred by the 3-1 loss at home in the first leg.
Bromley would make the First Round on 11 more occasions facing League opposition on nine of those occasions, but they have yet to match that run of three successive Second Round appearances either side of World War II.