St Albans City (0) 0 Bath City (2) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 13 October 2018 – Clarance Park
Bath City made it six wins in seven games as they blunted free-scoring St Albans at a packed Clarence Park. Non-League Day attracted the Saints’ highest crowd of the season, but the majority went home disappointed as they failed to net for the first time this season as an outstanding defensive display, particularly in the second half, helped earn Jerry Gill’s men three deserved points.
St Albans made their intentions clear from the offset with two shots on target inside the opening five minutes through recalled Khale Da Costa and Solomon Sambou, but both were comfortably gathered by Ryan Clarke. The Romans looked a threat themselves with Tom Smith and James Morton having shots charged down, before their efforts were rewarded on nine minutes. Anthony Straker was allowed to ascent towards the edge of the penalty box and given room to shoot from distance. His effort appeared to be drifting wide, but Ryan Brunt reacted quickest to stretch out and slide the ball past Dean Snedker. The Romans nearly benefitted from a similar move soon after, this time Adam Mann’s skewed shot nearly latched into by Smith. The hosts were largely restricted to shots from distance, with Percy Kiangebeni firing well wide after good work by Sambou. At the back, it appeared apparent why the Saints shipped five at Taunton in the week, with poor marking from set-pieces. Brunt, left alone, headed across goal and almost found Smith, again allowed to venture into space. And they also looked vulnerable on the counter, as proven by the second goal just after the half hour.
A devastating move from one end to the other, started by Frankie Artus, concluded with Smith teeing up Mann, who cut inside and unleashed a ferocious shot from 20 yards. The power proved too much for Snedker, whose two hands could only help the ball into the back of the net. Ralston Gabriel, on the back of seven goals from three games, was superbly shackled by the Bath backline. In a rare opening, he chested down for Sam Merson, but the forward meekly sliced straight into the hands of Clarke.
Merson was withdrawn within 10 minutes of the restart with Ben Herd coming on; the Saints switching to a back four and pushing Da Costa further forward. They won a couple of corners in quick succession with Gabriel having a shot charged down by Michee Efete amidst appeals of handball, but referee Steven Hughes wasn’t interested. Such was City’s dominance at the back that Gabriel was replaced by David Moyo with 25 minutes remaining; having found little joy against the near faultless visiting defence. At the other end, a speculative effort from Smith deflected of Lewis Knight and wrong-footed Snedker, who was grateful to see the ball trickle wide. The Saints’ last real effort on goal arrived with 12 minutes remaining. Having done wonderfully well to escape a collision of players, Kiangebeni skipped to the byline and pulled back for the on-rushing Tom Bender, but the full-back, who netted in the week, shot woefully over. Vital interceptions from Straker and Ross Stearn, showing a defensive side to his game, prevented any inroads on Clarke’s goal, who instilled calmness in his team with expert handling from crosses into packed penalty areas. Substitute Joe Raynes nearly put the icing on the cake with a third. Having linked up well with Mann, he was well thwarted by Snedker, who threw himself in the way of his close-range strike. Brunt also had a late opening; rounding Snedker after hesitation from the Saints stopper. But, having been driven wide, he couldn’t find enough elevation in his lob and allowed the keeper to easily gather. Overall, it was a performance which proved City are capable of dealing with all facets in the game. The shape, organisation and solidity earned this clean sheet and, at the other end, they caused problems, with Brunt relishing his first extended run of games for almost three years and Mann notching three of his four goals this term from outside the penalty area. A similar outcome in the FA Cup 4th qualifying round next week will be very welcome, especially to the bank balance.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Artus, Mann, Morton, Smith (Raynes 71), Brunt, Stearn. Subs not used: Hodges, Ball, Amankwaah, Watkins.
Scorers: City – Brunt (10), Mann (34); St Albans – none
City Bookings: none
Officials: S Hughes, B Grant, C Barnett