Bath City (1) 3 Billericay (0) 0 – Saturday 14 August 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park

Bath City (1) 3 Billericay (0) 0 – Saturday 14 August 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park

Match Report by Mark Stillman.

Bath City recorded their biggest opening day victory for 16 years as they brushed aside Billericay Town at Twerton Park.

The front three all netted their first goals for the club much to the delight of manager Jerry Gill, who watched from the main stand due to a one-match touchline ban.

Ryan Clarke marked his 99th appearance for the club with a clean sheet against the only side that failed to net against City in the league last season.

He was nearly embarrassed by Jai Reason’s lob from 45 yards but was relieved to see the ball come back off the crossbar in the closest the visitors came to scoring.

The teams entered a buzzing Twerton Park to a magnificent rendition of Nessun Dorma by opera singer Anthony Flaum and City’s early promise wasn’t bad either.

Mo Touray skipped past Rowan Liburd with ease and his pull-back saw Alex Fletcher’s snapshot well turned behind by Bailey Vose.

Kevin Watson’s team were dealt a blow in the eighth minute when attacker Darren Foxley limped off, and with fellow striker Toyosi Olusanya absent amidst a potential move to Championship outfit Middlesbrough, it was the last thing the Blues’ front line needed.

The match settled down and City’s next effort on target wasn’t until the 34th minute. Jack Batten’s marauding run forward saw him clipped by substitute Norman Wabo, and Tom Smith’s resulting free-kick required a smart tip-over from Vose.

Cody Cooke failed to divert Smith’s dinked cross on target while at the other end Liburd bravely threw himself at Joe Felix’s centre but nodded over under pressure from captain Ben Gerring.

Touray showed the sides how to finish. Elliott Frear’s corner was cleared to Smith, whose purposeful ball found Touray on the edge of the box. After negotiating a yard of space, he thrashed the ball just inside Vose’s right post, the power alone beating the goalkeeper all ends up from 12 yards out.

Billericay showed good character after the break. Wabo’s run down the left saw his ball intercepted by Batten a yard from his own goal, and after a brief muddle Clarke courageously bounced on it before Reason could stab home.

Frankie Sutherland’s teasing free-kick was met by a stooping header from Michael Chambers but he couldn’t keep it down, picking out the 30-strong band of Billericay fans behind the goal rather than the back of the net.

The luck deserted the Essex club with those two chances, and their misfortune continued as City added a second with 20 minutes remaining.

Frear’s cross from the left was flicked by Fletcher to Cooke. The forward held off Liburd and saw his tame effort clip the heels of the Billericay man and deceive Vose who couldn’t get across in time to keep it out.

City were forced into a defensive change when Clarke cleaned out Batten and Liburd in gathering Felix’s hanging cross, leaving the centre-back with a sore hip and an early finish with longest-serving player Dan Ball on for the remaining 13 minutes.

Fletcher wasted a chance to make it three soon after. Cooke picked out his strike partner in room but the former Tiverton man poked his shot at against the legs of Vose, who spread himself well.

Substitute Tom Richards curled over the angle of post and crossbar from 18 yards after smart work by the tireless Fletcher, but it was a Billericay strike from over twice that distance which left the Romans momentarily flustered.

Reason robbed Cooke with ease and spotted Clarke off his line from over 40 yards. His lob saw the goalkeeper stumble as he back-tracked, but he led a charmed life as the ball cannoned off the bar with him beaten all ends up.

Fletcher got the goal he deserved just as stoppage time commenced. Luke Warner-Eley missed Cooke’s flicked header, Fletcher escaped down the right and clinically drove across Vose to wrap up the three points.

The jubilant fans were happy to lap it up afterwards. It was the first time since 7 March 2020 that a crowd were present at a competitive game at Twerton Park and the enjoyment for them, and the players, was evident throughout. A fine start for Gill’s charges and they’ll be hoping to back it up on Saturday against a Tonbridge Angels side torn apart by Ebbsfleet United at the weekend.

Att: 1180

City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Gerring (c), Batten (Ball 77), Wood, Fletcher, Holness (James 90), Cooke, Smith, Frear, Jones, Touray (Richards 83). Subs not used: Fuller, Harley.

Scorers: City – Touray (43), Cooke (70), Fletcher (90+1); Billericay – none

City Bookings: Cooke (45)

Officials: G Rollason, C Waller, B Duffill