Bath City (0) 1 Wealdstone (1) 3 – Vanarama National League South Play-Off Eliminator – Wednesday 1 May 2019 – Twerton Park
Ten-man Bath City refused to let their stirring season end without a whimper as Wealdstone won out amid late drama in a captivating National League South play-off eliminator. Two goals down with just under 20 minutes to go, Romans frontman Ryan Brunt was given his marching orders for a desperate sliding attempt to reach a through ball, which instead connected with the head of keeper Jonathan North, who left the game on a stretcher. In spite of their numerical disadvantage on two counts, City set-up a captivating finale when Adam Mann hauled one back with a heavily deflected strike that seemed to take an age in looping over sub keeper Dylan Paterson. With Twerton Park reinvigorated, the hosts pushed for extra-time, but their hopes were finally put to an end by former Roman Dave Pratt as the striker just beat Ryan Clarke’s hands to a loose back header and rolled the ball into an empty net.
Wealdstone made the brighter opening to the contest as City were not allowed to keep the ball on the floor in the opening quarter-hour. Danny Green came nowhere near with a speculative 35-yard volley for the Stones early on while, at the other end, Freddie Hinds’ own volleyed attempt could not match the juggling skills that earned him the chance. The away side continued to come forward and after Stefan Brown’s poor connection gave Clarke an easy save, the keeper was beaten on 11 minutes. An Anthony Straker clearance did not have the required distance and was picked up on by Jake Sheppard, who darted towards the area and fired into the bottom corner before Tom Smith could get a challenge in. Gradually the Romans began to grow into the match. Smith swept a delightful through ball for Ross Stearn to run on to and draw a save from North from a tight angle. The resulting right-flank corner was sent to the back post, Robbie Cundy nodding down for Brunt, whose stabbed effort was blocked at pointblank range. Battling Sheppard then poached a bouncing ball at the edge of the City area, only to fire hurriedly over with time against him. Somehow the hosts were then denied from another scramble before the half was out. A free-kick caused havoc as Wealdstone failed to clear, but Stearn was kept out by keeper North again. Immediately the ball was sent back into the box, with North pulling off an excellent reaction stop to repel the spinning Smith. After that drama the half tailed off somewhat, although there was a half chance for the Stones when Green collected the ball on the byline, his cut-back nudged wide from in front of the near post by Simon Mensah. The half also finished with a yellow card apiece, Frankie Artus, swapped out before the break for Sean Rigg, and Freddie Grant finding themselves in the book, the latter for a clattering sliding challenge on Stearn.
Chasing their leveller, the second period began well for City as Brunt, falling backwards as he shot, skewed wide within a minute. Soon enough Cundy then struggled to get enough power on a header which North stepped across to grab. And a great run and cross from Straker then ended with Stearn millimetres away from his eventual cross. Joe Raynes, teed up by Sean Rigg’s lovely jink, had a shot blocked, but the Stones held out and began to create chances of their own once again. They stitched together a better move that saw Danny Green cut into the middle, a tad wildly, and fire one down Clarke’s throat And another chance for the visitors came and went. Poku nutmegged Smith and played it back for Jeffrey Monakana, his shot is deflected behind. Monakana would not waste his second opportunity, as he coolly slipped the ball by Clarke having been found completely unmarked at the back post by a Brown cross. Brunt’s red card dented City’s bid to remain in the promotion picture, but they went down fighting. Substitute Mann, who replaced another sub in Sean Rigg, got them back in the game with a long-range strike that skied off a defender and dropped in over back-pedalling keeper Paterson. With the volume raised, the Romans penned back Wealdstone with wave after wave of attack, a Raynes run and and Smith header ramping up the tension on the visiting defence. Mann was also agonisingly close to touching a Jack Batten flick-on past Paterson, but the game was killed off in the fifth of nine added minutes. Straker went to nod the ball back to Clarke at the corner of the box, but poacher Pratt stole in and got the ball from the keeper’s grasp to ensure Wealdstone’s progress.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus (Rigg 45 (Pryce 88)), Hinds, Brunt, Stearn (Mann 69), Cundy, Raynes, Morton, Smith. Subs not used: H Wiles-Richards, Ball.
Scorers: City – Mann (82); Wealdstone – Sheppard (11), Monakana (63), Pratt (90+5)
City Bookings: Artus (38)
City Dismissal: Brunt (73)
Officials: M Russell, C Hubbard, D Flynn