Braintree Town (0) 2 Bath City (1) 1 – Saturday 21 January 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Cressing Road
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Baris Altintop’s 94th minute winner consigned Bath City to successive last gasp defeats.
The Romans led through Jack Batten’s finish in first half stoppage time, and a fine Jack Sims parry denied Cody Cooke a goal on his first start in over two months.
Rex Mannings was also denied by the home stopper before late pressure from the Iron eventually paid off, with John White levelling before Altintop’s tap-in.
The defeat was City’s first in the league since Boxing Day and leaves them seven points adrift of the play-offs.
Cooke’s inclusion was one of three changes for Jerry Gill’s men and while Braintree went with the same XI that ran Eastleigh close in the FA Trophy, they reverted to a back four with usual centre-back Altintop surprisingly occupying a more attacking role as they looked to continue their unbeaten home run in all competitions this term.
Altintop saw a lot of the first half on the iciest surface of a firm pitch which passed a late inspection.
Kyran Clements was first to test Max Harris with a neat shot on the turn which the returning goalkeeper plucked out of the air.
Luke Spokes pulled an effort wide as both sides largely cancelled each other out in an uneventful spectacle, which burst into life just before half-time.
Altintop and Dan Greenslade were both cautioned for a spat which saw the Town midfielder seemingly kick out. The punishment for Greenslade had greater repercussions – his 10th yellow of the season meant he’ll miss the next two matches.
City brushed off this inconvenience with their first away league goal since 5 November. James Morton’s corner was headed out to Mannings, whose shot was drifting wide before Batten stuck out a leg to prod home from six yards.
The second half was paused 11 minutes in when physios and stewards rushed to attend a spectator behind the dugouts who had been taken ill, but thankfully they recovered and were able to watch the rest of the contest.
Following this enforced break, Morton benefitted from hapless Joe Boachie defending with a chipped cross to the back post for Cooke, whose header was well palmed away by the scrambling Sims.
A tiring Cooke was withdrawn on 64 minutes and City missed his presence more than ever when the chance of a second was squandered moments later.
Sonny Cox’s delightful through ball was well controlled by Mannings but he shot too close to the advancing Sims, with the rebound bouncing behind substitute Scott Wilson, preventing him a clean strike.
This escape seemed to wake Braintree up as they posed a greater threat in the last 20 minutes with Jon Benton’s corners dipping right under the crossbar amid a packed six yard box.
Inevitably a set-piece saw the hosts level on 74 minutes. Benton’s free-kick was nodded out to White who showed superb close control before volleying into the bottom corner from just inside the penalty area and leave Harris helpless.
Alfie Matthews nearly put Town ahead within 60 seconds. Altintop’s ball down the right was missed by Kieran Parselle allowing Matthews to steal in, but his delicate lob hit the bar with Dan Hayfield heading the rebound behind.
Jon Benton’s free-kick sailed just over and Matthews’ header from Boachie’s cross bounced narrowly wide before a Braintree winner arrived in the fourth of five minutes added on.
Lamar Reynolds managed to somehow smuggle the ball past Greenslade and from the byline his pull-back was gleefully tapped in from Altintop, cueing mass celebrations as Angelo Harrop’s men sealed their first league win since 26 November to keep up their play-off push and add a dent in City’s quest to reach the top seven.
City’s Line-Up: Harris, Greenslade, Dyer, Batten, Parselle (c), Hayfield, Cooke (Wilson 64), Spokes, Mannings, Morton, Cox. Subs not used: Clarke, Frear, Lines, Thomas.
Scorers: City – Batten (45+2); Braintree – White (75), Altintop (90+4)
City Bookings: Greenslade (45), Dyer (82)
Officials: K Dowle, J Dann-Pye, M Butcher