Barnet (3) 3 Bath City (1) 2 – FA Trophy 1st Round – The Hive Stadium – Saturday 15 December 2018

Barnet (3) 3 Bath City (1) 2 – FA Trophy 1st Round – The Hive Stadium – Saturday 15 December 2018

A catastrophic opening half hour cost Bath City dear as they exited the FA Trophy in round one for the third year running. Barnet, mid-table in National League Premier, took full advantage of City’s inadequacy, cruising to a 3-0 lead by the 24-minute mark, before Jerry Gill’s men nearly staged a remarkable comeback.

The Bees were keen to make up for lost time, with kick-off put back 15 minutes owing to the visiting team coach getting stuck in London traffic. They took their frustrations out on the delay by starting on the front foot, opening the scoring on 50 seconds. Jack Taylor was the key creator, exchanging passes with Elliott Johnson on a foray forward before finding Wes Fonguck, who from 20 yards beautifully curled the ball around three defenders and out of Ryan Clarke’s reach to give John Still’s men the perfect start. Still had stated beforehand that he’d like Barnet to take the FA Trophy seriously this term, and his players heeded his words by oozing with confidence on the ball, cutting City apart with a second on ten minutes. Again Taylor was involved, his effortless pass between Jack Batten and Anthony Straker was latched on to by Ephron Mason-Clark, who slid it across to Manny Duku, allowing the Cheltenham loanee a simple finish into the empty net. The third goal on 24 minutes was another so simple for the hosts. Adam Mann’s loose control saw Craig Robson rob him and find Daniel Sparkes on the left. Having darted in between Joe Raynes and Michee Efete as if they weren’t there, he laid it on a plate for the unmarked Mason-Clark, who fired into the roof of the net from eight yards, his first goal for the club. Although you could marvel at Barnet’s prowess going forward, they barely had to break sweat with Bath’s uncharacteristic flatness being picked apart. Yet it was a moment of slack play from the home side that saw City get on the scoresheet ten minutes later. Ross Stearn’s cross was headed out by Dan Sweeney as far as Efete who, with no-one attempting to charge him down, drove the ball just inside Mark Cousins’ right-hand post from 18 yards to rescue some pride from a turgid opening.

His first career goal was a cracker, but celebrations understandably muted. Gill demonstrated his discontent despite this goal, withdrawing Ryan Brunt and Tom Smith for Deon Moore and Mo Baghdadi, giving the two Bristol Rovers loanees an extended run-out. The two linked up on the cusp of half-time when Baghdadi’s superb through ball was replicated by Moore’s intelligent run, but he couldn’t get the necessary contact and Cousins smothered at his feet.

Bath City’s first ever FA Trophy campaign in 1970 saw them beaten by Barnet 4-3, having led 3-0. Whilst hardly a message relayed by Gill to his players, he would have been pleased with how they emerged from the break. The Baghdadi and Moore double act nearly paid dividends again. Breaking from Barnet’s corner, Baghdadi’s precise reverse ball was latched on to by Moore, who stayed on his feet under pressure from David Tutonda before wildly blazing over with just Cousins to beat. Clarke flicked behind Mason-Clark’s daisy cutter and showed sharp reflexes to parry Duku with his legs from the resulting corner. On 64 minutes, the Romans reduced the deficit further. Joe Raynes’ pinpoint pass split the defence open, Straker pulled it back to Mann, who kept his head down and blasted into the roof of the net from eight yards, his first goal since late October.

It gave the visiting fans some hope, and set nerves jangling for the hosts, but despite brief glimmers of promise, Bath didn’t really look like achieving a stunning recovery. In fact, the Bees had chances to win more emphatically, exploiting gaps with the Romans throwing caution to the wind in increasingly difficult conditions, the rain becoming heavier by the minute. Like Bath, a double substitution gave them fresh impetus, with Charlee Adams’ 25-yarder well gathered by Clarke, and Shaq Coulthirst having a header disallowed for offside.
Baghdadi curled harmlessly wide from distance following a rare switch off by the home defence, before Coulthirst dispossessed Robbie Cundy but drove straight at Clarke, who diverted behind for a corner. It didn’t matter in the end as Barnet saw out the game well and deservedly clinched their place in the last 32. It could have been all so different had the set of imposters not appeared in the sky blue shirts for the first half-hour, with the remaining 60 minutes much more resembling Jerry Gill’s charges. Alas, you don’t get a second chance in knockout football, as City’s attentions revert to a play-off push.

Att: 413

City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Artus, Raynes, Smith (Bagdhadi 34), Brunt (Moore 34), Mann, Stearn. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Amankwaah, Richards.

Scores: City – Efete (33), Mann (63); Barnet – Fonguck (1), Duku (9), Mason-Clark (23)

City Bookings: none

Officials: C Pollard, O Jackson, S Barry