Paulton Rovers (1) 1 Bath City (1) 4 – Tuesday 2 May 2023 – Somerset Premier Cup Final – The Optima Stadium
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Bath City ended the season by winning the Somerset Premier Cup for a record equalling 25th time.
Dan Hayfield’s double plus stoppage time strikes from Scott Wilson and Luke Spokes saw off lower league Paulton Rovers.
The Southern Division One South West side had shocked the Romans at the Optima Stadium, home of Weston-super-Mare, when Ed Butcher gave them an early lead.
But City’s overall fitness levels told as they overpowered their near neighbours to claim the cup for the first time in 15 years.
Paulton were City’s opponents on that occasion in 2008. Their present version were shorn of the cup tied Nick Hewlett, Joe Morgan and Will Hailston as City attacked from the off and knocked the ball around tidily, aided by a superb surface.
Rovers were on the back foot but with their first attack on 11 minutes broke the deadlock. Former Bath Academy midfielder Leo Eglin found space in midfield and spotted a darting run from Butcher. The top scorer was left alone in the box and confidently side-footed through Max Harris for a surprise lead.
The Step 4 outfit, who finished over 40 places below City in the pyramid, stood firm to prevent Jerry Gill’s side a way back in with Neil Martin’s tremendous block from Opi Edwards keeping them ahead.
Jack Fillingham shot straight at Harris on a counter but they were largely forced to defend in numbers.
Wilson was denied a penalty when he appeared to be caught by goalkeeper Aaron Sainsbury, who then saved tremendously from Edwards’ header back across goal.
The resulting corner led to City’s leveller on 42 minutes. Chris Lines’ precise outswinger was superbly redirected home via the far post by the head of Hayfield to send the sides in level at the break.
Rex Mannings was introduced for Edwards soon after and a fizzing delivery by the new arrival just missed a posse of players in the middle.
Jordan Dyer headed Lines’ corner over on the hour before Mannings just missed connecting Elliott Frear’s teasing ball from the left.
Dyer claimed an assist for City’s second with nine minutes remaining. The centre-back was chopped down on the edge of the box resulting in his withdrawal and Hayfield’s resulting free-kick was driven low through the wall and under the body of the outstretched Sainsbury.
Paulton introduced centre-back Mike Ilea from the bench as an emergency forward but it was their backline who were exposed with a third from the Romans in added time.
Dan Restorick’s long throw was headed away by Jack Batten and substitute Luke Spokes’ fresh legs sparked a break. He sprayed the ball into Wilson’s path and the top scorer out-paced Joe Paradise before blasting into the corner past Sainsbury to record his 24th goal of the season.
Wilson returned the favour in the dying seconds when he received the ball in the box, laid it off for Spokes who confidently drilled home from 12 yards to round the evening off perfectly.
It gave Jerry Gill his first silverware as City boss, having also won the competition twice as a player in the mid 90s and signed off the campaign in perfect style.
City’s Line-Up: Harris, Raynes, Dyer (Spokes 80), Batten, Parselle (c), Hayfield (Ford 90+5), Frear, Lines, Wilson, Morton, Edwards (Mannings 52). Sub not used: Clarke.
Scorers: City – Hayfield (42, 81), Wilson (90+2), Spokes (90+4); Paulton – Butcher (11)
City Bookings: Parselle (25), Dyer (67)
Officials: S Pearson, M Eva, M Russell