Billericay Town (0) 1 Bath City (1) 3 – Saturday 19 November 2022 – FA Trophy 2nd Round – New Lodge

Billericay Town (0) 1 Bath City (1) 3 – Saturday 19 November 2022 – FA Trophy 2nd Round – New Lodge

Match Report by Mark Stillman.

Bath City sent out the perfect ‘Get Well Soon’ message to Alex Fletcher in their return to action.

Goals from Elliott Frear, Dan Hayfield and Luke Spokes saw them progress to the FA Trophy 3rd Round at Billericay Town’s expense, where John Ufuah’s solo effort wasn’t enough for the Isthmian Leaguers.

Both teams passed on their goodwill messages to Fletcher, with City warming up in shirts donning his picture and number seven pre-match, which included a collaborative photograph with a banner displaying their support.

The game was also stopped in the seventh minute for the players and supporters to join in an applause for the front man who confirmed on Monday that he is now out of intensive care.

That stoppage was a rare one in a flowing first half which saw City make a breakthrough just past the quarter hour.

Hayfield’s bullet of a shot from 30 yards was well tipped over from Jack Seaden, but Billericay failed to clear the resulting corner which fell kindly to Frear, who beautifully curled into the top corner past the standstill stopper from the edge of the box.

The City winger celebrated his first goal since April by running to Fletcher’s number seven shirt, which was displayed in front of the away fans, with all 11 visiting players joining in.

Billericay were determined to be party poopers and forced Ryan Clarke into two saves, Anthony Jeffrey cutting inside before shooting too close to the glovesman before Eze Ebuzoeme was erringly close to netting direct from a corner, Clarke alert to push his dangerous inswinger behind.

Alfie Cerulli latched on to Jeffrey’s pass but his well-struck effort from 18 yards was parried away by Clarke.

Town continued their attacking threat two minutes after half-time when Ufuah darted away from Joe Raynes down the left but his pull-back was just behind Ebuzoeme, who readjusted but could only shoot wide.

While the hosts created better openings, City remained controlled on the ball and they made the most of a counter a minute after Ebuzoeme’s miss to double the scoring in a move started and concluded by Hayfield.

After robbing Imran Uche 20 yards from the edge of his own penalty area, Chris Lines took over from Hayfield on the break but the chance appeared lost when Ellis Sullivan intercepted his intended pass for Callum Ebanks. However, the full-back gifted it straight back to Hayfield who found room 20 yards out to shoot and his effort appeared to be drifting wide before it took a seismic deflection off Michael Chambers to completely wrong-foot Seaden and ricochet into the net.

The Blues reduced the arrears on 56 minutes. Uche’s scooped ball was collected by Ufuah on the left and he cut inside of Raynes before powerfully striking past Clarke to his right to give him no chance and provide some belief for Billericay.

Ufuah nearly replicated his double in the previous round against Haringey when he threw himself at Cerulli’s teasing ball across the six-yard box but just failed to connect.

Jerry Gill introduced Rex Mannings for debutant Ebanks to freshen up his side’s attack and it added pace and trickery in the final third with more gaps to exploit due to Town’s press for a leveller.

City’s determination and harrying was rewarded with a third on 77 minutes. A full-blooded tackle by Dan Greenslade on Jeffrey helped with a throw for his side which he took down the line to Frear. The wide-man linked up with Scott Wilson before pulling it back perfectly for Spokes who ferociously fired into the roof of the net from 12 yards, in off the underside of the bar, to eliminate any fears of a penalty shoot-out. It was Spokes’ first for the club, his previous goal was in this competition in January for Spennymoor Town against Plymouth Parkway.

Hayfield was denied by Seaden and saw his follow-up deflected wide as the more relaxed Romans saw out the closing stages well to progress.

Players and staff joined in a huddle afterwards, as they did pre-match, to clearly display their togetherness after the difficult 11 days since Fletcher’s accident and applauded their loyal supporters to further highlight the unity at the club in adversity.

Alex Fletcher would have been proud.

Att: 612

City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c), Hayfield, Frear, Lines, Spokes (Morton 88), Wilson, Ebanks (Mannings 73). Subs not used: Batten, Smith, Storr.

Scorers: City – Frear (16), Hayfield (48), Spokes (77); Billericay – Ufuah (56)

City Bookings: Wilson (30), Morton (90+3)

Officials: Shelby Elson, Luigi Lungarella, Andreas Anastasiou