Bath City (3) 4 East Thurrock United (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 11 November 2017 – Twerton Park
Exactly two months on from their last league win in Gary Owers’ final match at the helm, the Romans spanked East Thurrock United 4-0 – and did so with no lack of flare. Gill implored patience as he tries to instil a passing, moving, high pressure footballing philosophy among his new charges. There have been flashes in his few games in the dugout so far, but the first period against Thurrock was evidence that his gameplan is doing more than just taking root. For the vast majority of the first 45 minutes, City barely gave their visitors a sniff. They were too good in possession, first to just about every loose ball and quick to shut down any opposition possession. The three goals themselves were a joy to behold, too. The opener came on the quarter-hour courtesy of Bristol City loanee Opi Edwards. The youngster, who showed flashes of brilliance in the midweek Somerset Premier Cup win over Keynsham Town, played with no fear and bags of pace. His direct approach paid off with the first goal, when he darted skilfully past his defender, left standing stone still as Edwards thwacked his final effort into the net. After seeing off Thurrock’s only true concerted spell at their goal, City went 2-0 up through Miles Welch-Hayes. Gill had raved about the young defender after the Keynsham win, but likely didn’t see a goal coming from his right-back. It stemmed from a quickly taken free-kick by Matt Richards, which set Welch-Hayes barrelling down the right, then inside, before striking an inch-perfect shot into the corner with his weaker foot. Within two minutes there was delirium on the Twerton terraces as Frankie Artus’s backheel found Andy Watkins to finish off the third – a moment of history as the club’s 9,000th competitive goal. City were given a standing ovation as they trooped down the tunnel at the interval. The second half largely failed to take off, but in a rare moment of quality, Tom Smith and Watkins linked up on a clinical break, which ended in the Swindon loanee showing composure beyond his years to wrap up a stunning win.
The City side showed three changes from the win over Keynsham, as Artus and Smith slotted back into midfield, and Watkins out on the left flank with Jack Compton sidelined following his injury at Crown Field. Matt Richards remained for his first National League South start, with a right-wing berth also bestowed on Edwards. From the very beginning it was City putting on most of the pressure. Other than Tom Richardson hacking wide for East Thurrock, Dan Ball nodded a corner over the top and Smith forced a sprawling save from visiting stopper Harry Wright. Eventually City got the goal their play deserved when Edwards, with a delicious piece of skill, made a mug of a defender on the edge of the box and proceeded to blast past Wright. Thurrock rallied in search of a route back into the game, restricting the Romans to occasional breaks. A raft of free-kicks given up by the hosts did not help matters, but the Essex side could not take advantage. Dangerman Sam Higgins diverted a corner past the post with his head and Marvin Ekpiteta firing low and wide. Eventually City were able to find their rhythm once again. Artus tried his luck with a speculative, dipping volley from 35 yards that Wright just about handled at the second attempt, with Edwards lurking. The new gameplan employed by Gill was well on show. On a slick break down the City left, Nat Jarvis slid a delightful reverse pass on for Watkins to cross, his centre cut out before it could reach Edwards. Thurrock were rattled again. During a series of City corners, Edwards struck a deflected effort wide and Watkins then had a header booted out of Wright’s hands by a defender.
Another clearance at the last kept Jack Batten from netting a diving header at a Richards free-kick. Luke Southwood was finally put to work, springing left to pluck a Higgins header off his line, but it would be the last real scare of the day for City. The lead was doubled a minute before half-time, when Welch-Hayes’ mazy run ended with the ball nestled in the bottom corner. Higgins had another effort held by Southwood almost straight from the kick-off, before City rounded off their stunning first half with a third goal. It was another beauty, as Frankie Artus silky pass and Watkins’ shot made it 3-0.
The second period started at a slower pace as City were unable to find their groove to the same extent as the first. Artus tried to liven up the crowd at a chilling Twerton Park with a long-range strike that skidded just wide. Although the Romans’ were not as emphatic as the opening stanza, Thurrock rarely threatened to make a comeback. It took them near 25 minutes to get any kind of effort goalwards, and even then James White scooped well off target. City snatched goal number four with 15 minutes to run. Watkins and Smith teamed up on a break upfield, the former slotting a perfect through ball for Smith to run in and coolly finish one-on-one.
City’s Line-Up: Southwood, Welch-Hayes, Straker (c), Richards, Batten, Ball, Edwards (Morgan 66), Artus, Jarvis (McCootie 63), Smith (Murphy 77), Watkins. Subs not used: Lucas, Rigg.
Scorers: City – Edwards (15), Welch-Hayes (44), Watkins (45), Smith (76)
City Bookings: Smith (26)
Officials: S Jackson, S Robertson, T Burley