Concord Rangers (0) 1 Bath City (0) 1 – FA Trophy 2nd Round – Saturday 11 January 2020 – The Aspect Arena

Concord Rangers (0) 1 Bath City (0) 1 – FA Trophy 2nd Round – Saturday 11 January 2020 – The Aspect Arena

Report by Kelston Koppite

Bath City survived a tough examination by Concord Rangers in their FA Trophy 2nd Round encounter at The Aspect Arena in Canvey Island, earning both a draw and a replay. They were thankful to a penalty save from Ryan Clarke, and a late equalising strike by Tom Smith that arrived just two minutes after the hosts had taken a 77th minute lead.

City were pressed back in the early stages as the home side looked for a quick breakthrough, and they were presented with a golden opportunity in the 3rd minute when they were awarded a highly questionable penalty kick by the referee, Mr. Tom Reeves. Kreshnic Krasniqi chased a long pass into the Bath area, but was beaten to the ball by Clarke who punched the ball for a throw in. The man in black initially gave no decision and then, inexplicably, pointed to the spot, much to the chagrin of the City players. Joel Nouble took the responsibility, but was denied by a fine save by the keeper with his trailing leg. The ball was diverted on to the post, and the rebound was then blazed high over the bar.

Rangers continued to press forward and James Blanchfield’s 5th minute cross from the right picked out the unmarked Krasniqi at the far post, only for the midfielder to head wide of the target.

City responded shortly afterwards when Sam Pearson won a race for the ball down the inside left channel, but his curling effort flew narrowly over Chris Haigh’s crossbar.

The game calmed down for a period thereafter with Concord enjoying the majority of possession, but both sides were struggling to master the uneven surface and blustery conditions. Kit Elliott and Lamar Reynolds were causing some issues for the City defence with their pace, and the former came close with a low drive from the edge of the box on 26 minutes that was just wide of Clarke’s post.

The Romans gradually came more into the game, and fashioned a great opening on the half hour mark following Smith’s strong run towards the heart of the Rangers rearguard. He slipped a neat pass through to Pearson, who found himself with only Haigh to beat, but the keeper made a good blocking save with his feet. The resulting corner eventually fell to Smith on the edge of the box and, after controlling the ball well, he crashed a fierce shot against the face of the post.

City’s pressure continued and Frankie Artus saw his deflected shot fly straight into Haigh’s arms, but his next effort from 20 yards was sliced high and wide.

At the other end, Nouble’s right wing cross picked out Elliott, but the striker headed over Clarke’s bar. As half time approached, Tom Clifford clipped a free kick into the away box, only for Aron Pollock to nod over the top.

The game was entering first half stoppage time when Mr. Reeves suffered an injury that required him to be replaced by one of his assistants, Mr. Luigi Lungarella, for the remainder of the match.

The second period commenced with the hosts in the ascendancy once again, but they were finding it difficult to break down the Somerset side’s defence. Indeed, it was the visitors who created the first real chance of the half when, on 53 minutes, Joe Raynes released Pearson down the right from where the speedy winger’s shot struck the outside of the near post.

Clarke was called upon in the 59th minute to make a smart save low down to keep out Elliott’s angled drive, and Haigh was then tested at the other end. Pearson slipped the ball through to Ryan Brunt inside the box, and the forward forced the outrushing home custodian into a useful blocking save.

Ross Stearn came on for Adam Mann after 61 minutes as City looked to push forward and, five minutes later, Pearson’s dangerous cross from the right just eluded Smith’s head inside the 6 yard box.

The second controversial decision of the afternoon arrived on 69 minutes, when Pearson latched on to a through ball beyond the Rangers defence, only to be clattered to the floor by last man Pollock. To the utter bewilderment of the City players and their travelling supporters, the stand-in referee waved play on. It was debatable if the incident took place inside or outside the box, but Pearson was certainly impeded.

The injured Dan Ball made way for Connor Riley-Lowe, but The Beachboys took the lead in the 77th minute. Nouble made good progress down the right before dinking a cross to the far post, where the fortunate Pollock headed firmly past Clarke.

However, the lead lasted barely two minutes as City drove forward from the re-start and, when Brunt’s shot was blocked, Smith reacted the quickest to fire a well-directed shot into the corner of the net from 12 yards, with the helpless Haigh unable to intervene.

With time now running out Concord were only able to create one more opportunity. A long throw from the right found Billy Roast, but the defender headed tamely over Clarke’s bar. The Romans replied with an effort of their own with three minutes left on the clock following Riley-Lowe’s cross from the left that picked out Pearson, whose acrobatic overhead kick directed the ball narrowly over the target.

City saw out the remainder of the game without undue alarm, with the only slight scare being vociferous, but optimistic, home appeals for handball inside the box which Mr Lungarella waved away with distain.

This was a tough match against a physical, but skilful and pacey, Concord side and either team could have snatched victory. City will, no doubt, be the happier outfit with the prospect of a replay at Twerton Park on Tuesday evening. The hosts had the greater share of possession overall and will probably feel that they had enough chances to progress, but City will point to a couple of key decisions that went against them and the fact that they twice struck the woodwork. The away supporters, who travelled in good numbers, will not only be satisfied with the outcome, but will also be left to remember the unusual sight of huge container ships passing close behind one goal, alongside the persistent, pungent and penetrating malodour emanating from the nearby treatment centre.

Att: 263

City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, T Smith, Bowry, Artus, Mann (Stearn 61), Chilvers, Brunt, Ball (Riley-Lowe 71), Pearson, Hartridge. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Z Smith, Simpson, Richards.

Scorers: City – T Smith (79); Concord – Pollock (77)

City Bookings: Ball (68)

Officials: T Reeves, T Bowkett, L Lungarella