Bath City (0) 1 Eastbourne Borough (0) 0 – Saturday 3 February 2024 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Ewan Clark’s late strike saw City claim a second successive 1-0 win and 100th clean sheet under Jerry Gill.
The young midfielder drove home his first league goal since August, celebrating his new permanent contract with the club.
In the wake of Jordan Thomas’ move to League One Cheltenham Town, the winger proved City still boast plenty of talent wide as a fine individual performance, alongside steeliness elsewhere, aided three points.
A late rally from the hosts nearly saw them snatch a point through Pierce Bird, but Gill’s side stood firm as Josey Casa-Grande made it three shutouts in three starts.
Despite not playing for 11 days, City showed no signs of rustiness with Joe Raynes’ deflected cross leading to Cody Cooke’s header being tipped over by Ben Dudzinski inside 30 seconds.
Raynes blasted over from the following corner and Cooke headed Dan Greenslade’s cross against the bar as City penned Eastbourne back.
Midway through the first half, Clark’s free-kick was well-controlled by Jordan Dyer who created space before his left-footer was well gloved around the post by Dudzinski.
Other than Siya Ligendza hammering over having benefitted from a Kieran Parselle slip, Eastbourne lacked any threat going forward with a distinct lack of cohesion on their part. The struggling Sports re-signed Jake Hutchinson and added Alfie Bendle to their ranks a day before, making it five debutants in five league games since Adam Murray’s appointment a month ago, and at times they appeared more a team of individuals with little flow and reading of movement off the ball.
The visitors changed their shape at the break, moving to a back four. To their credit, it worked in their favour as they cut off the City supply line more effectively and offered more going forward.
Siya Ligendza shot across goal after Jack Clarke won the ball back well from Greenslade and Moussa Diarra nearly bundled in Bendle’s whipped free-kick where Casa-Grande’s bravery proved vital.
The introduction of Tom Smith and James Alabi added impetus for the Romans and they looked more dangerous through the middle than out wide.
With the fear that it could drift into a third 0-0 at Twerton this calendar year, a sudden spark broke the deadlock on 78 minutes.
Cooke reacted sharper than Sam Beard to a ball 30 yards from goal, prodded it wide to Clark in room and he picked his spot perfectly, drilling low across Dudzinski from eight yards to break the deadlock.
With enough time to muster an opening, the Sports forced a succession of corners with the wind in their favour, but despite a catalogue of giant players to pick out they struggled to create anything from them.
Instead their best opening arrived in open play as the clock struck 90. Substitute Finn Ballard McBride wormed his way into room in the box, his shot was spilled by the unsighted Casa-Grande who was relieved to see Bird poke the rebound wide from four yards when he should have netted.
It was arguably the luck City deserved as another determined display moved them back into the play-off spots.
City’s Line-Up: Casa-Grande, Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c), Clark, Hayfield, Cooke, Thorn (Smith 62), Wilson (Alabi 69), Russe. Subs not used: Batten, Frear, Lines.
Scorers: City – Clark (78); Eastbourne – none
City Bookings: Greenslade (45+1), Alabi (90+3)
Officials: J Crofts, P Collier, C Collins