Dulwich Hamlet (0) 0 Bath City (0) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 5 January 2019 – Champion Hill
Bath City’s exceptional recent run continued as they moved up to fourth in National League South with a hard-fought success over Dulwich Hamlet at a packed Champion Hill. It needed late goals from Tom Smith and Ross Stearn to take the three points back to Somerset, clinching a deserved third successive win and clean sheet. Anthony Straker’s suspension meant Smith was recalled in City’s only change, which saw Joe Raynes’ versatility tested again as he operated in a left wing-back role in the Grenadian’s absence.
The Romans’ pressing was evident inside 30 seconds, winning a corner when Adam Mann forced Michael Chambers into a mistake. Michee Efete went first into Jack Packman’s notebook for diving, according to the referee. Mann headed Raynes’ cross wide from a good position as the Romans enjoyed most of the possession early on without testing Preston Edwards. Stearn followed suit with a more difficult header before Dulwich finally showed some attacking intent, Dan Thompson’s strike taking a wicked deflection in front of Ryan Clarke who had to change position instantly to keep it out at his near post. The home side were often left frustrated with attacks breaking down owing to poor timing of their forward runs, keeping an assistant busy with plenty of offside flags, eventually hitting double figures. Each defence were disciplined and resolute in the opening half-hour, giving little away. Smith had a sniff on goal when played through by Mann, but Chambers’ sliding block took the sting out of his shot, enabling Edwards to easily gather. Anthony Cook tried to get things going for Dulwich with a driving run down the right. His cross bounced awkwardly across the six-yard box and located Nathan Green at the far post, but the wing-back headed straight at Clarke. Nathan Ferguson also entered Packman’s book for a late lunge on Efete which saw tempers flare momentarily.
Mann, denied by an offside flag right on half-time, managed to connect with Raynes’ through ball soon after the interval but couldn’t get enough power when sliding in to test Edwards. Clarke nearly claimed a rare assist when, after initially fumbling Ashley Carew’s corner, his throw set Efete away, but the defender failed to test Edwards. Dulwich, who surprisingly left leading scorers Nyren Clunis and Dipo Akinyemi on the bench, introduced them in place of the ineffective Jacob Erskine and Thompson. The change didn’t have the desired effect as City made the breakthrough on 73 minutes. Raynes’ free-kick wasn’t fully cleared, Smith battled away and eventually received it back off Robbie Cundy before smashing home from 15 yards into the roof of the net to give Edwards no chance.
Again, it was another substitution which had a negative impact on Dulwich’s game. With Dominic Vose replacing the stricken Cheick Toure in an attacking move, City doubled their lead within 60 seconds of this change. Frankie Artus won a 50/50 battle in midfield, seeing the ball deflect back for Chambers. A complete breakdown in communication saw the captain head the ball over his advancing keeper, allowing a gleeful Stearn to touch home his 11th goal of the season on the goal line.
In a way it summed up City’s performance – hassling Dulwich into errors, pressing them from the back and, in this case, reaping the benefits. The Romans saw out the closing ten minutes plus stoppage time with ease to claim a second away clean sheet in a row in the league, the first time since August 2015. They did so in front of the second biggest attendance they’d played in front of at National League South level, although the majority had little to cheer about with Bath’s workmanlike, solid, well-organised performance helping them clinch a deserved three points, appreciated by a strong band of travelling supporters. Defensively sound and attacking menace proved a recipe for success in South London. As for Jerry Gill, his 50 per cent win ratio in 2018 has been doubled in the early stages of this year and such form helps cement their top-seven spot with just over half the campaign completed.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Amankwaah (c), Efete (Richards 81), Batten, Cundy, Artus, Morton, Smith (Watkins 87), Mann, Stearn, Raynes. Subs not used: Ball, H Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – Smith (73), Stearn (81); Dulwich – none
City Bookings: Efete (9), Artus (61)
Officials: J Packman, D Proctor, S Rudd