Braintree Town (0) 2 Bath City (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 29 February 2020 – Cressing Road
Bath City’s recent revival came to a juddering halt as they were undone by two inspired finishes after the break by strugglers Braintree Town.
Jordan Chiedozie’s expertly placed volley and Liam Smyth’s fabulous 25-yarder, both scored on the counter, earned the Iron their first home win for five months to allow them to leap out of the bottom two on 29 February.
Ryan Brunt was denied on the line in the closest City came to rescuing a point for the Romans, but they were a long-way off performance levels from their recent three-game winning streak and failed to significantly test Billy Johnson in the Braintree goal.
Coupled with Slough and Weymouth scoring 10 between them, Jerry Gill’s men dropped to fourth in National League South ahead of next week’s meeting with the Dorset outfit.
Gill opted for an unchanged side for the third match running, with new signing Lloyd James among the substitutes. In contrast, Braintree made three changes from last week’s disappointing loss at Hungerford, and only Alfie Cerulli and Kyran Clements remained at the club after their opening day 2-0 defeat at Twerton last August.
City started positively with Dan Martin’s whipped cross on 13 minutes locating Sam Pearson at the far post, but the young Welshman was unable to direct it on target, hitting the side-netting from a difficult angle.
Braintree went into the match without a goal in 309 minutes, and this drought was further illustrated when Chiedozie woefully curled a 20-yard free-kick out of Cressing Road.
Dan Bowry and Tom Smith were restricted to attempts from distance, both firing wide, as the five-man Town midfield swamped City, restricting them of fluidity and momentum, leading to a goalless first half.
James was brought on at the break for back injury victim Frankie Artus but the half followed a similar pattern to the first, Braintree tirelessly shackling City well and happy to see Adam Mann place an effort wide from 30 yards.
Having comfortably soaked up the pressure, the Iron nicked an opener with a well-executed break on the hour. Lucas Kirkpatrick beautifully spread the ball out to Cerulli on the right, who worked his way towards the byline. His chipped cross evaded Darelle Russell but landed on the boot of Chiedozie, who side-footed across Ryan Clarke into the bottom right corner.
Brunt was brought on for Mann on 68 minutes and soon after unwittingly got in the way of Tom Smith’s tame strike after Joe Raynes delayed shooting when well placed.
Arthur Iontton struck wide for the hosts with Clarke scrambling, before on 75 minutes City wasted a glorious opening.
Pearson’s terrific work on the byline saw him pull it back to Raynes just inside the area. The Bathonian scuffed his shot against Brunt who tried to force it home, but a posse of orange shirts snuffed it out with Johnson gleefully gathering on the goalline to prevent further panic.
With two minutes of stoppage time played, the Romans piled bodies forward to hunt for a point. James’ delivery saw Dan Matsuzaka vitally intercept, to help set up a counter led by substitute Smyth. The Stevenage loanee decided to go it alone and it proved a wise move as he cut inside from 25 yards and thundered an unstoppable drive past Clarke, in off the underside of the bar, to seal their first home win in 11 matches and City’s first defeat in four.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes (Riley-Lowe 80), T Smith, Bowry, Artus (James HT), Mann (Brunt 68), Martin, Chilvers, Ball, Pearson, Hartridge. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Simpson.
Scorers: City – none; Braintree – Chiedozie (60), Smyth (90+2)
City Bookings: Artus (23)
Officials: I Searle, E Easlip, M Ames