Bath City (1) 3 St Albans City (0) 1 – Saturday 17 February 2024 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park

Bath City (1) 3 St Albans City (0) 1 – Saturday 17 February 2024 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park

Match Report by Mark Stillman.

A near-perfect home performance saw Bath City overcome play-off rivals St Albans.

Tom Smith and Richard Chin benefitted from defensive mistakes with James Alabi adding a third late to rubberstamp the win.

Shaun Jeffers pulled one back in added time, ending City’s run of five successive clean sheets.

But it was just consolation for the visitors who lost for the first time under interim boss Jon Meakes.

City made a lively start with Smith teeing up Tom Smith inside 30 seconds, but his touch was too heavy and Michael Johnson bravely thwarted him.

Dan Hayfield capitalised on a miscued clearance from Johnson, cut inside of Ben Smith before his strike flew a yard wide with the keeper standstill.

Ewan Clark prodded onto the inside of the post after stretching to connect with Joe Raynes’ teasing cross before St Albans sent the first shiver into the Bath backline with Michael Clark nodding Gio Rasulo’s corner inches wide.

Johnson’s dalliance from a backpass nearly cost an opener as Cooke snatched the ball away from him, but having lost his balance he scooped over the bar under pressure.

Another horrible error at the back benefitted the Romans as they took a 41st minute lead.

Former City defender Dan Bowry stumbled in instalments from Zane Banton’s pass allowing Ewan Clark to nip in and unselfishly square for Tom Smith, who side-footed in from 10 yards, his first goal for over six months.

The Saints had a penalty shout turned down two minutes later when Rasulo’s ball over the top was chased down by Jeffers, who tumbled under minimal pressure from Jordan Dyer.

City continued their momentum shooting up the slope in the second half where their pressing continued to force the visitors into lapses.

Clark robbed Jack James on halfway, played inside to Dan Greenslade who in turn presented the ball to Cooke. The striker’s stinging drive forced Johnson to fully stretch to his left, batting behind for a corner.

The keeper was left red faced for the second which gave City breathing space after a spell of defending.

Bowry’s backpass was adequate but in trying to clear first time, an ill-placed bobble meant Johnson kicked thin air and Chin capitalised to steal ahead of the desperate stopper before stabbing in from a yard out.

Smith had two chances in quick succession to extend the advantage, rolling wide from an acute angle before Johnson smartly denied him after Chin played the ball back from the byline.

It was Smith’s last involvement as he was replaced by Scott Wilson, on for his 100th outing in Stripes.

Cooke should have made the game safe on 73 minutes. Ben Smith’s careless pass towards his keeper was easily latched upon, but the forward placed a yard wide with Johnson cutting off the angle.

Instead his replacement Alabi recorded his first goal for the club, just four minutes after coming on.

Ewan Clark’s ball down the right preceded a slip from Michael Clark, allowing Alabi a run on goal. Johnson initially thwarted him but it looped in the air for the striker who cleverly nodded in the rebound from six yards.

Jeffers’ 24th of the season gave the Saints fans something to shout about on the way home.

From Dom Hutchinson’s deflected pass, the talisman span superbly on the edge of the box and in one motion planted into the bottom corner past Casa-Grande, the first goal he’s conceded since joining on loan from Bristol City.

Alabi’s diving header from Elliott Frear’s back post cross flew just wide but it mattered not as City celebrated a fine three points and their fourth straight league win.

Att: 1410

City’s Line-Up: Casa-Grande, Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c), Clark, Hayfield, Cooke (Alabi 84), Smith (Wilson 72), Chin (Frear 80), Russe. Subs not used: Batten, Lines.

Scorers: City – Smith (41), Chin (63), Alabi (89); St Albans – Jeffers (90+2)

City Bookings: Clark (74), Greenslade (83)

Officials: C Fisk, D Spyer, M Terry