Bath City (1) 2 Chelmsford City (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 22 December 2018 – Twerton Park
Bath City struck early and late to gift-wrap three early Christmas points with a welcome victory against Chelmsford City. Anthony Straker and Tom Smith grabbed the goals for a first win over the Essex club in just over three years, and their first in the league for three contests. That pushes the Romans up and over Chelmsford, into eighth place in National League South with a game in hand on many of the other promotion contenders, and only goals scored keeping them out of the top seven. It also sets City up nicely for three festive games in close proximity, starting with Boxing Day’s derby trip to Chippenham Town, then a clash with Somerset rivals Weston-super-Mare and the return meeting with Chippenham.
The first period they dominated. Chelmsford saw little of the ball, the Romans midfield sweeping up almost anything that came their way. And even when they passed the midfield trio of Frankie Artus, Joe Raynes and Smith, the visitors found the City defence in command. Up the top end of the pitch there was copious pressing from Ryan Brunt and Smith, which put the defence and goalkeeper’s kicking under pressure. The half-time lead was fully deserved for the hosts, even though it came in somewhat confusing circumstances. Ross Stearn made his way to the byline on the left and sent in a low cross. All eyes across Twerton Park were on the ball skidding into the box, other than referee Richard Gardner, who saw Stearn fouled by a late challenge from Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and pointed to the spot. It seemed nobody in the ground initially realised the decision, but eventually Romans skipper Straker trotted up and sent keeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer the wrong way from 12 yards.
And the Romans continued to run the first half-hour from thereon. Adam Mann was frustrated come a double chance. Chelmsford failed to clear Brunt’s cross and the ball dropped to Mann, his two efforts blocked by desperate visiting bodies. Stearn, on the receiving end of plenty rough treatment from the Chelmsford defence, was then unable to wrap his foot around the ball attempting a volleyed cross. Most of the Chelmsford danger came and went in one brief spell, when Ryan Clarke first punched clear a long throw, and then watched his team-mates fend off more balls into the box. Clarke also just got a touch on a ball in from the left that dropped around the penalty spot and briefly had the hosts nerves on edge before a clearance came.
The second period began with a scramble in the City box. The clutch of bodies in black and white crowded out two attempted shots, the second running through to Clarke as the referee turned down shouts of handball from Chelmsford. There was more blocking in the area for the home defence when the crowd witnessed the rare sight of an indirect free-kick for a backpass; Batten, under pressure, touching the ball with Clarke a yard away. Around 12 yards out, the visitors knocked the ball off but the City defence raced out to get in the way of the stinging final effort. Clarke had little trouble falling to his left to keep out a tame Jonathan Giles volley, before the Romans were dramatically denied a second. Smith was fouled on the right-hand corner of the box by Moldovan Adrian Cascaval, setting up a shooting chance from a free-kick. Mann took aim for the near corner, but his attempt deflected off the wall and looped towards the back post, where swiftly backtracking Maynard-Brewer palmed the ball off his line. The City man was only inches away with his next effort, dashing towards goal and shooting just wide from the edge of the penalty area. Somehow City survived when Tom Wraight deflected a Chez Isaac cross onto the underside of the bar from mere yards out. The ball bounced down onto the line and away to keep the Romans ahead. Chelmsford piled on the pressure in the closing stages, though could have easily conceded a second when Brunt chased down two defenders, and then the keeper, whose clearance hit the striker but ricocheted wide. Stearn also walloped a free-kick into the wall, but the game was eventually killed off when Smith found the net. The away side needlessly gave away a corner kick, which City initially tried to keep in the corner. But the Clarets got sucked in, allowing Mann to get along the byline and pass the ball back for Smith to slip into the net.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Artus, Raynes, Mann, Smith, Brunt, Stearn. Subs not used: Amankwaah, Richards, Ollis, Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – Straker (pen 6), Smith (90+4); Chelmsford – none
City Bookings: Cundy (60)
Officials: R Gardner, A Berrow, C Hubbard