Bath City (0) 0 Hemel Hempstead Town (0) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 3 November 2018 – Twerton Park
Footballing fate was not on Bath City’s side as they were the victims of a smash and grab Hemel Hempstead Town victory. Not unduly troubled for the best part of 75 minutes, the Romans were in charge for the majority of the contest. However, they were unable to convert a host of strong chances, twice thwarted by Hemel stopper Laurie Walker. And having lost centre-back Jack Batten during their draw at Truro City in midweek, his replacement Kevin Amankwaah departed injured in the first half. After all that, the final kick in teeth arrived with 15 minutes to go as Steve Cawley smuggled in the winner to hand new Tudors boss Joe Deeney victory in his first match in charge.
With City fielding a new 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield, the opening stages of the game were scrappy as both sides set to feel each other out. Walker had a nervy moment early on when he dashed to the edge of the box for a header. His defence failed to back him up, but Frankie Artus couldn’t get enough distance on his lob as Walker backed up to grab the ball. Gradually the Romans began to asset more influence on the contest. With the full-backs largely providing the width, the usual passing flow was not always available, but there were still flashes. Hemel failed to truly create anything, seeking space in the gaps left by the City formation but not finding any way through. The hosts, meanwhile, saw Joe Raynes drag wide from 20 yards and Adam Mann hand Walker a relatively simple save. The two best chances of the first half both fell the way of Tom Smith’s forehead. The first opening came and went as City made the most of an advantage at the edge of the box and worked the ball wide to Anthony Straker on the left. He whipped in a cross for Smith, who couldn’t get enough on his header which flew wide. The ever-dangerous Straker then fired another cross into the area, but Michee Efete was unable to control cleanly at the back post. A hard-hit Brunt shot was repelled by Walker, the Hemel defence doing a better job of backing up their keeper to get rid in the scramble. The Romans came close again when Mann pulled away from one defender and then skinned the next, bending his final effort just around the top corner. But just past the half-hour disaster struck when Amankwaah, brought into the starting line-up following Batten’s midweek injury, went down injured in the centre circle, soon to be replaced by Ross Stearn. That forced a reshuffle, Efete moving to centre-half and Raynes to right-back as Jerry Gill switched his charges to a 4-3-3, Mann and Stearn either side of Brunt. That seemed to stymie them initially as Hemel saw more of the ball, though did little with it. Still, City had more chances before the interval as Mann fired a free-kick wide across goal from an acute angle.
Smith then had another headed opportunity from a Straker centre, which he again nudged wide of the far stick.
The home side set off apace for the second period and almost immiediately Walker had to tip a Smith volley past his right-hand post. Brunt also nodded a deep Mann free-kick wide, while Stearn looked to make the most of a good take and turn from Mann, but shot high and wide. Cawley had little to work with up top for the most part. His first sight of goal came when he received a throw from the left and awkwardly skewed miles wide. Clarke then got everything he could behind Cawley’s next pot-shot to keep the game level. The City custodian had to be plenty sharper when holding an effort from Jordan Parkes, after the Hemel skipper had made a dart into the area. That save was outdone at the other end by Walker, who flew dramatically to keep out an acrobatic Mann attempt, after the Romans had nodded a free-kick back across the box. Then came the chance of the game for City. Straker played a fine cross-field ball that Mann collected to go one-on-one with Walker, the visiting keeper out quickly to smother the final effort. And Cawley’s match-winner was soon to follow as the hosts failed to adequately deal with a long free-kick to the edge of their box. Cawley collected, touched the ball away from his marker and prodded past Clarke. With their away goal in the bag, Hemel were eager to shut up shop on City. The home side huffed and puffed, with the Tudors put under especially great duress for the final minutes of the contest, but could not open up the clear-cut chance they wanted to draw level.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Amankwaah (Stearn 34), Cundy, Artus (Rigg 56), Morton, Smith, Mann, Brunt, Raynes. Subs not used: Rees, Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – none; Hemel – Cawley (74)
City Bookings: none
Officials: J Durkin, D Corbett, R Martin