Weston Super Mare (1) 1 Bath City (0) 0 – FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round – Saturday 20 October 2018 – Woodspring Stadium
Heroic goalkeeper Luke Purnell earned Weston-super-Mare a place in the FA Cup first round proper for the first time in four years as the Seagulls sprung an upset over Somerset rivals Bath City. An early Gethyn Hill goal capitalised on a strong opening gambit from the hosts, before the contest began to even out. For the Romans, both Adam Mann and Frankie Artus were kept out by excellent saves from Purnell, Artus also forcing a clearance from the goalline. And after the break City looked the better outfit, though Robbie Cundy was also a victim of Purnell’s sterling performance. That means Weston are back in the draw among professional teams from Leagues 1 and 2 – coming up on Monday evening – after a four year wait since they were beaten by Doncaster Rovers in the first round in 2014.
They made a quick start to the contest and twice got the ball into the Romans box within the opening two minutes. Hill’s diving header was inches away from connecting with a Jarrad Welch centre, while Eli Phipps could not control cleanly running on to a dinked ball over City heads. Their first effort came from George Nurse, who cut inside from the left flank far too easily and shanked a rushed effort miles wide of the near post. City, meanwhile, were unable to stroke the ball around as they would like. Their mammoth block of fans in the large stand at one end of the Woodspring Stadium were in fine voice – many of whom had an extended wait to get in with large queues outside the turnstiles delaying kick-off by almost 15 minutes. That atmosphere was perforated, however, when the hosts took the lead. The Romans swung in a free-kick after Alex Byrne had slid in hard on Adam Mann, but Weston countered with a long clearance upfield. Michee Efete could only half clear to Welch and, racing on, he drew a sharp low stop out of Ryan Clarke from the edge of the area. But the City stopper could only parry back into the area, where Hill was able to stroke home. There were a few nervy moments at the back for the away side before they finally began to grow into the game. And they were denied in fabulous fashion by Purnell with their first attempt on goal. Anthony Straker roared down the left flank and sent in a cross that was deflected for Mann, only for Purnell to dive full-stretch to repel his strike. Clarke also had to make a quality stop at the other end when Louis McGrory teased Straker and eventually offered a low cross for ex-Roman Jamie Lucas, denied as Clarke flung up a mitt to tip over. But City would be kept out twice more in dramatic fashion before the interval. Artus had a header cleared off the line by Byrne after Purnell connected poorly with a punch from a corner. And later in the piece the midfielder ran on to a loose ball at the edge of the box and again had Purnell scrambling to tip his low effort wide.
Though the second period began with Welch whipping a Weston free-kick narrowly over the bar, there was much more vigour from the visitors. A firmly hit Mann strike was awkwardly palmed out by the palms of Purnell, who then made two more stunning stops in quick succession. Ross Stearn, who had had a quiet first half, sprung to life when, back to goal, he clipped up to create an overhead chance from the edge of the box nudged over by Purnell. And from the resulting corner, Purnell was there to block a Cundy header from around eight-yards out as City were fended off yet again. Compared to the first, the second half was much improved from the Romans with more energy and territory in the Weston half. That said, there were still sporadic threats from the hosts, with Clarke needing to be alert to keep out a skidding Jake Lee free-kick that threatened to sneak in to the bottom corner. City could not make the best of any further chances for an equaliser. Brunt was unable to get any power on a header that was comfortably scooped up by Purnell. At the other end Welch failed to kill off the game as he diverted a daisy-cutting cross off target, while Clarke also kept out tall centre-half Matt Bower in a scramble at a free-kick. A stinging Mann drive seared over the crossbar for the away side, who also had calls for a penalty turned down as Jack Batten challenged under a free-kick into the box. Brunt also fired too high, running on to a deep free-kick at a tight angle, as Weston’s game superb management in the closing minutes, plus four of stoppage time, to wind down the clock and book their place in the first round for the first time in four years.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Artus, Mann, Morton, Smith (Raynes 73), Brunt, Stearn. Subs not used: Amankwaah, Watkins, Rigg, Ball, Hodges, Raynes, Rees.
Scorers: City – none; Weston – Hill (13)
City Bookings: Batten (64), Artus (77)
Officials: E Swallo, A Ellis, R Watkins