Bath City (1) 1 Dartford (1) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 4 August 2018 – Twerton Park
Delano Sam-Yorke’s late penalty sunk Bath City’s opening day ambitions as Dartford took the points from a dramatic finish at Twerton Park. Sam-Yorke’s was the second spot-kick in a matter of minutes for the visitors. The first had been a puzzling award, the second more clear-cut. The Darts substitute latched on to a misplaced backpass from Ross Stearn and was brought down by Ryan Clarke when attempting to round the keeper. He stepped up and scored from 12 yards, moments after team-mate Elliot Bradbrook had blazed his own penalty into the Bristol End. That all came after the Romans had taken the lead in the tenth minute via summer signing Adam Mann. A series of set-pieces for the visitors eventually brought about the equaliser, scored by Bradbrook in first-half stoppage time.
From the off it was the Romans that looked to have more ideas about them. Ross Stearn was a menace from the left flank and caused early problems. He fired one ambitious effort wide from some 35 yards out, before sending in a delicious cross that just bent away from Ryan Brunt. That promise turned into the opening goal of the season from Mann, as he rode two challenges, set himself at the edge of the penalty area and fired past Deren Ibrahim into the bottom corner. As the visitors began to settle, their threat increased. Ryan Clarke was untroubled by Bradbrook’s first header, which looped into his hands. The pacy Kudus Oyenuga also had the chance to run in behind on a long ball over the top, the City defence getting back in enough numbers to repel his effort. Largely, though, opportunities from open play were few for the Kent outfit as they earned a number of set-pieces. A well-struck Chez Isaac volley, on the back of one such dead-ball that had been half-cleared, was cleanly held by Clarke. City were still threatening, Stearn jagging in from the right and firing another long-range shot into Brunt’s legs. Their second could well have arrived when Sean Rigg found himself in acres of space at the byline on the left, but Mann scuffed the cutback kindly into Ibrahim’s mitts. An acute cross-shot from Oyenuga was pushed behind by the sliding Clarke to force another Darts corner, which Ronnie Vint headed past the post from an awkward leap. Rigg had a header of his own off target at the other end, his nod from Anthony Straker’s first-time cross clearing the bar. But set-pieces continued to come for the away side and the leveller arrived from a corner. It was Bradbrook’s header that got the goal, awarded by the assistant official as Raynes tried desperately to clear from the line with no luck.
City were right back at it after the break and carved out a quick chance when Mann, in space to the right of the box, pulled back for Watkins, only for Cornishman to slice his shot. Ibrahim was tested, however, when Rigg eyed a 30-yard drive that had the keeper sprawling to tip over. The Romans had also seen a couple of corners come and go in a spell of concerted pressure. Dartford’s set-piece barrage was lessened after the break, though Jamie Philpot did see a header skid off the turf and into Clarke’s hands at a corner. Tempers threatened to boil over when Callum Driver bizarrely leapt on Straker’s back and ended up in the book, but when the teams cooled off City carved open perhaps their best chance of the second period. Sub John Mills was given his first shooting chance, his low shot drawing a save from Ibrahim and Stearn’s follow-up blocked behind for a corner. Then came the late drama. Robbie Cundy sliced a clearance, which allowed Dartford a double chance in the box. The second was booted over only for the referee, whose initial decision was unclear, to award a penalty against Cundy for dragging down a purple shirt. Bradbrook stepped up and thumped an awful penalty onto the terracing, but Sam-Yorke was more clinical from the spot when his chance came to seal victory for the away side.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Raynes, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Morton, Watkins, Rigg (Artus 80), Mann, Brunt (Mills 70), Stearn. Subs not used: Richards, Ball, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Mann (9); Dartford – Bradbrook (45), Sam-Yorke (pen 87)
City Bookings: Clarke (86)
Officials: R Massey-Ellis, A Berrow, R Martin