Bath City (1) 2 St Albans City (1) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 28 April 2018 – Twerton Park
There were two bouts of penalty drama late in the day at Twerton Park, but Bath City bid farewell to their 2017/18 National League South campaign with victory over St Albans City. A spot kick from Matt Richards – who also wasted a penalty in the first period – was the difference between the sides, yet the Romans still required goalkeeper Luke Southwood to save a Saints penalty and sign off his loan spell from Reading in fine fettle. The sides had entered the second period locked at 1-1. After Richards had his first spot kick saved by away keeper Dean Snedker, Tom Smith thumped City ahead with a stunner. They were thwarted by Snedker throughout the first period and were struck with a stoppage-time sucker punch when Zane Banton shot his side level, though their play-off hopes would come crashing down after the interval as the hosts sealed ninth place.
City were in their stride from the off and James Morton sent the opening shot of the day down the throat of Snedker. He was called into action again when the Romans were awarded a penalty, for Percy Kiangebeni’s clumsy foul on Antoine Semenyo. However, the Saints stopper kept his sheet clean, flinging himself right to keep Richards’ penalty out from just inside the post. Unperturbed, City continued to come forward and saw Watkins float one effort well off target, before diving Jack Batten should have delivered them the advantage when he stooped, unmarked, to head a Richards free-kick just past the post. Though St Albans created reasonable number of chances in the first period, they never truly threatened Southwood’s goal. Tom Bender flicked a back-header straight at the young custodian, while a crucial block kept out David Noble’s effort, the chance arising when Batten misjudged a long Bender throw down the line. Dangerous frontman Semenyo rose well above his marker and sent a low header goalwards which threatened to skid past Snedker, whose save was not clean. There was a hairy moment when Dan Ball was lost possession on the corner of his own box. His recovery tackle fell at the feet of Merson, but he dragged well wide. Just past the half-hour City took a fully deserved lead when Smith picked up the ball, moved forward and rifled past outstretched Snedker for his tenth league goal of the campaign. If not for their keeper, Saints would have been dead and buried. He made another fine stop soon enough as Smith slipped Watkins in behind to draw a sprawling save. Southwood was also made to dive full-stretch to pluck a slow-motion Bender header from the air. However, it was his opposite number called into action again when hustling Semenyo muscled Kiangebeni off the ball, cut inside and forced a finger-tip save. The resulting corner popped out of a crowd of bodies and was cleared off the line, but the visitors levelled on their next forward foray. Indecision and a failure to clear a corner eventually saw the ball fall at the feet of Banton to thump low past Southwood in first-half stoppage time.
Semenyo nipped into to nick the ball away from Banton’s toe, only to scythe into the Bath End early in the second period. The Bristol City loanee also flicked a header wide around the hour, but the second period was initially much less open than the first, as the Saints came out in more determined mood still hoping to reach the play-offs. The biggest threat remained Semenyo and he showed great strength to hold off a defender on the left side of the box, but shot low into the keeper’s palms from a tight angle. Up the other end, St Albans wasted a golden opportunity to get ahead. Southwood came out to clear a through ball, which fell to Banton and he teed up Sam Merson, with an open goal gaping, who ballooned onto the terrace packed with travelling fans. Oaklan Buck was unable to trouble Snedker with a long-range effort, but the second goal came with 12 minutes to go. The away side gave away possession cheaply from their own corner, Watkins was chopped down by a sliding Jamie Sendles-White, and Richards made amends. The veteran midfielder trotted up to the ball and sent Snedker the wrong way as he clipped his effort coolly into the net. The drama was not over, however, as Southwood made two decisive saves. First he tipped a Shaun Lucien free-kick around the post, yet from the resulting corner Saints won a penalty for a harsh handball call against Richards. Up stepped Merson to the spot. He began a bizarre run-up backwards, turned and fired low and hard to give Southwood a relatively simple save. Enter stoppage-time, there should have been a third for City as Semenyo turned two defenders inside out and laid the ball across for Watkins to nudge wide with Snedker nowhere to be seen.
City’s Line-Up: Southwood, Welch-Hayes, Straker (c), Richards, Batten, Ball, Buck (G Rigg 72), Morton, Semenyo, Smith, Watkins. Subs not used: Amankwaah, Ollis, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Smith (32), Richards (pen 77); St Albans – Banton (45)
City Bookings: Semenyo (60)
Officials: T Reeves, C Barlow, M Derrien