Bath City (0) 1 Havant & Waterlooville (0) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 24 March 2018 – Twerton Park
Bath City were struck by a sucker punch goal as National League South leaders Havant & Waterlooville stole the points at Twerton Park.Just as it looked as though Tom Smith’s searing strike had earned the Romans a point they deserved on the balance of play, a rare mistake from Luke Southwood gifted Havant their winner. The Reading loanee came on the front foot to get his hands to a free-kick lofted into his six-yard box, but whiffed on contact to allow Theo Lewis the decider. It was a galling moment for City, who had only just witnessed Smith lash in perhaps the hardest-hit shot of the season to spark jubilant scenes among the home support with seven minutes left on the clock. Havant had snatched the initial lead just after half-time when Wes Fogden found the net.
It was the home side that edged the play in the first period, but struggled to find the killer final ball when it mattered. They began on the front foot and had an early corner, but it was the visiting side that created the first opportunity when Lewis stabbed a loose ball just wide from the corner of the left six-yard box. Not to be outdone, City created at the other end. Sean Rigg had a shot blocked, the ball finding a route through to Andy Watkins, whose effort was straight at keeper Ryan Young. The best chance of the opening period fell City’s way when a right-wing Compton corner found Miles Welch-Hayes free at the back post where he headed into the ground and over the top. Havant picked up as the half drew on. George Rigg, on his return form a loan spell at Tiverton Town, had to make an important header to keep a long Jordan Rose ball from reaching Lewis in the box, while a couple of threatening corners would come to nothing. Southwood’s first call to action in the City goal was to stop a Fogden volley, hit from a tight angle that did not prove difficult for the keeper. Bradley Tarbuck then drove hard but wide of goal when a Hawks break and slick interplay in the box caught City momentarily on the back foot. Almost instantly up the other end the Romans responded. George Rigg shaped to cross, only to instead lay a low ball back that Jack Compton fired low into Young’s hands. A sliced clearance gave Southwood a scary moment, although City would ensure his goal remained intact. A dangerous centre from travelling left-back Rory Williams then found Lewis free in the box to loop a header over the crossbar. The only other moment of note from the first period saw Opi Edwards go into the book for a late challenge on Fogden as he moved to shield the ball from the incoming tackle.
Within four minutes of the second period starting Havant went in front as Fogden latched on to a neat Lewis chest-down and slotted past Southwood. Huge calls for a City penalty were then turned away, much to the bemusement of the home faithful. Watkins weaved his way past three defenders and into the box where he went down, but the referee instead awarded Havant a free-kick, albeit without a booking for the Roman. Pressing hard for the equaliser, City forced the issue with a string of five straight corners. One had the Hawks defence panicking when Dan Ball headed back across goal, while Welch-Hayes’ low header was Thwarted by a fine save from Young. Quieter penalty shouts were turned down when Jack Batten fell over a defender shielding the ball back to Young, after the City man went on a marauding run from his centre-half slot. For the latter stages of the half Havant put in the hard yards to keep the game quiet. They also created a couple of chances of their own, though Andreas Robinson scythed a low shot wide and Jason Prior ballooned a header off target from a tricky outswinging corner. Nevertheless, City still created the equaliser they deserved. Havant repelled a first free-kick from Matt Richards, but the veteran midfielder sent another ball in that eventually fell for Smith to smash a thunderous strike into the roof of the net. Then came the sucker punch. Havant put a dead ball of their own into the area, Southwood came out but missed the ball and left Lewis to nod the ball into the unguarded net for all three points.
City’s Line-Up: Southwood, G Rigg, Welch-Hayes, Richards (c), Batten, Ball, Edwards (Semenyo 78), Smith, Watkins, S Rigg, Compton. Subs not used: Buck, Jarvis, Morton, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Smith (81); Havant – Fogden (48), Lewis (84)
City Bookings: Edwards (40), Richards (83)
Officials: J Durkin, A Ricketts, B Channing