Bath City (0) 0 Cardiff City (4) 5 – Saturday 10 July 2021 – Pre-Season Friendly – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Having dished out punishment on Frome and Larkhall in the previous week, Bath City had a taste of their own medicine as Cardiff City eased to success at an atmospheric Twerton Park.
Around half of the 830 crowd was made up of supporters from the Championship club, and their players looked every bit that status in the first half to race into a 4-0 lead thanks to a brace from James Collins and close range finishes from Oli Denham and Isaac Vassell.
Cardiff boss Mick McCarthy replaced his entire near full-strength starting XI at the break and they added a fifth through Issak Davies with two minutes remaining.
City improved as the match progressed but couldn’t find a breakthrough against a side four divisions superior.
The visitors’ boisterous fans didn’t have to wait long for their excitement levels to raise a few notches.
Little over two minutes passed when Collins received the ball just inside the penalty area from Tom Sang, shimmied inside and drilled low inside debutant Coniah Boyce-Clarke’s near post.
The goalkeeper arrived in the week on a short-term loan from Reading as cover for the friendlies with Ryan Clarke on the sidelines, and had to be at his best to deny Sam Bowen’s stinging drive on 18 minutes.
From Marlon Pack’s resulting corner, the 18-year-old stopper didn’t know whether to come or go, and his indecisiveness was punished by Oli Denham, who powerfully headed home.
The visitors made it three on 25 minutes. James Connolly nodded Pack’s free-kick across goal and Collins was on hand to fire home his second from close range.
A fine Dan Ball sliding challenge on Isaac Vassell prevented a fourth and Boyce-Clarke spread himself to deny Lee Tomlin.
Tomlin also wastefully blazed over on the counter having received the ball from Collins before City were undone by another set-piece.
This time Aden Flint’s header to the back post found Vassell who lashed home from six yards.
City huffed and puffed but found life difficult against a side who finished two places below the play-off spots for a Premier League berth last season, with Cody Cooke’s header unable to trouble Dillon Phillips in the away goal.
The Bluebirds glovesman was forced into a difficult save before the break as Sang’s wayward pass picked out Alex Fletcher, whose deflected strike had the Cardiff keeper at full-strength to palm behind.
The second half was evenly contested as Cardiff changed their entire starting XI. They were still without Kieffer Moore having represented Wales during Euro 2020, but introduced fellow Welshman Marley Watkins as a trialist. Watkins spent two seasons at Bath City in the National League between 2010-2012.
He stretched to fire Issak Davies’ driven cross over and Mark McGuinness headed wide with City again looking uncertain at a set-piece.
The introduction of Mo Dobre added tempo for Jerry Gill’s men but he and his teammates couldn’t find a way past Alex Smithies despite giving the Cardiff backline a few scares.
Tom Smith floated a free-kick harmlessly over before Dobre’s clever reverse ball saw Cooke’s cross from the byline inches too high for Ben Gerring when any connection would have sufficed. Smithies also smartly gathered Cooke’s curler from 25 yards.
The Bluebirds notched a fifth on 88 minutes when substitute Chanka Zimba’s jinking run concluded with a low centre for Issak Davies, who hammered into the roof of the net from six yards and confirm City’s biggest pre-season defeat since a 0-5 loss versus Bristol City in 2005.
In truth this was always an exercise to determine how Bath reacted out of possession and a chance to try formations and new faces. The chances of overcoming a full-strength Championship side were remote, and the second half would give Gill enough encouragement for their remaining pre-season campaign, largely against sides more their level.
The Bath fans weren’t treated to a shock win, or even a goal, on their return, but that didn’t alter the smiles on their faces. After nearly 500 days away for them, it was clearly a case of ‘home sweet home’.
City’s Line-Up: Boyce-Clarke, Jones, Williams, James (Dowling 84), Gerring (c) (Neilson 81), Ball, Harley (Dabre 56), Richards, Cooke, T Smith, Fletcher. Subs not used: Fuller, Z Smith.
Scorers: City – none; Cardiff – Collins (3, 25), Denham (18), Vassell (37), Davies (88)
City Bookings: Gerring (54)
Officials: S Jackson, M Underhay, O Underhay, A Hobbs