Bath City (2) 2 Weymouth (0) 1 – Tuesday 13 September 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Early goals from Alex Fletcher and Cody Cooke sealed a third successive home win for Bath City.
The deadly duo made it 11 goals between them in eight matches this season to lift City to fifth in National League South.
Winless Weymouth, recently relegated from the National League, showed a lot of spirit and pulled one back when half-time substitute Brad Ash followed up his own penalty saved from Joe Wright.
Cooke was denied his second and City’s third in added time when debutant Ryan Sandford parried his spot-kick in one of the last actions of a pulsating contest.
David Oldfield’s men arrived at a sodden Twerton Park with just two league wins since November 2021 and their confidence was further sapped when they conceded inside three minutes.
Cooke sneaked in ahead of Nathan Carlyle on the left touchline and his low centre picked out Fletcher in oceans of space in the penalty area. He was afforded the time to take a touch and easily side-foot past Sandford from near the penalty spot.
It was 2-0 on eight minutes. Dan Greenslade’s header down found Tom Smith, making his first start of the season, in space some 25 yards out.
He slipped it on to Cooke in the penalty area who cut inside of Luke Nippard and superbly bent the ball into the bottom right corner off the inside of the post to give Sandford no chance.
Two inspired blocks from Carlyle kept it at 2-0, firstly from Greenslade’s teasing cross and in the follow-up he threw himself in the way of Smith’s placed drive.
The Terras nearly snatched one back midway through the half when Tom Blair’s low ball bypassed Tom Bearwish and ran kindly for the onrushing Noa Boutin, but Wright showed smart reactions to keep the ball out low to his right.
Boutin, on loan from Bournemouth, arrived in a similar position just past the half hour. This time Blair’s ball was headed back from Dan Gifford to the adventurous full-back, his sweet strike beat Wright who was grateful to see Chris Lines prop up on the goal line to juggle the ball away.
Sandford did well to bat away Jordan Dyer’s header from Lines’ corner after the centre-back was left completely unmarked, with Dan Hayfield’s 30-yarder well gathered by the stopper shortly afterwards.
Weymouth missed a glorious chance to pull one back on 42 minutes when the tricky Blair saw his cross palmed out by Wright to Keelan O’Connell, who lost his footing in testing conditions which allowed Kieran Parselle to hammer clear.
The visitors made two changes at the break with O’Connell and Gifford withdrawn for Matt Burrows and Ash.
It had a near immediate effect as Oldfield’s men won a penalty within six minutes of the restart. Blair’s cross looked too high for Bearwish but while jumping for the ball he went to ground under minimal pressure from Joe Raynes, with referee Samuel Read pointing to the spot, cautioning the City vice-captain.
Ash’s kick was well saved but the former Chippenham forward was quickest to the rebound to slot through Wright’s legs.
The keeper kept City ahead when Xander McBurnie’s excellent pass picked out Blair whose stinging drive was parried just away from the lurking Ash.
Jack Batten was introduced for Scott Wilson as Jerry Gill opted for an unorthodox 5-2-1-2 formation to try and prevent more openings for the Dorset outfit.
They had one more chance. Cameron Murray’s cross from the left was met by the head of Bearwish six yards out, but Wright somehow got a hand on it to tip it onto the top of the crossbar and away – a magnificent save.
With City’s new-look defence looking more assured, they looked the more likely side to net in the dying stages, with the pressure resulting in a penalty seconds into stoppage time.
Smith’s through ball was initially intercepted by Boutin but he was then harshly penalised for upending Fletcher who had sneaked on the blind side.
Having scored three spot-kicks already this season, Cooke took responsibility but saw his kick saved by Sandford, who showed incredible reflexes to deny Fletcher twice and Smith in subsequent rebounds.
The display of both goalkeepers would have impressed any watching Millwall scouts with both on loan from the Lions – City’s attitude would have impressed Gill even more as they clinched a fourth win in five games.
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Raynes, Greenslade, Parselle (c), Fletcher, Hayfield, Cooke, Smith, Lines, Wilson (Batten 70). Subs not used: Frear, Clarke, Spokes, Mannings.
Scorers: City – Fletcher (3), Cooke (8); Weymouth – Ash (52)
City Bookings: Raynes (51), Greenslade (59)
Officials: S Read, J Welsh, M Terry