Banbury United (0) 0 Bath City (2) 2 – FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round – Saturday 22 September 2018 – The Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium
Bath City put in a professional performance to see off lower-league Banbury United and advance to the FA Cup third qualifying round. Ross Stearn bagged both the goals before the break, crushing home a parried Adam Mann strike for the first and then striking a pearler of a volley for the second. All in all it was a patient, composed display from the Romans with any home hopes of an FA Cup shock never likely to come to fruition. The Southern League Premier Central outfit were barely given a sniff and unable to make the most of the few occasions they found themselves in attacking positions. If not for a fine double save by home keeper Jack Harding and the woodwork there could have been more goals for City, now £9,000 richer as a result of their win and looking forward to Monday lunchtime’s draw for the next round.
The pattern of play was set out from the beginning as the visitors saw more of the ball, while Banbury could only threaten sporadically. The left-hand side was an area of particular joy with Stearn getting plenty of possession as his team-mates regularly sought him out. Chances were initially more difficult to come by in spite of the pressure, Ryan Brunt eventually thumping well over the bar for the first of the day. A quick take, turn and shot from Adam Mann was then deflected past the post. The midfielder went out to take the corner himself, finding Robbie Cundy whose header did not have the power to trouble home stopper Jack Harding. There were still hairy moments for City, though moments were all they were. Banbury’s best chance of the opening half came when Anthony Straker was robbed in his own third. That allowed Greg Kaziboni to swing a cross to the back post where sizeable frontman Ricky Johnson nodded wide. Straker found himself in the box at the other end, collecting the ball from a good one-two with John Mills but couldn’t get a final shot away. Stearn fired a warning shot when Sean Rigg threaded a through ball down the middle, though he could only get a prod back to the keeper under pressure from two players. His next effort, having been found by a crossfield pass from Mann, was one to forget as he sent a curler well off target. Jack Batten also had to get an important challenge in for City to keep the threat of the tricky Ravi Shamsi from getting into the box, after Straker just missed an interception. The lead was City’s on the half-hour as Harding could only parry a stinging Mann shot, with Stearn cracking in the follow-up in front of the travelling faithful. There was some scrambling at the back for the Romans, but Banbury could not take advantage and found themselves heading back down the tunnel with a two-goal deficit. It was Stearn again, this time with a stunning volley as the home side could only clear as far as the wideman at the edge of the box.
Banbury came out more spritely for the second period and put some decent pressure on the Romans. Yet although they got into promising positions, breaking through the City defence proved a task too far. It was again a case of momentary scares than anything, Ryan Clarke collecting a bouncing ball under pressure with three red shirts around him. Seeking his hat-trick, an acrobatic sideways volley from Stearn was blocked by a Banbury defender. Jack Self failed to hit the target for the Puritans on another attack, while half-time substitute Jordy Ngathe’s deep cross had Clarke scrambling back before dropping just past the post. A speared effort from Shamsi then whistled inches over the bar from a tight angle. But eventually Banbury began to run out of steam as City ruled the closing stages. They could easily have had a third too. Mann’s touch let him down when played through by the returning Tom Smith. But the ball found it’s way back to Stearn running into the box and drawing a fine save from Harding, who recovered to keep out Smith’s effort from the rebound. Moments after, Mann struck the outside of the post from range. Both Rigg and Stearn had attempts blocked by the home defence, with Harding also comfortably holding a Brunt shot when a corner fell in the box. Rigg was millimetres away with his next attempt, shooting low and just past the far stick on a three-on-three break. Banbury finished the game with ten men when Lee Henderson was shown a second yellow card for a trip on substitute Andy Watkins. That free-kick was played back low for Stearn to fire in low, Watkins’ instinctive backheel running straight at Harding. There were more chances to come for City in the dying minutes, but no more goals as they won through to Monday’s draw.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus, Rigg (Watkins 77), Mills (Smith 56), Brunt, Stearn (Ollis 86), Mann, Cundy, Raynes. Subs not used: Richards, Amankwaah, Ball, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Stearn (30,42); Banbury – none
City Bookings: Mann (51)
Officials: J O’Connor, L Smith, M Fryer