Bath City (0) 1 Dartford (2) 3 – Saturday 4 September 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman
Bath City gave league leaders Dartford a scare but were eventually overcome in an entertaining clash at Twerton Park.
The Darts led 2-0 at the break through Ade Azeez and Jake Robinson but City gave Steve King’s men problems galore after the interval, eventually pulling one back through Alex Fletcher.
Substitutes Dan Roberts and George Porter linked up for the latter to seal the win on the counter and succumb Bath to a third successive loss.
Conversely, it’s five wins from five for the Kent club in their best start to a National League South season, and a ninth win from their last 10 against the Romans.
Jerry Gill lost Ryan Harley to a hip injury and threw in Josh Owers as his replacement, the son of former manager Gary signing on loan for the second time this year, and Omar Holness was recalled for Dan Ball in a tactical reshuffle.
All that careful planning nearly went out the window inside three minutes. Noor Husin chested inside to Robinson and with the Bath backline appealing for offside, Ryan Clarke kept his concentration to deny the former Billericay man who inexplicably rolled the rebound wide from two yards.
The Romans responded positively. Cody Cooke slipped the ball behind for Fletcher whose cutback picked out Tom Smith, but the midfielder scuffed his effort and the well-placed Tom Bonner was on hand to clear from the goalline.
Fletcher created City’s next chance on 16 minutes. Collecting a loose ball from Luke Wanadio, he played it through to Holness who struck the outside of the post from 12 yards.
Robinson lofted just over after Clarke, who failed to get enough distance on a punched clearance, before the players took a drinks break with temperatures succeeding 20 degrees in Somerset.
The pause benefitted Dartford more than City. Within seconds of the restart, an attempted header back by Ben Gerring was woefully misplaced, catching his defence off guard. Robinson was alive to the danger, centred for Azeez who nodded past Clarke from 10 yards, the keeper only able to help it over the line.
Bath then conceded moments before the half-time interval for a third match running. Jack Jebb’s curler from the corner of the penalty are was palmed away by the flying Clarke, but only to Azeez who hooked it back towards goal for Robinson who headed home from close range.
Dartford led 2-0 at the break versus Eastbourne on Monday before conceding 12 seconds after the interval. History was close to repeating itself when Jack Batten’s ball forward was helped inside by Cooke to Fletcher, whose fierce drive drew smart reactions from Dan Wilks.
Francois’ header from Frear’s corner was cleared over his own crossbar by Jebb before Bonner’s last-ditch defending bailed his side out once again.
After Francois sprinted past Jernade Meade, his pull-back saw Fletcher’s powerful strike parried by Wilks and Holness’ header on the rebound was brilliantly denied by the quick-thinking Bonner, who somehow guided the ball behind via his hip amidst strong appeals for handball.
It looked like the Darts had weathered the storm, but City clawed one back just past the hour. Eddie Jones’ diagonal ball was headed inside by Cooke to Fletcher, who showed tremendous footwork to shimmy past Bonner and Jordan Wynter before prodding past Wilks from six yards.
Dartford dusted themselves down and nearly regained their two goal advantage. Robinson capitalised on a Batten error to locate Azeez through on goal, but he was unable to beat Clarke who spread himself and denied the former AFC Wimbledon man.
Bath wasted a glorious chance on 78 minutes to level the scores. Francois, who excelled in the second half, skipped past Meade and squared to the onrushing Cooke but the top scorer volleyed over from five yards.
Cooke missed a more difficult opening soon after when Smith kept his balance to play him through but Wilks raced off his line and deflected his shot away from goal.
King was able to demonstrate the strength of his squad by withdrawing the impressive Azeez and Robinson for Roberts and Porter, and the substitutes linked up for the killer third.
Husin’s ball down the right was adjudged to have stayed in play, leaving Roberts clear to roll it across to Porter who turned Frear and dispatched past Clarke with ease.
Gill’s protests earned him a caution. The manager wanted a reaction from the feeble second half at Oxford and he certainly got it, next on the agenda is a return to winning ways.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Gerring (c), Batten, Fletcher, Holness, Cooke, Smith, Frear, Jones, Francois, Owers. Subs not used: Raynes, Fuller, Ball, James, Richards.
Scorers: City – Fletcher (61); Dartford – Azeez (28), Robinson (45), Porter (84)
City Bookings: Frear (22), Owers (57)
Officials: R Martin, A Berrow, T Staten