Bath City (0) 2 Braintree Town (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 3 August 2019 – Twerton Park
Plan B won Bath City three opening day points as their storming start to the second half stunned Braintree Town. After a goalless first period, the highlight of which saw the visitors strike the crossbar from their own half, the Romans were remodelled by manager Jerry Gill at the break. And they were inspired by the arrival of Ross Stearn, who set up Tom Smith to lash home the opener within two minutes of the restart, and then whipped home a first day goal-of-the-season contender from at least 30 yards out.
The afternoon began positively for the Romans, who saw multiple chances to get the ball into the box during the opening six minutes, as Braintree found themselves penned in. The first presentable chance on goal went to the hosts as well, Joe Raynes running on and drilling a half-cleared cross past the far post from the edge of the box. Braintree’s first opportunity came out of nowhere. After Tyler Harvey was pulled up for handball on the edge of the centre circle in the away half, Josh Urquhart looked up, spotted Ryan Clarke off his line and attempted an ambitious lob which forced the City stopper to back-pedal and tip the ball onto the crossbar. The danger not over, it ran out to Thomas Richardson with just the keeper to beat, but the striker hurried himself and gave Clarke an easy save. Braintree full-back Ollie Saunders then showed good pace getting down the left, only to shank his final effort well off target from the corner of the box. Up the other end, Harvey rose highest to nod a right-wing cross over the bar, while Smith swept comfortably wide from 20 yards out. Sergio Manesio also tried his luck from a reasonable distance for the Iron after Smith failed to take control of the ball, drilling wide on the half-volley. There was another save for Clarke to make when Femi Akinwande successfully took on his man at the byline on the left, cut inside and forced the home custodian’s feet into action. For City, Southampton loanee Harry Hamblin rifled a fierce effort into the Bristol End from 35 yards out. After almost being caught out earlier, Clarke was alive to the danger when Sean Bonnett-Johnson tried a cheeky free-kick of his own just left of the box, curling into the side netting as Clarke dived across to cover his goal nevertheless.
The half-time interval saw a tactical tweak as the Romans changed their formation from a three-man backline to 4-3-3, and brought Stearn into the fray. That may well have caught Braintree on the hop, as City switched play to the right flank and worked their way into the corner. Stearn was the man to cross, the ball deflecting back for Smith to hammer home 16 yards out. Within minutes the lead was doubled in stunning fashion. A Braintree tackle saw the ball run for Stearn, who hooked a curling, first-time effort into the top corner from range. The onslaught continued as Watkins sent an overhead kick off target from a Tyler Harvey knockdown, while debutant defender Harvey Smith powered a header over from a corner. Further efforts came and went as Harvey turned down a handful of options to push a shot wide from distance, Watkins also heading a Stearn centre wide. Akinwande and substitute Adam Miles had Braintree’s almost token attempts on goal after the break, neither finding the target with speculative efforts. As the game slowly ran to its conclusion it was City that continued to threaten more, Stearn drawing a routine stop from Michael Johnson having bamboozled one of his defenders with quick feet. The substitute then almost set up Tom Smith, who did well to get a blocked shot on goal after the cross initially ran past him. And from the resulting corner, Stearn ran across the six-yard box and flicked a header past the far stick. There was one final hope for a third dismissed by Johnson, palming away a stinging Adam Mann drive, before the final whistle blew.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Riley-Lowe, T Smith (Simpson 90), Watkins (Mann 76), Harvey, Bower, Richards, Hartridge, H Smith, Hamblin (Stearn HT). Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Harper.
Scorers: City – T Smith (47), Stearn (50); Braintree – none
City Bookings: none
Officials: M Whaley, S Annis, S Kane