Chelmsford City (1) 1 Bath City (0) 0 – Saturday 8 January 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Melbourne Stadium
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
An overturned penalty decision proved crucial as Bath City fell to defeat at Chelmsford City.
Substitute Dave Sims-Burgess appeared to be upended by home captain Dave Winfield, but having initially pointed to the spot, referee Oliver Mackey consulted his assistant and changed his mind, awarding a corner instead.
This was with five minutes remaining, after Tom Blackwell had given the hosts a deserved 25th minute lead.
City dominated the latter stages which included goalkeeper Ryan Clarke heading Elliott Frear’s corner wide during a desperate foray forward, but couldn’t find a way past a determined home side.
Chelmsford were without manager Robbie Simpson, isolating after testing positive from Covid-19, and with assistant Mickey Spillane playing in defence, Academy coach Elliott Ward was their senior figure from the bench.
Despite this inconvenience, Chelmsford looked bright on a soft surface. Leading scorer Simeon Jackson proved a livewire up front, but was cautioned on 12 minutes for simulation when he went down under minimal pressure from Jordan Dyer, who re-signed on loan from Exeter 24 hours previous to take the injured Jack Batten’s place in defence.
Blackwell was first to test Clarke on 24 minutes with a thunderous free-kick from 30 yards which needed the keeper, making his 100th league appearance, to throw himself to his left and palm away.
Within sixty seconds the hosts had the lead. Jackson received the ball from a Cameron James throw-in, drove it across goal and Blackwell was perfectly placed to tap home his third goal in three games from a yard out.
It sparked some life into City who tried to find a way in behind a wily backline, with Winfield throwing himself in the way of Alex Fletcher’s goalbound shot to keep Jacob Marsden under-worked in the first half.
The second half saw Chelmsford start the better with the unmarked Winfield seeing his header deflected straight at Clarke. In addition, the conditions worsened, with driving rain proving uncomfortable for players and spectators.
Omar Holness was forced off through injury just past the hour which saw Sims-Burgess on for his return from a one-match ban, and he added further impetus to the Romans’ attack, where effort was evident but threat missing.
Sims-Burgess spurned a golden opportunity to level the scores on 76 minutes when Cooke’s cross was punched by Marsden straight to the substitute, who contrived to screw so wildly wide under pressure from Winfield that the ball flew out for a throw-in.
Cody Cooke was barely given a sniff in front of goal but having worked some room into the box he made space for a shot, which he sliced way off target.
He was involved in the moment of controversy when he and Fletcher linked up with Sims-Burgess before the latter appeared to be needlessly fouled by Winfield.
Having pointed to the spot, Chelmsford protested vociferously, later revealed by Gill to be an act which helped change the official’s mind and point for a corner.
With City pouring players forward, they were susceptible on the counter which led to a helter skelter final five minutes following an attritional contest beforehand, spoiled by continuous delays with the ball regularly bouncing out of play and taking a while to return at the hosts’ athletics stadium.
Blackwell linked up with Charlie Sheringham before shooting too close to Clarke, before his opposite number produced a better stop, throwing himself to his right to finger-tip away Dyer’s long-range effort which bounced uncomfortably in front of him.
Clarke came forward as an extra presence for a succession of late City corners, trying to replicate goalkeeper Jason Mellor in scoring for Bath at the Melbourne Stadium.
The captain could have repeated the feat when Frear’s hanging delivery was met by the goalkeeper, who nodded over from six yards.
It proved City’s last chance as Chelmsford, who won only two home league games in 2021, halved that total in their first contest of 2022.
While the points were deserved for the Essex men for a workmanlike display, clinching their first league double over City since the 2002/03 season, the late penalty u-turn will leave a bitter taste in Gill’s mouth.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Delaney, Wood, Fletcher, Holness (Sims-Burgess 62), Cooke, Smith, Jones, Dyer, Touray (Frear 55), Kadji. Subs not used: Fuller, Ball, Richards.
Scorers: City – none; Clarets – Blackwell (26)
City Bookings: Kadji (77)
Officials: O Mackey, P Stratton, M Grant