Bath City (2) 3 Bristol Rovers (1) 1 – Tuesday 12 July 2022 – Pre-Season Friendly – Twerton Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Bath City turned on the style in front of nearly 2,000 at Twerton Park in a pre-season win against League One Bristol Rovers.
Joey Barton’s men took a 12th minute lead through Ryan Loft but an Alex Fletcher double before the break put the Romans ahead.
Cody Cooke’s penalty soon after the interval wrapped up Bath’s win of the summer.
Rovers were surprisingly lacklustre and struggled to threaten Joe Wright in the second half.
The League One side started brightly with Aaron Collins cutting in from the left before seeing his goalbound effort headed away by the well-placed Jordan Dyer.
Former Gashead midfielder Chris Lines received a warm welcome from the Rovers faithful and his free-kick on nine minutes was headed across by Dyer to Cooke, who nodded over.
The visitors took a 12th minute lead when the impressive Collins darted to the byline, saw his pull-back batted out by Wright to Loft, who was perfectly placed to slam home from eight yards.
Joe Raynes volleyed over after Luke Spokes’ persistence and Elliott Frear’s cross created an opening.
The Romans made their next chance count on the half hour. Frear’s centre proved impossible to defend as Fletcher claimed the final touch at the near post, albeit with a hint of handball.
There were no arguments over Bath’s second. Dan Greenslade’s superbly lofted ball back into the box from Frear’s partially cleared corner saw Fletcher steal in and his deft touch preceded a thumping finish into the roof of the net.
Rovers nearly forced a leveler on the cusp of half-time when Harry Anderon’s centre was followed by Collins’ miscue parried by Wright, who then scooped the follow-up from James Gibbons around his post.
Jerry Gill’s team made a dream start to the second half when Cooke was adjudged to be nudged in the back from Gibbons in the box, and the forward dusted himself down to send James Belshaw the wrong with a confident penalty.
Chances were few and far between afterwards as Barton’s men struggled to make inroads against a well-organised home backline, as they decided to stick with their starting XI for the entire contest whereas Gill shuffled his pack.
One of his substitutes, Tom Smith, went close soon after coming on when his low shot from Frear’s pull-back was ricocheted behind from James Connolly with Belshaw beaten.
Belshaw denied Smith and Cooke in quick succession before the game threatened to boil over in stoppage time after Loft lashed out petulantly on a City trialist having already won a free-kick. Anthony Evans’ set-piece after order was restored bounced harmlessly wide.
Gill was thrilled that so many were in attendance, the highest recorded for a friendly between these clubs, to witness his team’s display.
“That was a really pleasing all-round performance,” he said. “It was a real good test for us and I thank Joey for bringing his side over. For these first three friendlies I thought it would be more about out-of-possession stuff and that we wouldn’t get too much success going forward. We created a lot of chances against Cheltenham and tonight we’ve scored three and could have had five. It made the game competitive with a big crowd. It was great to see so many people, it felt like a league game.”
Gill is happy with his recruitment thus far but hinted he’s not done yet.
“There’s really strong competition, especially in the middle of the park and I want to still add to it if I can,” he said. “I might bring in one or two more, it’s a squad with a lot of depth. We’ve managed the minutes of the players really well as a staff. The trialists have helped us out massively. We’re starting to see from all of them that they work hard for each other. They’re listening and taking in information, it’s like night and day to last year. They’ve blended well as a group but there’s a lot of work to do.”
City travel to Evesham United on Saturday (KO 2.30pm) as part of their training camp, where the players will train at University of Bath tomorrow and spend two nights together.
“There’ll be a bit of fatigue because the camp is tiring but the crucial thing is we’ll be together for two days,” said Gill. “Evesham is a challenge now because they’ll have a right go at us. We’ve got to keep our habits the same from these three games. It’s one of the best pre-seasons I’ve had at this club.”
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Raynes (Trialist B 86), Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c) (Batten 50), Fletcher (Jaiyeoba 68), Spokes (Smith 64), Cooke, Frear (Mannings 77), Lines (Trialist A 82), Hayfield. Subs not used: Clarke, Trialist C, Trialist D.
Scorers: City – Fletcher (30, 38), Cooke (pen 52); Rovers – Loft (12)
City Bookings: none
Officials: S Ouchene, D Flynn, A Hobbs