Bath City (3) 4 Hungerford Town (0) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 8 September 2018 – Twerton Park
Bath City blasted their way back into the National League South play-off places with a three-goal first-half against Hungerford Town. Ryan Brunt struck twice in that opening period, the first from the penalty spot, with skipper Anthony Straker netting his first Romans goal for the third. And a happy birthday for manager Jerry Gill was gift-wrapped after the break when Robbie Cundy also netted his maiden strike in black and white. Conor Lynch converted a consolation penalty for the Crusaders.
Andy Watkins was brought into the starting line-up for Frankie Artus in an attacking move and was lively from the get-go. The Romans looked the more threatening for the opening ten minutes, Brunt leaning back to head an Adam Mann corner over the bar. Ross Stearn then got the crowd on their feet when he latched on to a Jack Batten ball into the left corner. He then skinned his full-back on the byline but couldn’t find a team-mate with his pass across goal. The visitors had a better spell, including one threatening corner that a City body skewed over the bar. There was consternation in the crowd when the Romans were then denied a penalty by referee Mark Howes. Joe Raynes played Watkins into the box, his cut-back behind the onrushing Mann. But running in from deep was Stearn, who was wiped out by sliding Crusaders keeper Liam Driscoll as he tried to dink the custodian. Fans, players and management all berated Howes ad his officials in the aftermath, but the incident was soon forgotten when a spot-kick was awarded. After Watkins scuffed Brunt’s lay-off, Stearn collected the ball and, with his back to goal, was needlessly felled from behind. Brunt jogged up to the spot and fired an unstoppable shot high to the keeper’s right. The second was soon to follow. Mann brought the ball forward and timed his through pass to perfection, setting Brunt in the clear to beat Driscoll. Goal number three came from the unlikeliest of sources as left-back Straker tore into the box and volleyed home Watkins’ right-wing cross from the penalty spot. That goal could have been prevented had Driscoll done better than to awkwardly parry Mann’s straight effort out to the right for Watkins to get that centre in, or if the defence had responded quicker. Brunt might have had a hat-trick when he diverted a Straker cross narrowly over the crossbar, before he was withdrawn on 38 minute for John Mills. The former Hereford striker’s first sight of goal came when he cut inside his man from the right and shot tamely at the near post from a tight angle, which Driscoll saved.
The second period started strongly for City, who grabbed a fourth when, after a long-range Sean Rigg strike had been deflected just over, Cundy nodded in Mann’s left-wing corner. Mann himself then had two chances to add to the lead himself, first shooting into a defender before drawing a stunning save from Driscoll at close range. Hungerford did get one back from the spot, however. After Ryan Clarke’s feet made a solid stop from substitute Alex Fragata City failed to clear and Straker, who had only just been booked in a separate incident, gave up the penalty which Lynch converted. They weren’t far off pulling back a second either, as Marcus Johnston-Schuster, up from right-back, had a first attempt blocked, before skilfully flicking the rebound over his head with the outside of his boot and firing across goal. There were still chances for City to grab a fifth for the second game running against Hungerford on the back of last season’s home demolition. Raynes beat two defenders but saw his shot blocked by the next, with Mann then drawing a sprawling save from Driscoll. They then had two clear-cut chances to add to the tally when Artus, goal at his mercy, fired into a body on the follow-up after Raynes had been kept out by Driscoll. Stearn had the next opportunity, played in delightfully by Mills, only for the stopper’s legs to keep him out.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Watkins (Artus 74), Rigg, Brunt (Mills 38), Stearn, Mann, Cundy, Raynes, Morton. Subs not used: Richards, Amankwaah, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Brunt (pen 24, 30), Straker (36), Cundy (53); Hungerford – Lynch (pen 64)
City Bookings: Straker (62), Artus (80)
Officials: M Howes, A Berrow, O Spender