East Thurrock United (0) 1 Bath City (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 1 September 2018 – Rookery Hill
Bath City suffered their third away defeat in four at East Thurrock United, both this season and at Rookery Hill, with a comical own goal separating the sides. Although not at their fluent best, few could say City deserved to lose this match, but one goal in 360 minutes on the road has cost them dearly thus far.
On a tight pitch, there was little room to manoeuvre for both teams. East Thurrock fielded two debutants in Roman Michael-Percil and Joe Bedford. It was the former who looked lively on the right, with one of his crosses evading a packed penalty area, falling kindly to Tom Stephen who rifled narrowly over first-time from 25 yards. Sam Higgins should have made the most of an opening soon after. Harry Lee’s hanging cross saw Ryan Clarke floored under pressure from Ryan Scott, with the loose ball bouncing up for East Thurrock’s all-time leading scorer, but he half-volleyed over with the goal gaping. Joe Raynes produced City’s first shot on goal when his free-kick was well held by Jack Giddens, who exchanged a few words with Ryan Brunt in the aftermath following the forward’s obstruction of a quick clearance. Brunt was agonisingly close to opening the scoring when Giddens somehow deflected his goalbound header against the underside of the bar after he climbed highest from Sean Rigg’s corner.
Clarke had an awkward low sun to deal with in the second half, coping well to pluck Scott’s header from just underneath the crossbar. Giddens showed decent reactions to tip Anthony Straker’s rasping drive over the bar as goalmouth action became more frequent. It was down the left where City were causing more problems, with Straker and Ross Stearn sending in a few teasing deliveries to keep the Rocks defence on their toes. A move down that side nearly resulted in the opener. Straker was felled in the build-up but referee Daniel Lamport played an excellent advantage, which helped the Romans continue and see the ball eventually fall to John Mills, who side-footed wide with just Giddens to beat.
It was a glorious opening for the man recently brought on for Brunt, and a fellow substitute, Andy Watkins, was prevented by the home stopper who threw himself in the way after Stearn picked out the Cornishman on the back post. With the match edging towards City’s first goalless away from home in the league for nearly four years, a ridiculous goal three minutes from time ended up deciding it in East Thurrock’s favour. Tom Derry’s attempt to charge his way through saw Raynes cover, but his clearance was blasted against the knee of Frankie Artus, with both watching in horror as the ball looped over the helpless Clarke, the goalkeeper left bemused by one of the most extraordinary goals scored past him in a near 20-year career. There was still time for Giddens to keep his clean sheet intact by blocking Rigg from close range, with a late free-kick superbly gathered by the United stopper despite pressure from Clarke, the City keeper thrown forward in desperation. Having defended resolutely throughout, Scott and Lee Burns notably being pillars of strength, East Thurrock earned their clean sheet, and winning late on will leave plenty of smiles on John Coventry’s side’s faces.
It’s unlikely Jerry Gill and his charges saw the funny side.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus, Rigg, Brunt (Mills 74), Stearn, Mann (Watkins 67), Cundy, Raynes, Morton. Subs not used: Richards, Amankwaah, Hodges.
Scorers: City – none; East Thurrock – OG (88)
City Bookings: Raynes (73)
Officials: D Lamport, M Begley, S Smith