Bath City (1) 1 Dartford (1) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Tuesday 24 October 2017 – Twerton Park

Bath City (1) 1 Dartford (1) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Tuesday 24 October 2017 – Twerton Park

Jerry Gill is still searching for his first league victory as Bath City manager as the 10 men of Dartford ran out 2-1 winners at Twerton Park. On a mild October night, it became heated on the pitch as tempers flared in the second half with Andy Pugh dismissed for a late lunge on Dan Ball. But it didn’t deter the visitors who snatched all three points when Alfie Pavey notched his second of the game late on after capitalising on a rare Ryan Case error.

This was all after the most extraordinary start to proceedings. Direct from the kick-off, Ryan Hayes audaciously attempted to catch Luke Southwood off his line and was milimetres away from succeeding, the desperately backtracking keeper relieved to see the ball crash against the bar. Following this explosive introduction, City settled down with George Rigg and Billy Murphy sending shots over Deren Ibrahim’s goal. Ball had to be alert to prevent Pavey after Case’s last-ditch challenge inadvertently left the forward through on goal. But he, and Bath, were powerless to prevent an opener on 32 minutes. Old-fashioned wing play from Lee Noble saw him maneuver past Anthony Straker before sending in a pinpoint cross for Pavey, who nodded in from two yards. Dartford had won all nine matches having scored first this season, and they nearly doubled their advantage soon after when Southwood reacted smartly to prevent Pugh from close range, before gathering Elliot Bradbrook’s header from Lyle Della-Verde’s resulting corner. City, having looked off-colour in the opening 40 minutes, sprung into life in the closing stages of the first half. Straker’s dangerous low cross saw Andy Watkins impede Tom Smith from a clear shot at goal, with Watkins then having a penalty appeal turned down after falling over a challenge from Keaton Wood. Watkins was further irked when referee Alex Blake failed to play an advantage after he was left clean through, instead bringing play back 40 yards. Despite this promise, they still hadn’t produced a shot on target, but their first of the night ended up in the back of the net. For the second time in four days the Romans benefitted from a deflection, this time Smith’s effort from 18 yards catching the heel of a defender and bouncing past the helpless Ibrahim.

The Gibraltar international was grateful for Ronnie Vint’s intervention just after half-time, the centre-back throwing himself in the way of Marvin Morgan’s effort after Watkins had tied Wood in knots. The hosts were in the ascendency but were nearly hit by a sucker punch when Della-Verde waltzed around the defence before wastefully blazing over. Morgan headed Billy Murphy’s precise free-kick wide when well-placed before Pavey thought he had a second at the other end, this time his header disallowed for pushing in the penalty box. It wasn’t the end of the fisticuffs as both teams squared up to each other on 71 minutes. When trying to clear, Ball was caught by Pugh, whose high lunge on the defender was deemed serious enough to warrant a straight red card. Pugh’s only defence was that he lost his footing when making the challenge, but regardless it was reckless and sparked mass confrontation which saw Pavey and Case booked in the aftermath. If anything, the dismissal galvanized Tony Burman’s men, with Case vitally blocking Della-Verde’s goalbound shot. Kaid Mohamed was introduced for Nat Jarvis on 77 minutes, and within seconds could have been a hero, unfortunately slipping as the ball ricocheted time him kindly in the penalty area. It proved costly, as a counter attack two minutes later resulted in Dartford’s second, and ultimately winning, goal. Case sold Southwood completely short with a backpass, much to the delight of Pavey. The former Millwall man showed terrific composure by rounding the stopper and slotting the ball in, his 12th goal of the season since his August arrival from Welling. How City could do with someone as prolific. Rigg, amongst the goals recently, nearly replicated his strike from Saturday, this time a deflection sending the ball agonisingly wide, but that was as good as it got for Jerry Gill’s men, with the City boss becoming the first since Gary Owers’ first spell in 2003 to fail to win his opening three league games. The fighting spirit cannot be questioned – literally. Players had to be separated at the end of a tempestuous second half which contained five yellow cards as well as Pugh’s red. There is promise but results wise it has been a disappointing October, with Hampton & Richmond standing in City’s way of picking up their only three points of the month on Saturday.

City’s Line Up: Southwood, Rigg, Straker (c), Smith, Case, Ball, Watkins (Edwards 61), Murphy (Lucas 88), Morgan, Artus, Jarvis (Mohamed 77). Subs not used: Ollis, Mellor.

Att: 449

Scorers: City – Smith (45+2); Dartford – Pavey (27, 81)

City Bookings: Case (??), Rigg (80)

Officials: A Blake, N Whitfield, C Hubbard