Bath City (1) 1 Chelmsford City (0) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 12 August 2017 – Twerton Park
Chelmsford City battled back to deny Bath City their first points of the season, but the Romans made the red-hot National League South favourites work hard for it. After the 5-2 derby drubbing against Chippenham Town on Tuesday night, Gary Owers made good on his vow to change the City line-up. There were four changes to the starting XI – Darren Jones dropping out of the team altogether with a late hamstring strain – and a new formation. Before Chelmsford could blink they were behind when Ryan Case turned home from Nick McCootie’s chest lay-off. From thereon it was largely a backs to the wall job for the hosts, who resolutely held out for the first half. However, Kudus Oyenuga got the Clarets back on terms six minutes into the second period and they left with all three points when Lee Barnard netted from the spot.
Not five minutes were on the clock when the Romans went ahead. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, switched into central midfield, sent a deep free-kick in for McCootie to chest down for Case to slither a shot past Sam Beasant at his near post. After that there was plenty of scrambling in the City defence, who had to doggedly hold off waves of Chelmsford attack, including a series of 40-yard throw-ins from Chris Bush. The hosts still had occasional chances, none better than Marvin Morgan’s delicate lift, which was hacked off the line by a desperate Michael Spillane. Luke Southwood was sharp to prevent an own goal when Morgan got a touch on one of those Bush throws at the other end. He was then beaten by Oyenuga’s overhead kick, but the striker was deemed offside from Spillane’s forward header. Visiting dangerman Chris Dickson then touched a header goalwards and Southwood awkwardly ran out to punch a corner over his own crossbar. The Reading loanee was faced with countless hurls from Bush but dealt with the pressure admirably, leaping among crowds of players from both sides. Morgan showed a deft touch to tee up a bursting Andy Watkins, but his effort was straight at Beasant. Immediately on the counter, Michael West found himself one-on-one with Southwood, who dashed off his line to shut down the Chelmsford man. Anthony Straker whiffed on a clearance from the saved effort, allowing Anthony Church to fire in a shot deflected behind. There was a hairy moment for young Southwood when he ran out to claim a lofted ball and appeared dangerously close to the edge of his box, but no handball was forthcoming. The away side could well have been down to ten men when West came in just a smidge too late in a head-to-head challenge with Frankie Artus. He got away with a yellow card. Chelmsford continued to push for a leveller but were met by a determined Romans backline, a tame Church strike that was suitably blocked was the best they could muster before the break.
Oyenuga found himself striding through the defence early in the second period, only to be stopped by the backtracking City players. Dickson had a header knocked behind while McCootie and Watkins could not make anything of a two-on-one break before the equaliser finally came. It was a snappy move from Chelmsford, who got the ball into the box where West touched on for Oyenuga to steady and crack home. Owers rolled the dice by bringing on Billy Murphy for Miles Welch-Hayes and switched to a four-man defence. With that move, City got on top but could not work Beasant. Lemonheigh-Evans should have at least hit the target when the ball found him in the box on a sweeping break, only to boot horribly over. There was also a missed header from Watkins, running onto a Murphy free-kick unmarked at the back-post that found the side netting and Lemonheigh-Evans then scythed high. Chelmsford held out and would go in front late in the day when Morgan tugged Spillane as he looked to shoot and Barnard tucked home from the spot. The away side did a tidy job of seeing out the closing stages with few worries. They had chances to extend it as well, Oyenuga glancing a header over from a corner and then twisting and turning before shooting low at Southwood. The Romans came forward on occasion but were unable to find the final ball they desperately sought as time ticked away.
City’s Line-up: Southwood, Welch-Hayes (Murphy 61), Straker, Batten, Ball, Case, Lemonheigh-Evans (Compton 77), Artus (c), McCootie (Jarvis 77), Morgan, Watkins. Subs not used: Lucas, Rigg.
Scorers: City – Case (5); Chelmsford – Oyenuga (51), Barnard (pen 75).
Officials: T Reeves, A Ricketts, S Littlefair