Braintree Town (0) 1 Bath City 1 (3) – Saturday 11 September 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Cressing Road
Match Report by Mark Stillman
Two Cody Cooke penalties helped Bath City return to winning ways at previously unbeaten Braintree Town.
The forward took his tally to five for the season as Ezra Ikebuasi and Correy Davidson were both penalised for handball, beforeAlex Fletcher wrapped up the win with a minute of normal time remaining.
Braintree’s threat from set-pieces paid off on the 48th minute when debutant keeper Will Fuller misjudged Davidson’s corner allowing Matt Johnson to bundle home.
But that was a rare blip in the City defence as they dealt tremendously with a direct side to claim a deserved win.
Fuller’s call-up was in place of Ryan Clarke, who pulled out late on Friday night with a back injury, while Joe Raynes replaced the suspended Eddie Jones.
Braintree showed their intentions from the off, using Johnson to hurl long throws near the City keeper, a preferred tactic to attempting to play on a pitch with noticeably long grass.
Alfie Payne thumped a shot against the upright from Femi Akinwande’s pull back and the nippy Giovanni Crichlow attempted to catch out the stopper at his near post, but Fuller was able to palm behind.
City opened the scoring on 33 minutes. Jack Batten, making his 150th league appearance, floated a cross towards Fletcher, who challenged in the air with Ikebuasi. The ball brushed the full-back’s arm and a penalty was awarded, which Cooke duly dispatched, sending Preston Edwards the wrong way.
The hosts continued to pepper the Romans with long throws – Fuller punched Johnson’s latest missile to Arjanit Krasniqi who hooked over from 20 yards.
The second half saw Town continue in the same vein, looking to force City into conceding throws in dangerous areas or corners, penning Jerry Gill’s men back.
Their third corner in quick succession saw Davidson’s delivery missed by Fuller and Johnson claimed the final touch for a scruffy leveller.
Panic didn’t set in for Bath who were back in front inside three minutes. Marlee Francois’ superb pass carved Braintree open and left Elliott Frear in space down the left. His attempted low cross was blocked by the outstretched arm of the sliding Davidson in an easy decision for referee Oliver Mackey, and Cooke again showed no nerves in out-foxing Edwards for his and City’s second.
He could have had a hat-trick just past the hour. Birthday boy Frear curled in a lovely cross for the forward but his well-placed header was superbly tipped over by Edwards, who threw himself to his left in time.
His hopes for a treble were extinguished as he was substituted with a quarter of an hour remaining, ending his run of featuring in every minute this season. Mo Touray came on in a welcome return from injury.
The Welshman’s pace was just the tonic against a tiring backline. Edwards scuffed a back-pass straight to Omar Holness, who teed up Touray but he shot wide while off-balance.
He was even closer on 88 minutes. Josh Owers’ ball over the top was collected by the substitute who weaved past Luke Pennell and Kyran Clements before firing inches off target.
Fuller kept calm after Ben Gerring missed Melos Ajvasi’s flick forward, giving Akinwande a glimmer of an opening. The keeper raced out and stood tall to block the striker with his leg before Francois lashed the loose ball away.
It was Gerring’s only error as the captain led by example, fittingly one of his umpteen headers away led to a goal on the break which wrapped up the points.
With the Essex men committing bodies forward, Touray received the ball from Gerring with space on halfway to weigh up his options. He wisely chose Fletcher, who drilled across Edwards from 10 yards and ensure the closing minutes were relaxing rather than bedlam.
While Braintree complained bitterly afterwards about the two spot-kicks awarded against them, any neutral in attendance would be hard pushed to say Bath didn’t deserve the win, as Gill and his men have a two week break from National League South with the FA Cup a nice distraction in between.
City’s Line-Up: Fuller, Raynes, Gerring (c), Batten, Fletcher, Holness, Cooke (Touray 75), Smith, Frear, Francois, Owers. Subs not used: Ball, James, Richards, Wilkinson.
Scorers: City – Cooke (pen 34, pen 51), Fletcher (89); Braintree – Johnson (49)
City Bookings: Owers (10), Batten (28)
Officials: O Mackey, P Burnham, B Mingay