Billericay Town (3) 4 Bath City (1) 2 – FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round – Saturday 5 October 2019 – Steel Team Stadium
Bath City are out of this season’s Emirates FA Cup as Billericay Town recovered from an early setback to progress. City had taken the lead against the run of play through Adam Mann, but a Joe Raynes own goal, a Jake Robinson header and tap-in from Jordan Parkes gave the hosts a commanding lead at the break. Ryan Brunt’s scrambled finish halved the deficit and he was denied a penalty late on, shortly before Robinson wrapped up the Blues’ success in stoppage time. It means an eighth successive exit at the qualifying stage for the Romans, and a third consecutive loss in the competition to fellow National League South opponents.
Jerry Gill said pre-match that he wanted the game to feel like a cup tie, and in terms of excitement it had it early on. Robinson wasted a glorious opening on five minutes when Sam Deering robbed Tom Richards and slipped it through, but the forward side-footed wide with just Ryan Clarke to beat. City had barely laid a glove on Jamie O’Hara’s men, before they stunned the Steel Team Stadium to silence on 11 minutes. Sam Pearson, making his first start, darted past Arjanit Krasniqi and pulled the ball back from the byline. Brunt deliberately left it for Mann, whose shot took a wicked deflection and looped over Alan Julian and diminutive Deering on the line to give Bath the lead, his first away goal in 2019. Billericay weren’t flustered and took just seven minutes to equalise. Ody Alfa’s incisive pass found Jordan Parkes, who helped the ball into the six-yard box where a combination of Alex Hartridge and Joe Raynes helped it into the net, the latter credited with the own goal. Tom Smith wastefully headed Ross Stearn’s cross wide in a near immediate response, in what turned out to be their only remaining significant first-half threat. Clarke parried a rasping long ranger from Alfa but was powerless to prevent Billericay taking the lead on 38 minutes when woeful marking undid the visitors. Krasniqi’s corner towards the near post was met by Robinson, who glanced a header past Clarke when left completely unopposed. The overworked stopper again denied Alfa with a fine save to his left, before being left exposed as Town added a third with seconds of the half remaining. Moses Emmanuel’s hopeful ball forward saw Parkes react the quickest and, having been left one-on-one, he rounded Clarke, kept the ball in from the byline and touched in from almost on the line to cap off a fine turnaround.
Hopes of City clawing it back appeared slim. It’d been 21 years since they last recovered from two goals down in the FA Cup, and the early stages of the second half didn’t make this statistic look like it was coming to an end. Parkes took aim from 25 yards and hit the base of the post before Clarke kept out Emmanuel and Ronnie Henry in quick succession, the latter a stunning reflex save, denying Henry a first goal in just over a decade. Jordan Simpson was introduced for Richards to try and add further spark to the midfield, where creativity was lacking. Stearn sent a free-kick safely over and Raynes’ ambitious attempt from 40 yards failed to trouble Julian, but the substitute caused him more issues on 72 minutes. A dangerous free-kick from Simpson bounced awkwardly in front of Julian, who could only deflect it to Brunt to stab home amid a goalmouth scramble. With Andy Watkins also on, there was more zest and threat about City going forward, with Billericay looking nervous having thrown away two two-goal leads in recent league encounters. Tom Smith was denied twice by a combination of Julian and Ben Nunn as a long throw by Raynes caused havoc, before a crucial decision went against Gill’s men, and helped decide the tie. Connor Riley-Lowe’s fizzed ball eventually picked out Brunt, who lined up a shot before going to ground from a Krasniqi lunge. Referee Steven Hughes was well-placed but decided no offence had taken place, much to the disgust of City’s players and management, and their anger continued as the game was made safe at the death. Jack Paxman’s through ball saw Emmanuel initially denied by Clarke, but the loose ball rebounded straight to Robinson who was left with the simple task of walking it in and seal a fourth qualifying round spot, the first time Bath had ever conceded four at this stage of the competition.
A cruel finale but few could argue that the best side had won. It’s already four times this season that City have lost from a winning position, and Gill will be hoping to rectify this fragility ahead of their return to league action next week.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Riley-Lowe, T Smith, Mann, Brunt, Stearn (Watkins 67), Bower, Pearson, Richards (Simpson 56), Hartridge. Subs not used: Artus, Ball, Wiles-Richards, Rooney.
Scorers: City – Mann (11), Brunt (71); Billericay – Own Goal (17), Robinson (38, 90+3), Parkes (45+1)
City Bookings: Mann (22), T Smith (90)
Officials: S Hughes, A Bradley, L Nunes