Bath City (0) 1 Wealdstone (1) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 16 March 2019 – Twerton Park
Bath City remain unbeaten this calendar at home and likewise Wealdstone away as Sol Pryce’s debut goal earned the Romans a deserved share of the spoils. It felt like it wouldn’t be Bath’s day when Robbie Cundy turned in Tarryn Allarakhia low cross into his own net, but a bullet header from Pryce, just six minutes after coming on, prevented the Stones leaving Somerset with three points. It’s a draw which hampers Wealdstone’s play-off push somewhat, but with a crescendo of injuries, forcing them to only name four substitutes, they might consider it a point gained.
The contest began openly with both sides on the front foot. Jonathan North was the first goalkeeper tested, tipping Freddie Hinds’ stinging drive over. Wealdstone showed some menace going forward on 21 minutes when Simon Mensah charged through midfield and smartly laid off to Allarakhia, but the Crawley Town loanee was denied by the quick reactions of Ryan Clarke, who threw himself in the way. Frankie Artus nearly broke his goal duck, stretching back 14 months, when he spectacularly met Joe Romanski’s header inside with an overhead kick, but North did well to collect unsighted.
The visitors opened the scoring through a more routine move. Allarakhia’s tremendous footwork down the right tied Romanski in knots and left City’s defence almost hypnotised, none more than Cundy who, in attempting to poke the low ball behind, contrived to put it in his own net from four yards. It was the second time this season City had gifted Wealdstone an own goal. The previous, at Grosvenor Vale, was followed by wave after wave of attack as Bobby Wilkinson’s men searched for a leveller. This time with the lead, their attacking intent grounded to a halt. They invited City on and sat back, defending in depth with little outlet to pose a problem on the counter. This helped the Romans create chances. Joe Raynes squeezed his way between two opponents, a clearance almost flattened Christian Smith and ricocheted rapidly to Ryan Brunt, but he couldn’t take advantage. Jack Batten flashed a shot over from just inside the area when Brunt’s throw wasn’t cleared, which took the sides into the half-time break.
It was one Wealdstone were clearly enjoying, delaying the restart with City out nearly five minutes before, acclimatising themselves to the blustery conditions again quicker than their Middlesex opponents. The team talk must have been ‘carry on where you left off’. There’s a method to the ‘madness’ as their away form was impressive heading into the game – five clean sheets in six, one defeat in thirteen on the road. But 17 points surrendered from winning positions gave Jerry Gill’s men some hope. Stearn’s volley was deflected over and Raynes had a shot charged down when he looked to have had his shirt pulled back. It was becoming attack versus defence and Gill decided to freshen things up, introducing Pryce for Stearn. The Stones’ first glimmer in the second half saw Daniel Green’s free-kick headed wide by Jerome Okimo before the hosts nearly pinched an un-Bath City like goal – Pryce collecting a long ball, beating North and trying to prod into the empty net, but a crowd of bodies helped touch it behind for a corner. The Swindon loanee didn’t have to wait long for his next opening, and this time he buried it. Raynes’ driven corner found the forward unmarked six-yards out and his powerful header beat North all ends up, the sixth goal from a City substitute this calendar year.
Not quite as fast as Stearn’s first at Hemel last week, but arguably more important. Pryce tried to repeat Stearn’s heroics at Hemel, heading Raynes’ cross wide straight after as Bath buzzed. Suddenly, Wealdstone had to produce Plan C. They went three up front, attempting to bombard the home defence. Green found a pocket of space inside the area but dallied, allowing the impressive Artus to nick the ball away. Raynes sent a rasping shot wide of North’s left post, and Allarakhia’s box of tricks nearly produced further magic, this time a combination of Clarke and Batten clearing with Stefan Brown lurking. Neither side could find a further breakthrough but it wasn’t for the want of trying. Although not as memorable as the 3-3 contest in Middlesex four months ago, this one kept the locals captivated and the majority of the 966 in attendance will have further confidence of seeing their side’s season extended into May.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus, Hinds, Brunt, Stearn (Pryce 60), Cundy, Raynes, Romanski, Morton. Subs not used: Ball, Smith, Amankwaah, H Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – Pryce (65); Wealdstone – Own Goal (28)
City Bookings: Morton (80)
Officials: D Lamport, A Berrow, S Mansfield