Bath City (0) 0 Dartford (0) 2 – Saturday 6 August 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Bath City started their 2022/23 season with defeat against bogey side Dartford.
The Darts have now won 11 of their last 12 league games against City thanks to a Pierre Fonkeu strike and a Zak Bell own goal, both in the second half.
City had a penalty shout turned down on 44 minutes when Elliott Frear was brushed aside by Fonkeu, a decision which infuriated boss Jerry Gill.
They enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but with centre-backs Callum Essam and Tom Bonner imperious they struggled to create clear openings while being punished at the other end.
Gill threw in six debutants for their league opener as both teams struggled to make any inroads early on, with the usual opening day tension and searing heat making the contest something of a stalemate.
A clever corner routine saw Chris Lines’ low ball met by birthday boy Luke Spokes, who didn’t get full connection which allowed the visitors to clear.
On 38 minutes Dan Hayfield’s attempted cross was cleared by Jordan Wynter back to the midfielder, whose follow-up ball required Dan Wilks’ fingertips to paw away from a potential Alex Fletcher tap-in.
The game’s talking point arrived just before half-time. Jordan Dyer’s header was nodded away by Sam Odaudu from the goalline and with Frear trying to keep the move alive, he tumbled under attention from Fonkeu near the byline with referee Craig Scriven deeming the challenge a fair one.
Dartford, with Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler in the dugout alongside new boss Alan Dowson, started the second half brightly as Dyer did enough to deflect Davide Rodari’s drive behind for a corner.
Luke Coulson’s resulting delivery saw Bonner unable to get full purchase on his header which allowed Bell to clear in a crowded six-yard box.
Joe Wright’s first save didn’t arrive until 63 minutes when Fonkeu latched on to Coulson’s through ball but the keeper advanced well to smother with his legs with the angle against the forward.
The keeper was powerless to deny the opener three minutes later, as the first goal scored past the Romans this term was a soft one.
Goalkeeper Wilks claimed an unlikely assist as his driven free-kick deceived Bell, who was left one-on-one with Fonkeu. The Cameroonian escaped the City left-back and expertly slammed the ball into the roof of the net as Wright started to advance, marking his Dartford bow with the game’s opener.
Wilks proved his worth again as Lines’ corner was met by the head of Fletcher at the near post, but the well-positioned stopper palmed his effort behind.
Dartford notched a second on 71 minutes in a brilliant flowing move started and arguably finished by Fonkeu.
The forward’s willingness to track back saw him win the ball midway inside his own half to set Samir Carruthers away.
Keiran Murtagh, Odaudu and Coulson were involved before Rodari’s intelligent flick allowed Carruthers to escape Joe Raynes in the box.
His pull-back missed Wright and appeared to be inadvertently turned in by Bell as his clearance looked to hit his standing leg, with Fonkeu more willing to claim a final touch.
While Carruthers’ involvement in that was positive, he was mightily fortunate to not be sent off when his high boot caught substitute Tom Smith in the head but he escaped with a caution as Lines’ free-kick hit the wall.
Essam denied Scott Wilson a tap-in with a clearance near his own goal and Hayfield curled off target as although the Romans were hardly usurped by Dartford possession wise, they struggled to test the visiting goalkeeper as the away side claimed a fourth clean sheet in five against Gill’s men.
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Raynes, Dyer, Parselle (c), Fletcher, Hayfield, Cooke, Frear (Wilson 63), Lines, Spokes (Smith 77), Bell. Subs not used: Batten, Clarke, Backwell.
Scorers: City – none; Dartford – Fonkeu (66), Own Goal (71)
City Bookings: none
Officials: C Scriven, M Underhay, N Wormleighton