Bognor Regis Town (2) 3 Bath City (0) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 5 August 2017 – Nyewood Lane
Battling Bath City’s comeback was in vain as Bognor Regis Town celebrated their return to National League South with victory. The Romans had to overturn a two-goal deficit at half-time thanks to goals from Alex Parsons and Jimmy Muitt in four forgettable minutes. It wouldn’t be until past the hour that City grabbed their first when Nat Jarvis coolly finished from inside the box. And they were level when last season’s top scorer, Andy Watkins, grabbed his first of the season with a thunderous strike. But that merely put the Bognor party on hold and they would still claim all three points when Ollie Pearce thumped an inch-perfect free-kick past new City stopper Luke Southwood.
The Romans got the start they would have wished for as the progressed into the box, and saw Morgan and Jarvis link-up for Murphy to strike over the top. But the hosts refused to be overawed and looked to get on the front foot quickly, particularly out wide. A lucky ricochet ended in Calvin Davies dribbling a shot to Southwood while Watkins fired into a defender’s legs, but gradually the Rocks grew evermore in confidence. Muitt first showed his sweet striking abilities by forcing a sharp diving stop from Southwood after getting the better of Anthony Straker at the edge of the box. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans weaved his way back and forth past a defender and to the byline, with the waiting boot of Watkins denied a chance to strike at goal by a last-gasp clearance. City continued to come forward, but were hit on the break for the opening goal. The Bognor top three combined as Pearce set former Romans loanee Ben Swallow free down the left, with a low cross diverted in by a sliding Alex Parsons. The ball just got away from Morgan in a half-chance and Jones touched a free-kick wide, only for the hosts to make it two in four minutes. It was a disastrous error from Billy Murphy, who attempted to head backwards, but skewed into free space at the edge of the box. Muitt was first there and thumped an unstoppable shot back and across Southwood to leave City in shock. The visitors’ rallying call was led by Morgan, who leapt highest in the box to glance a header wide before coming close to a stunning goal. He controlled a loose ball skilfully on his chest and unleashed a dipping volley that bounced agonisingly off the angle of post and crossbar. A string of further chances followed, Frankie Artus whipping twice past the post, with Ryan Case and Lemonheigh-Evans seeing attempts blocked.
The Bristol City loanee then scooped high and wide in the first action of the second period. The Romans pressed further in search of a route back into the game, yet lax defending almost gave Bognor a third. Parsons raced down the left put over a hopeful cross. Straker should have cleared, but instead allowed Muitt to get in front of him and draw a save from Southwood at the near post. A sustained spell of Bognor pressure came to nothing – just – as the away side again began to go on the attack. An ambitious 45-yarder from Case was scythed wide as time began to run out on the Romans. However, just past the hour they found their route back into the game when Jarvis netted. City penned the Rocks inside their own area and, eventually, the ball came to Jarvis in space to drill past Dan Lincoln. That hard work was almost undone when the whole City defence watched a ball bounce in their own half, Swallow collect and dribble a shot onto the outside of the post. The hosts were left rocked when the leveller arrived. So solid defensively throughout, Watkins had acres of space to run onto an incisive Lemonheigh-Evans through ball and thump into the near top corner. Visiting penalty shouts were turned down, Jarvis instead shown a yellow card for diving, but eventually the Rocks weathered the storm. Pearce found his way into the box and had a shot blocked, the ball kindly jumping up for Southwood to snatch. There was to be one more goal. A foul on the edge of the box gave the home side an opportunity to line up a shot that Pearce smashed into the top corner. Still City had plenty of fight left. Twice Jarvis was unable to find the target, first with a header from a corner and then with a first-time, 25-yard half-volley that sailed over. Substitute Naby Diallo had a shot knocked behind and, in one final attempt, George Rigg’s speared strike from the D was kept out by Lincoln’s fists.
City Line-Up: Southwood, Welch-Hayes, Straker, Case, Jones, Artus, Lemonheigh-Evans (Diallo 75), Murphy (Rigg 75), Jarvis, Morgan (Lucas 63), Watkins. Subs not used: Batten, Ball.
Scorers: Jarvis (61), Watkins (71)
Bookings: Jarvis (73), Artus (75), Diallo (90)
Officials: W Cartmel, A Bennett, A Rayment