Dartford (1) 2 Bath City (0) 0 – Saturday 19 February 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Princes Park
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Goals from Kalvin Kalala and a Marcus Dinanga penalty confirmed a third defeat in three for Bath City against a side in the top four of the National League South table.
The Romans huffed and puffed in blustery conditions at Princes Park but fell to a sixth successive defeat at the venue, also making it the first time they had failed to score away in five successive matches to the same opponent since their last five visits to Wycombe Wanderers between 1990 and 1992.
Their failure to net wasn’t through a lack of possession or creativity in a decent performance. Joe Raynes and Jordan Dyer spurned decent openings in each half, while Ryan Jones generated excitement on his debut.
But they were punished by Steve King’s men as they maintained their unbeaten home record this term and bounced back from last week’s FA Trophy exit to Needham Market.
Having made five changes from that shock loss, Dartford didn’t appear disjointed and nearly made the perfect start inside 90 seconds. The recalled Tyrique Hyde span away from Joe Raynes and played it through to Jake Robinson, who was denied by a superb recovery challenge from Eddie Jones with Dyer following suit to prevent Luke Allen a tap-in.
Dyer demonstrated the capabilities of a box-to-box player by recording City’s first shot on goal a minute later. Dan Wilks managed to get a hand on his low drive and was fortunate to gather the follow-up with Tom Smith waiting to pounce.
Clarke got down well to Hyde’s powerful strike from 20 yards and from Ody Alfa’s resulting corner the City keeper was beaten by Robinson’s near post header, which flashed inches wide of his far post.
Dartford took the lead on 18 minutes. Debutant Junior Tiensia whipped in a free-kick which saw Connor Essam beat Cody Cooke and Dyer in the air to eventually create a chance for Kalala, who wriggled inside and poked the ball past Clarke from six yards.
The omens weren’t good – City had lost their previous 17 matches conceding the first goal, whereas Dartford had won 12 and drawn one when breaking the deadlock in the league this season.
Although possession was largely shared, it was the hosts who created the better openings with Clarke again called upon to smartly tip Alfa’s effort around his left post.
The Romans concluded the half strongly, with Smith showing good strength before shooting too close to Wilks from 20 yards.
They saved their best chance for the dying stages of the opening 45. Ryan Jones dissected the home defence with a pass to Zak Delaney on the left, the Irishman cut inside of Kalala and pulled it back from the byline to Raynes who side-footed wide from eight yards, with the half-time whistle arriving immediately afterwards.
With the wind behind City, they sought to make inroads on the home defence in the second half, Raynes’ pot-shot from 25 yards flying just wide with Wilks standstill.
They squandered a better opening on 67 minutes when Callum Rowe’s pinpoint cross located Dyer at the far post, but having risen above Jordan Wynter he nodded harmlessly off target.
Dartford introduced Dinanga on 73 minutes and the forward on loan from Altrincham nearly added to his double against Welling United in his last Princes Park outing, this time the crossbar denied his lofted shot from 14 yards.
A combination of Dan Ball and Clarke denied Dinanga when he latched on to Allen’s superb through ball, while Ryan Jones tried to mark his debut in memorable style as he skipped across the edge of the box in added time but his resulting effort curled harmlessly wide.
Having committed so many bodies forward, a counter always looked likely and the fresh legs of substitute Danny Leonard was the catalyst, dashing down the right and before pulling the trigger he was clearly pulled back by Ball in desperation, resulting in a cast-iron spot-kick.
With usual penalty taker Robinson off the pitch, Dinanga took responsibility and easily sent Clarke the wrong way, with the final whistle arriving before there was a chance to restart.
It meant it was the first time since May 1983-March 1988 that City had lost six successive away games to the same team, when Telford United were their nemesis in the Conference. Three managers and now 53 players have had a go in Kent but once again fell short. Jerry Gill will be hoping their encouraging displays translate to points in their bid to pull away from the lower reaches of the table.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Delaney, Batten, Cooke (Fletcher 74), Smith (Frear 78), E Jones, Ball, Rowe, Dyer, R Jones. Subs not used: Fuller, Holness, Richards.
Scorers: City – none; Dartford – Kalala (18), Dinanga (pen 90+6)
City Bookings: Cooke (38), Rowe (63), Delaney (81)
Officials: A Blake, R Preca, A Kyriacou