Concord Rangers (2) 2 Bath City (0) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 16 February 2019 – The Aspect Arena
Bath City suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time since the opening two matches of the season as they were made to pay for an abject opening to their match at Concord Rangers. Alex Wall, back from suspension, made up for lost time with a quickfire double, with Sean Rigg’s last minute header only enough to prevent Bath failing to score for a fourth successive away game.
Illness and injury to City’s Joe Romanski and Joe Raynes meant a switch to a back four, and they were breached inside 120 seconds. Danny Green’s free-kick was cleared only as far as the taker. His fizzed ball from the right wing looked a comfortable clearance for Jack Batten, but he lost concentration and mishit straight to Wall, who was never going to miss from six yards, poking past the helpless Ryan Clarke. It already looked bleak. Concord hadn’t lost a home league match scoring first since March 2016, and City hadn’t won from a losing position away in National League South under Jerry Gill. Added to that, the hosts looked organised at the back and lively going forward, illustrated by their second goal on nine minutes. Following a Romans corner, Frankie Artus was robbed midway inside his own half by Sam Blackman, who found Green. With City hopelessly exposed, Green picked out Wall, who stayed onside, and gleefully stroked past Clarke from 18 yards, his 16th goal of the season. With a healthy advantage, and claiming an unbeaten home run back to August Bank Holiday, Concord sat off and allowed Bath to play. Mann drilled a shot narrowly wide with Sam Beasant scrambling, and the glovesman, son of former experienced goalkeeper Dave, had his palms stung by Freddie Hinds’ effort after the Bristol City loanee had danced around the Beachboys’ defence. Andy Watkins, making his first start in five months, found room in behind but Beasant accelerated off his line quickly to smother, the overworked stopper then palming James Morton’s shot away from danger. Just before the interval, Rangers survived vociferous penalty appeals following a melee in the penalty area. Mann’s corner was glanced towards goal by Artus and Watkins’ attempts to bundle in at the far post went awry, with Blackman appearing to control with his arm before Beasant pounced to gather.
The home side nearly had a third soon after when Joan Luque expertly brought down a looping ball and showed the superb technique expected from a former Barcelona youth teamer, before sending an effort narrowly wide.
Rigg was brought on at the break for Tom Smith and an immediate slalom before Tyrone Sterling’s intervention showed what City had to look forward to as they hunted for a way back. Shaw cleared off the line when Hinds’ cute attempted finish had Beasant beaten, before the full-back sent in a hanging cross at the other end which Blackman headed over. Ryan Brunt was sent on as a target man for Watkins, and only a splendid parry from Beasant thwarted an immediate impact.
After Morton’s strike was deflected just wide, Mann’s corner was met by Brunt, but the Concord custodian somehow got enough on his close range header to keep it out and leave the Romans reeling. The home side were proving a nuisance, largely leaving Wall isolated on the halfway line with the remaining outfield players acting like a shield, swarming around Gill’s men as soon as they approached the final third. When attacking themselves, player-assistant boss Jack Midson forced Clarke into a smart tip-over save, with the same man heading over well-placed when the impressive Ali Abdulla picked him out. A marvellous Blackman jinking run saw him tie City in knots, but Clarke wasn’t left mesmerised, diving at the midfielder’s feet to snuff out the danger. With the game just within reach, a free-kick 40 yards out saw Bath throw bodies forward in desperation. The sheer numbers helped, with their 370-minute goal drought away from home ended with Rigg brilliantly looping Mann’s delivery over Beasant, a terrific header from 15 yards, a rare lapse from the Essex club backline and preventing them a ninth home shutout.
There was still time for more drama. Hinds found space wide, sent in a perfect delivery for Brunt, six yards out, but he got his angles all wrong, heading well off target when he should have tested Beasant.
It was the final touch. A strangely muted atmosphere greeted Concord’s return to winning ways after four successive draws. City did well to create so many openings against a well-drilled outfit, but the early lapses proved costly as thanks to Wall’s brace, Rangers cemented their place just outside the play-offs. There won’t be any bricking it on Bath’s behalf just yet, but they’ll be keen to bounce back against Slough on Saturday at their own home.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus (Stearn 79), Watkins (Brunt 64), Hinds, Mann, Cundy, Morton, Smith (Rigg HT), Davies. Subs not used: Amankwaah, H. Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – Rigg (94+3); Concord – Wall (2, 9)
City Bookings: Brunt (83)
Officials: D Spain, A Bradley, S Rudd