Bath City (1) 1 Hemel Hempstead Town (0) 0 – Tuesday 7 March 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Cody Cooke’s first goal since October claimed an important midweek win for Bath City. Shorn of the ill Scott Wilson, Cooke’s return to scoring was a welcome boost for the Romans to move them within seven points of the play-offs. Max Harris recoded a third successive clean sheet, notably showing fine reactions to keep out Bayley Brown in the first half. Cooke’s header was touched onto the bar late on as City hunted a second, but another well-organised defensive display meant one was enough at a freezing Twerton Park.
Fresh from an impressive goalless draw at champions elect Ebbsfleet at the weekend, Hemel appeared to adopt similar tactics against City – happy to grant the hosts possession and defend in numbers. It worked until a 14th minute breakthrough with a well-worked goal. Chris Lines picked out Dan Hayfield on the right and his superb first-time volleyed cross was met by the well-placed Cooke, whose initial effort was blocked before he eventually scrambled in from near the goalline to claim his 13th goal of an injury hit season.
It forced Hemel to come out and only a timely Jack Batten intervention, on his 200th league outing, denied Charlee Hughes when Josh Castiglione fed him through. Brown had Hemel’s best chance on the half hour when Nana Owusu found him unmarked in the box, but he shot too close to Harris who flung himself to his right and parried behind for a corner. Batten flicked Lines’ corner agonisingly wide and Hemel gave City a scare from their own set-piece, Kory Roberts’ firm header from Castiglione’s delivery deflected off target in the last action of an entertaining first half.
Town resumed with a lot of vigour as Owusu found half a yard inside a minute of the restart but his arrowing drive from the edge of the box was too close to Harris. Referee Craig Scriven unintentionally blocked Castiglione on a run forward but the ball ran loose to Brown who again didn’t have sufficient direction to test the City keeper, another smart gather from the on-loan glovesman. A double change saw Hemel alter to 4-2-3-1 with former Roman Ryan Case back at Twerton in a holding midfield role.
Their understandable urgency pressing forward left gaps for City to exploit. Sonny Cox’s tremendous burst of pace and strength saw him escape Kyle Ajayi before a curling effort was beaten out by King, Elliott Frear’s follow-up cleared by Roberts. Cooke had the best chance to double the lead when Lines’ dangerous free-kick was met by the forward, but his header was touched onto the bar by King and knocked behind for a corner. The final scare for City saw Castiglione find room in behind after neat play by Hemel on the left but Jordan Dyer stood tall to block.
City saw out four minutes of added time to make it seven points from nine, also the first time they’ve kept three successive clean sheets in the league since April 2019.
City’s Line-Up: Harris, Dyer, Batten, Parselle (c), Hayfield, Cooke, Smith (Spokes 65), Frear (Greenslade 83), Lines, Morton, Cox. Subs not used: Clarke, Ford, Minzamba.
Scorers: City – Cooke (14); Hemel – none
City Bookings: Cooke (71)
Officials: C Scriven, C Hubbard, G Pearce