Bath City (1) 3 Exeter City (2) 4 – Pre-Season Friendly – Friday 16 July 2021 – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Matt Jay’s 83rd minute strike decided a humdinger of a friendly in Exeter’s favour after Bath City nearly claimed an unlikely draw.
The Grecians had led 2-0 and 3-1 but Tom Smith’s quickfire double had City on level terms with nine minutes left.
The clinical Romans scored with all three of their shots on target but the lively Exeter front line caused problems for the hosts’ makeshift defence.
City also lost Omar Holness to a pulled hamstring to increase manager Jerry Gill’s injury woes.
League Two Exeter had won their last four friendlies at Twerton without conceding and that record looked set to continue as they flew out the traps.
Inside the opening five minutes former Bath loanee Alex Hartridge volleyed Joel Randall’s corner wastefully over and Sam Nombe’s side-footed Jack Sparkes’ low cross against the base of the post.
Gill’s men improved but were powerless to prevent a 17th minute opener.
Josh Key’s ball into the six yard box was cushioned back from Nombe to James Dodd, whose shot across Will Fuller took a nick off Dan Ball on its way into the bottom corner.
The visitors added a second on the half hour. Randall and Key linked up down the right before the latter turned Holness in the box and expertly guided the ball just inside Fuller’s right post much to the goalkeeper’s annoyance.
The Romans replied six minutes before the interval. Holness won possession down the right and floated across to Alex Fletcher. He squared it to Cody Cooke who didn’t get the cleanest connection on his effort from 12 yards, but it had enough to bounce past Scott Brown in the Exeter goal.
Fletcher nearly got in on the act after the interval. Eddie Jones’ ball forward saw the striker hold off Hartridge before looping over the bar with Brown rapidly advancing off his line.
Within a minute, Exeter extended their lead. Ball’s slack pass was pounced upon by Key who slid it through to Dodd. He laid it off to Nombe who found the bottom corner from 10 yards with Fuller unable to react in time.
Exeter boss Matt Taylor swapped his ten outfield players just past the hour but the newly introduced forwards continued to give Bath’s backline problems, with Jack Veale’s dangerous delivery glanced narrowly wide from the head of Jay.
The players were allowed a drinks break in both halves with temperatures surpassing 25 degrees, and City returned from the second of them with real intent, overcoming the loss of Holness who pulled up to be replaced by Jack Batten for his first outing of pre-season.
Their efforts were rewarded with a second goal on 76 minutes. Cooke out-muscled Pierce Sweeney and pulled it back from the byline to Tom Richards. The midfielder’s attempted shot was arrowing wide but the well-placed Smith was perfectly placed to chest in from almost on the goalline.
Smith received the 2019/20 Golden Boot Trophy before the match and he proved that he’s still hungry for goals as he notched a second five minutes later. Fuller’s goal-kick was flicked on by Cooke to Smith who darted between two defenders and tidily rolled it past the advancing Brown to put City on level terms.
It proved to be short-lived as the League Two side scored what proved to be the winner within two minutes. Jevani Brown’s cross from the right found Jay who held off Kyle Anderson and shot through the legs of the trialist with Fuller beaten by the pace of the shot.
Veale had a header ruled out for offside in stoppage time as Exeter comfortably saw out the closing stages for a third pre-season win in a row against lower league opponents.
For injury-hit Bath it was a second defeat from two at home with nine conceded against loftier opponents, but Gill will have drawn positives from his team’s attacking intent and will keep his fingers crossed that he can call upon further reinforcements at the back before Saturday’s visit of National League North outfit Gloucester City.
City’s Line-Up: Fuller, Jones, Holness (Batten 74), Richards, Anderson, Ball (c), James (Harley 78), Neilson (Dowling 71), Cooke, T Smith, Fletcher. Subs not used: Welsh.
Scorers: City – Cooke (39), T Smith (76,81); Exeter – Dodd (17), Nombe (30,57), Jay (83)
City Bookings: Anderson (81)
Officials: C Peters, D Gay, O Taylor, M Terry