Chippenham Town (2) 2 Bath City (1) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Wednesday 26 December 2018 – Hardenhuish Park
Ten-man Bath City roared back from two goals down to claim a point from Chippenham Town in the first leg of the A4 derby at Hardenhuish Park. It was the Bluebirds that raced into the lead, with ex-Roman Nick McCootie coming back to haunt his former side. The striker netted the first and made the important break for the second, eventually turned home by James Guthrie. A Ross Stearn rocket pulled one back by the break, but it wasn’t until City went down to ten – Anthony Straker sent off for a second yellow card – that they drew level. It was Ryan Brunt that got them on terms with 14 minutes to go, and only a great save by Chippenham keeper Brad House kept out Michee Efete’s late effort.
The Romans had started the contest well and could have had an almost instant lead when Stearn sent a low cross in from the left, but Tom Smith could not get enough on his first-time shot as House dropped to his left to save. McCootie had a sighter for the Bluebirds when Tariq Ossai was fed into the right-hand channel and crossed back for the striker, who blazed high and wide. But on the very next Chippenham attack McCootie would score. Just getting the better of Robbie Cundy in a 50/50 challenge, the former Roman ran on and blasted past Ryan Clarke. House tipped over as a long throw-in from Joe Raynes bounced up in front of him, the keeper taking no risks on any deflections on its way through. Yet Chippenham then went and doubled their advantage as the ball found a way through numerous feet, allowing McCootie to run in one-on-one with Clarke. The keeper got a touch on his effort, which dribbled towards the bottom corner and though City players slid in to clear, Guthrie was on hand to bundle the ball in. McCootie’s pace again threatened when he poached the ball off Frankie Artus and raced downfield, only to slip over twice eyeing up a cross. House nudged over a lashed Stearn effort, although the City man was called offside regardless, but could do nothing to stop the winger’s next effort. Brunt cleverly backheeled into the path of Efete, racing forward from the right-back berth, the ball in turn played back for Stean to ram in. Stearn was almost played in again by a clever Smith ball, before he tried his luck with a bouncing long-range effort that House pushed behind. A tame Nat Jarvis effort failed to trouble Clarke as the game grew increasingly end-to-end. Indeed, a great chance for City to level opened up on a break downfield. Efete put Smith in the clear, but the bobbly pitch robbed him of the chance to get a final shot off as his last touch at the edge of the box got away. A volleyed Artus effort ran straight to House, the keeper not holding cleanly as the shot came through a sea of bodies.
Chippenham set up more keen to defend their lead for the second half as the flurry of chances seen died down. Will Richards nodded a free-kick over the top for the hosts, while at the other end Adam Mann shot wide with a first-time effort after Smith flicked a Straker cross into his path. Only an important foot in from Raynes prevented Chippenham going four-on-three on the counter as City began to commit more bodies forward. They got an opportunity of their own from a corner, flicked on by Batten to Artus seven yards out, where he headed wide. Stearn then dipped a free-kick that ruffled the roof of the net. City’s revival task got harder when Straker was shown a second yellow card after a coming-together with Karnel Chambers. Conversely that seemed to spur on the Romans and they hauled themselves level when Mann pulled back into the path of Brunt to convert. Reinvigorated, it was the visitors that looked the more likely to find a winner. Smith turned well and got a decent shot away that House held, while Mann whistled a free-kick inches over the top. The Bluebirds’ woodwork was also rattled when a lung-busting Smith run ended with Stearn played through, albeit again offside anyway. Raynes then fired a centre across the face of goal as City continued to push. Better was yet to come as the visitors again found themselves in the Chippenham area, the ball breaking for Efete, whose low shot was turned away by House at full-stretch. Not to be written off, Chippenham also had a couple of half chances in stoppage time. The Romans defence first got back to thwart Chambers at the back post, with Jack Compton then stepping off the bench to thump over attempting a trademark goal.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Artus, Raynes, Mann, Smith, Brunt (Ollis 83), Stearn. Subs not used: Amankwaah, Richards, Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – Stearn (29), Brunt (76); Chippenham – McCootie (16), Guthrie (20)
City Bookings: Batten (62), Straker (68)
City Dismissal: Straker (73)
Officials: M Howes, A Baker, A James