Dartford (2) 3 Bath City (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 9 February 2019 – Princes Park
Bath City’s nine-match unbeaten run in National League South came to a juddering halt as arch-nemesis Dartford continued their stranglehold over the Romans. It’s now seven wins in a row for the Kent outfit against Bath, only the fourth side post-war to achieve such a feat, and they did it in style with Lee Noble and Phil Roberts’ wonder goals either side of a Charlie Sheringham close range header boosting their play-off bid. The Darts were unchanged from a dramatic midweek win over Woking whereas City, inactive for two weeks, brought in Ross Stearn and Tom Smith for Leon Davies and Adam Mann, the latter stricken with a back injury.
City started well, but Dartford created the first meaningful opening with Joe Romanski throwing himself in the way of Sheringham’s header, deflecting it behind for a corner. Fellow Joe, Raynes, squandered a chance at the other end. Following neat play from Freddie Hinds and Smith, the Bathonian hammered high and wide when well placed. When the Darts were presented with a more difficult chance two minutes later, they didn’t disappoint. Receiving the ball just outside the corner of the penalty area, Noble turned away from trouble and sumptuously curled the ball just inside Ryan Clarke’s left-hand post, with the keeper rooted to the spot. Ryan Hayes was proving a handful down the right, tying City up in knots with a few shimmies before his powerful drive was too close to Clarke, who punched away. Hayes turned provider for Dartford on 26 minutes. While the opening goal was top drawer, from a City point of view the second was the pile of clutter sprayed around a bedroom carpet. Noble’s free-kick was punched out by Clarke to Hayes, who was afforded a luxury of space to pick out Sheringham at the back post with a perfectly floated ball. The forward, son of former England man Teddy, easily nodded in from a yard out, his seventh goal of the season. The same duo linked up soon after with Sheringham unable to keep his header down, before Noble’s through ball dissected the defence and left Ben Greenhalgh clean through. Clarke advanced and was relieved to see the ball cannon off his legs and behind for a corner.
City lost Hinds at the break to a groin injury, with Andy Watkins taking his place. The Cornishman looked bright, sending a swerving shot which Vose manage to cling hold of as City fought for a way back. Their task was made effectively insurmountable on 56 minutes, when they were undone by another moment of quality. Stearn’s shot was charged down, leading to a swift counter attack as Hayes found Phil Roberts on the left. Having cut inside of Jack Batten, Roberts replicated Noble’s heroics in the first half, curling just inside Clarke’s left post from 18 yards to give the stopper no chance. It proved the difference as City got into similar positions, but their finishing touch was way off, James Morton and Batten shooting harmlessly wide from distance. Sheringham had a close-range header chalked off for offside and Clarke threw himself in the way of Kudus Oyenuga to prevent a certain fourth after tidy approach play. Andre Coker replaced Hayes for the home side, the winger receiving the man-of-the-match award in his 595th outing for the Whites. Vose made a meal of Smith’s deflected shot and Morton sent a volley inches wide as for a third successive match at Princes Park, City failed to make a breakthrough. In the end it was the finishing from the Darts which was the main difference, standing out in an otherwise impressive performance, with Jerry Gill’s men suffering too many bounce-outs against well-organised opponents. A deserved home win which halts City’s momentum slightly, though supporters appreciated their efforts and during the unbeaten run, before the long, familiar, disappointed journey home from DA1.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus, Hinds (Watkins HT), Stearn, Cundy, Raynes, Romanski, Morton, Smith. Subs not used: H Wiles-Richards, Richards, Davies.
Scorers: City – none; Dartford – Noble (18), Sheringham (26), Roberts (57)
City Bookings: none
Officials: J Richardson, M Chalkley, M Ames