Bath City (1) 3 Hampton & Richmond Borough (0) 1 – Saturday 26 August 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match report by Mark Stillman.
Alex Fletcher’s return to action capped off a special afternoon for Bath City.
The striker made a cameo appearance from the bench following nearly 10 months on the sidelines after a horrific accident against Dulwich Hamlet left him in a coma for five days and having to learn how to walk again.
His teammates made his day even sweeter with Scott Wilson’s tidy brace and Ewan Clark’s stunning curler helping see off Hampton & Richmond, who pulled one back late through a fine Rob Hall finish.
While City’s goals were pleasing on the eye, the loudest applause was saved for Fletcher when he replaced Cody Cooke five minutes from the end of normal time.
City started strongly with Jordan Thomas’ 25-yarder well held by Adam Desbois inside three minutes.
Their enterprising opening was rewarded with a 19th minute goal. Luke Russe’s glorious crossfield ball found Clark in space, his perfect centre bounced in front of Wilson but he wasn’t deterred, blasting into the roof of the net from close range to conclude a super move.
Clark was proving a real handful for the Hampton backline. Having eased past Dan Wishart his goalbound effort was blocked by the well-placed centre-back Dean Inman.
Ollie Wright was tested on 21 minutes when Sam Deadfield’s left wing cross was headed out by Dan Greenslade to Hampton’s Jordan Thomas, whose drilled attempt was blocked by the legs of City’s number one.
Jake Gray tried to catch Wright out at his near post with a low free-kick and Mason Bloomfield headed over in opportunities late in the first half.
City added a second just shy of the hour. Wilson started a move from inside his own half, picking out Thomas on the left. His ball in was intercepted by Wishart but landed straight to Wilson, whose decision to shoot first time proved wise as his unerring strike from 20 yards flew past the helpless Desbois.
Hampton responded by introducing Connor Kurran-Browne for Gray. He and fellow substitute Rob Hall added impetus to the attack – Kurran-Browne’s teasing cross was nodded down and wide by Bloomfield and Hall’s superb pass with the outside of his foot was arrowed wide by teammate Thomas.
Instead, another piece of classy finishing increased City’s lead.
Clark received the ball wide right from Dan Hayfield, tied Wishart in knots before devilishly curling home from the edge of the box into the bottom left corner.
All four sides of the ground were on their feet on 85 minutes when Jerry Gill introduced Fletcher, 291 days after fighting for his life following a collision with a perimeter wall at the Bristol End.
The stadium was slightly hushed three minutes later when former Roman Ben Seymour went down after colliding with Wright and referee Callum Fisk pointed to the spot, though changed his mind after consulting with assistant Thomas Green.
Wright’s clean sheet was denied in the fourth minute of added time when Hall weaved inside of three City defenders before rifling into the top right corner from 18 yards – a tidy way to open his Hampton account.
A reckless lunge by Shane Dunne on Clark saw him fortunate to escape with just a caution as the midfielder was lucky to avoid injury.
While he and several others shone in an accomplished performance, the day will more be remembered for Fletcher’s return on a heartwarming afternoon for those associated with Bath City Football Club.
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Raynes, Greenslade, Batten, Parselle (c), Cooke (Fletcher 85), Smith (Hayfield 64), Clark, Thomas (Frear 72), Wilson, Russe. Subs not used: Dyer, Lines.
Scorers: Wilson (19, 59), Clark (71)
City Bookings: Russe (12), Smith (33), Raynes (43)
Officials: C Fisk, C Hubbard, T Green