Bath City (0) 2 Hemel Hempstead Town (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 18 January 2019 – Twerton Park
Report by Kelston Koppite
Two goals inside the final twelve minutes propelled Bath City to victory over a strong Hemel Hempstead Town side in a highly competitive match at a cold, but sunny, Twerton Park. With both teams struggling to fully master the tricky underfoot conditions, the game was always destined to be a close encounter.
The Tudors almost profited in the very first minute when an innocuous ball bounced into the City area. Ryan Clarke slipped as he attempted to gather and was grateful to Alex Hartridge, who reacted quickly to rob the lurking Sam Ashford of a simple tap in.
First half chances would prove to be at a premium with City’s first effort on goal coming in the 11th minute. Joe Raynes shot from the right hand point of the box, but the ball was directed straight into the arms of keeper Sam Beasant. Tom Smith then tried his luck from 20 yards ten minutes later, but his low drive was narrowly wide of Beasant’s post.
The Hemel goalkeeper took a free kick from the halfway line on 25 minutes that picked out Connor Essam inside the Bath box, only for the centre half’s header to loop wide of the target.
The hosts had the ball in the net on 27 minutes when Hartridge nodded the ball back across goal to Frankie Artus, who headed home. The celebrations were short-lived as the referee, Mr. Robert Massey-Ellis, awarded Town a free kick for a ‘nudge in the back’. Hemel responded with Freddie Grant’s firm shot from distance that passed just wide of Clarke’s far post.
With the break approaching, Smith saw his angled shot go well wide of the far post and, whilst City ended the half in the ascendancy, they were unable to carve out any further clear opportunities.
Now playing towards the Bath End, the home side began brightly after the restart. Raynes’ 47th minute cross from the right was met with a spectacular overhead kick by Sam Pearson that flew just over Beasant’s crossbar. Mr. Massey-Ellis then disallowed another City ‘goal’ in the 56th minute for a foul by Ryan Brunt in the lead up to Artus’s point blank strike.
Whilst The Tudors were always lively on the break and continued to share the balance of the midfield battles, it was the hosts who were now looking the more likely to break the deadlock. Hartridge’s shot on the hour mark was deflected for a corner, before Louis Britton came on for Artus.
Adam Mann collected the ball just inside the Hemel half and advanced goalwards before firing over Beasant’s bar. It was to prove to be Mann’s last contribution as he made way for Connor Riley-Lowe on 67 minutes. Two minutes later, Smith struck a shot from 25 yards that wobbled in the air, and was pushed away awkwardly for a corner by Beasant. The City midfielder then spotted Beasant off his line and tried to chip the ball over the keeper from the halfway line. Alas, his effort was well off target, with the gloveman consequently able to treat himself to a comedy dive.
In what proved to be a masterstroke by Jerry Gill, Ross Stearn was introduced to the action in the 75th minute at the expense of Pearson. Within two minutes the substitute was upended by Rob Sinclair in a central position on the edge of the Town box. Smith stepped forward to unleash a blistering rising drive that fizzed over the defensive wall, and bulleted onto the top corner of the net despite flicking Beasant’s outstretched fingertips.
Hemel continued to compete strongly, but they were unable to seriously threaten the City rearguard. In an effort to find an equaliser Tosan Popo tried a shot from distance, but was well wide of Clarke’s goal, and the outcome was finally settled in the 82nd minute following a mistake by the Hemel custodian. Beasant received a back-pass from one of his defenders and badly miscued his clearance to Stearn, who was 30 yards from goal. The Cityman took the ball under control, advanced goalwards, and expertly slotted his shot into the corner of the net beyond the stranded keeper.
The Romans were now rampant and Riley-Lowe crossed from the left towards Britton, but the striker was denied by a timely interception by Essam at the near post. At the other end, a cross from the right narrowly evaded Kofi Halliday in front of Clarke’s goal in the 89th minute, before Stearn’s shot from outside the box was straight at Beasant.
Raynes and Brunt exchanged passes down the right, only for the latter to glance the ball just wide of Beasant’s far post, and the final action saw Beasant make a brave save at Britton’s feet as he latched on to a through ball by Stearn.
This was another closely fought match and, for long periods, a draw appeared the most likely outcome. Although The Tudors stood toe to toe with their hosts for the majority of the game and were quick on the break, they were rarely able to truly threaten Clarke’s goal. On the other hand, City generally posed more questions going forward, gradually gained the upper hand as time wore on and, in the end, they were the worthy winners. However, there is no doubt that the introduction of Stearn proved crucial to his side securing the three points, but the undisputed highlight was Smith’s breathtaking strike for the opening goal.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, T Smith, Bowry, Artus (Britton 63), Mann (Riley-Lowe 67), Chilvers, Brunt, Ball, Pearson (Stearn 76), Hartridge. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Richards.
Scorers: City – T Smith (77), Stearn (82); Hemel – none
City Bookings: none
Officials: R Massey-Ellis, L Scott, T Staten