Bath City (0) 0 Hungerford Town (0) 1 – Saturday 11 December 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Jake Evans’ thunderous strike sealed an archetypal smash and grab success for Hungerford Town at Bath City.
The midfielder let fly from 18 yards after James Rusby’s long throw wasn’t cleared to spark scenes of delirium for the visitors in a highly-charged contest.
Ryan Seager had earlier seen a penalty saved by home debutant Will Fuller, in for Ryan Clarke who tested positive for Covid-19, but opposition number one Luke Cairney was far busier as City spurned a hatful of openings.
The afternoon also included a fitting tribute to former Bath striker Marvin Morgan, who passed away in the week aged 38, with the match paused in the 38th minute so all players, officials and spectators could join in a one-minute applause.
The majority of those in attendance would have been hoping to see City extend their back-to-back league wins, albeit against a side who led second in the away table heading to Twerton.
Hungerford started on the back foot but recorded the first shot on target when Curtis Angell’s drive on the turn was comfortably taken by Fuller.
George Smith’s back header from Matt Jones’ corner clipped the outside of the post as City restricted openings for the Crusaders, with 19-year-old Callum Wood the pick of the back three.
City turned their possession into chances just past the half hour. Mo Touray’s curler was batted away by Cairney and Alex Fletcher shot too close to the Town custodian who parried with an outstretched boot.
Cooke headed Joe Raynes’ corner against the bar as City continued pressure, but the final and clearest chance of the half fell to the visitors as Sol Wanjau-Smith accelerated following Seager’s lay-off but kicked the ground when clean through allowing the ball to trickle to Fuller’s grateful gloves.
The second half threatened to get out of hand following a series of baffling decisions from the officials. Hungerford were awarded a penalty on 51 minutes when Seager threw himself to the ground under little pressure from captain Jack Batten. Seager saw his previous spot-kick saved against Welling a fortnight ago and was denied again as Fuller threw himself to his left, collecting the rebound from Angell for good measure.
Fletcher, Touray and Cooke had little joy from referee Dale Wootton following niggling fouls from the away defence, with manager Jerry Gill cautioned from the dugout for his protestations.
Raynes’ through ball found Fletcher but the ball got tangled underneath his feet with Matt Jones able to rob him at the vital moment, before Raynes was involved in a glorious opening when Touray’s pass saw him one-on-one, but he shot straight against the legs of Cairney with half the goal open.
The visitors appeared content if the game would peter out into a draw. Instead they hit the jackpot and celebrated like all their Christmases had come early.
With four minutes remaining, Rusby’s long throw was only partially cleared by Batten and Evans reacted sharpest to thump the ball into the roof of the net past the helpless Fuller.
There wasn’t enough time for City to create further scares as Hungerford claimed their sixth away win in eight league games to move them up to eighth, celebrating as if they had one hand on the National League South trophy.
City’s Line-Up: Fuller, Raynes, Delaney, Batten (c), Wood, Fletcher (Sims-Burgess 81), Cooke, Frear, Jones, Dyer, Touray. Subs not used: Holness, Smith, Cannings, James.
Scorers: City – none; Hungerford – Evans (86)
City Bookings: Raynes (57), Jones (63)
Officials: D Wootton, C Waller, H Lavender