Billericay Town (1) 1 Bath City (1) 2 – Saturday 23 April 2022 – Vanarama National League South – New Lodge
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Cody Cooke’s 20th goal of the season helped secure Bath City’s place in National League South for a 10th successive season.
The Romans had to come from behind at New Lodge against bottom-placed Billericay Town under interim manager Dan Brown for the first time.
Cooke’s penalty, won by Ben Seymour after he had only been on the field a matter of seconds, confirmed the hosts to a fifth successive league defeat.
This was after a wonderful 20-yard strike from Alex Fletcher quickly cancelled out Michael Chambers’ header for Town, who sit two points adrift of Welling United in the only relegation spot with three matches remaining.
Billericay’s five-match unbeaten streak in March made this look like a crucial contest a few weeks ago, but City’s revival, suffering only two defeats in 10 in all competitions, meant they knew a win would be sufficient to avoid the relegation trapdoor.
The hosts made five changes following Monday’s change of manager and enjoyed a lot of early possession without seriously testing City.
That changed on 31 minutes with a soft opener. Jack Munns’ hanging free-kick saw Chambers leap higher than Jack Batten and get sufficient power and height on his header from 16 yards to loop over the bemused Ryan Clarke.
Having posed little attacking threat themselves in the opening half hour, City shocked the majority of those in attendance at a warm New Lodge by levelling inside three minutes.
Cooke’s flicked header to Dave Sims-Burgess allowed him time to square to Fletcher some 20 yards from goal.
The striker cut inside of Brad Stevenson an expertly curled the ball into the top corner with his supposed weaker left foot to give Zaki Oualah no chance.
Dylan Gavin failed to fully connect to Anderson Pinto’s terrific through ball in the final opening of a half devoid of meaningful highlights bar the quickfire goals.
After the break, Gavin’s poor control on a counter after the break proved costly as the excellent Anthony Jeffrey slid the ball across following his darting run, but the Irishman’s dalliance allowed Joe Raynes to step in and clear.
Jerry Gill introduced Ben Seymour for Sims-Burgess on 54 minutes and the substitute made an immediate impact.
Chambers’ attempted header back to Oualah was short and the fresh legs of Seymour saw him rob the ball before the goalkeeper, whose half-hearted challenge saw the Exeter loanee sent tumbling to the floor for a penalty.
Seymour, who’d been on the field for under 10 seconds, seemed keen to take the kick himself but top scorer Cooke took priority and banished memories of his miss against St Albans two months ago by calmly rolling it past Oualah who dived the wrong way.
Billericay looked crestfallen and attacking wise limited with Femi Akinwande tamely rolling a shot straight at Clarke when off-balance and substitute Kweku Lucan heading a difficult opening wide after Josh Wright decided to cross when a shooting opportunity seemed the better alternative.
Fletcher nearly added his second on 85 minutes when Cooke’s backheel into his path was met by another left-footed attempt by the former Tiverton man, this time Oualah able to parry it behind at full-stretch.
The Romans never looked likely to surrender their slender lead in the closing stages as their second away win in a week means they can relax more for their final two outings of the season at Twerton Park.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Delaney, Batten, Fletcher, Holness, Cooke, Smith, Frear, Ball, Sims-Burgess (Seymour 53). Subs not used: Fuller, E Jones, Richards, R Jones.
Scorers: City – Fletcher (33), Cooke (pen 54); Billericay – Chambers (31)
City Bookings: Delaney (6), Holness (30), Ball (48)
Officials: R Watkins, K Bailey, L Hantea