Bath City (0) 3 Braintree Town (1) 1 – Saturday 20 August 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Two goals in 100 second half seconds helped Bath City recover to beat Braintree Town.
Levi Amantchi’s 20th minute opener meant City claimed points from losing for a third successive match, and their turnaround at Twerton was richly deserved.
Alex Fletcher’s header and Cody Cooke’s lob put the Romans in front before Cooke’s stoppage time penalty meant no way back for Town.
The match was also Jerry Gill’s 207th in charge, making him Bath’s longest serving boss since Tony Ricketts, who Gill made over 200 appearances under between 1991-1996.
Braintree, boosted by their first win in the week against Hemel, looked fluent in the early stages with Joe Wright tipping Alfie Payne’s 25-yarder over.
Payne was one of just two Town players remaining from the January meeting but the ever-changing Iron pressed well and should have made more of a counter on 18 minutes when Aaron Blair’s effort was blocked by Joe Raynes with three furious teammates a better option for the visiting winger.
Their anger didn’t last long as two minutes later they opened the scoring.
Chris Regis found Alfie Matthews in room down the right, and although his low centre took a wicked bounce, Amantchi was able to side-foot home his second of the season from close range.
Rather than push for more and try and penetrate the Romans defence, Braintree’s tactics reverted into killing time when possible and effectively playing a back six, inviting City to attack and offering them possession. Having won 10 and drawn five of 15 previous games scoring first it carried some logic, but threatened to spoil the contest with Jack Sims in goal regularly winding down the clock to frustrate opposition players and supporters.
City thought they’d levelled on 39 minutes when Fletcher’s cross was neatly headed home by Scott Wilson, but an offside flag cut short celebrations.
The second half started in similar vein with Braintree reluctant to rely on any attacking threat and instead persisting in sitting deep, allowing City to try and pick them apart.
The Romans’ approach play was patient with Chris Lines’ 30-yard daisy-cutter arrowing inches wide of Sims’ right post as they probed dangerously.
Lines turned provider for the deserved leveller on 56 minutes. His corner to the near post was headed into the ground and in by Fletcher, his first of the season.
Braintree introduced Willie Clemons for Regis straight after, yet City still found time to lead before the 58th minute.
Kieran Parselle’s precise ball from the back caught the away defence napping and Cooke nipped in to delicately lob the stranded Sims from 18 yards and turn the game on its head.
It meant Angelo Harrop’s team had to come out of their shells but the Romans barely allowed them. A bending effort from Dan Hayfield from 20 yards was shovelled behind by Sims and Cooke nearly caught the keeper off his line from just inside the Braintree half, but the backtracking keeper was relived to see it float just over.
Having posed little opening threat since taking the lead, Town had two glimmers in the final few minutes. Kyron Farrell’s cross was headed into the air by Clemons and Joe Muscatt’s acrobatic effort required Wright to dive full-stretch to his right and parry behind for a corner.
In added time Farrell’s free-kick was inch-perfect for Clemons but the substitute wastefully headed over from 10 yards.
From the resulting goal-kick, Cooke beat John White in the air to set Fletcher away. The attacker was about to pull the trigger before Farrell’s desperate lunge brought him down for a nailed on penalty and a yellow card for the full-back.
Having scored two from the spot against Braintree last season, Cooke took responsibility again and with typical aplomb wrong-footed Sims to roll home and rubber-stamp the home side’s win.
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c), Fletcher, Hayfield, Cooke, Lines, Spokes (Smith 90+3), Wilson. Subs not used: Batten, Frear, Clarke, Bell.
Scorers: City – Fletcher (56), Cooke (57, pen 90+2); Braintree – Amantchi (20)
City Bookings: none
Officials: D Wootton, T Anstice-Mitchell, M King