Eastbourne Borough (0) 0 Bath City (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 23 March 2019 – Priory Lane
The spoils were shared at Priory Lane as neither Bath City nor Eastbourne Borough did enough to win in East Sussex, where Jerry Gill’s charges claimed their third goalless draw of 2019. It’s a result which extends Eastbourne’s winless run to 11, their longest ever in this division, while the clean sheet is City’s 16th of the season in the league.
It could have been so different. Inside 90 seconds, Sol Pryce found room down the right and slipped the ball straight into Ross Stearn’s path, leaving him one-on-one. The attacker, however, panicked and slashed wide with just Mark Smith to beat.
Eastbourne learnt from this error and barely afforded the visiting front three any room for the rest of the half. In fact, it was they who showed more promise as City looked surprisingly sluggish. Tobi Adebayo-Rowling exploited this, exciting the home faithful with several forays forward from full-back. A teasing cross from the right found Michael West, but Ryan Clarke tipped over the resulting header. The home side racked up the corners, claiming eight in the first half, one of them through a Robbie Cundy unforced error. West’s delivery went through a crowd of bodies and found Kristian Campbell, who unleashed a rocket which just clipped the top of the crossbar. Clarke was forced into a save when Adebayo-Rowling was allowed to run unchallenged into the box, with his stinging shot palmed behind. The towering figure of Stefan Ljubicic wasted two opportunities for the hosts. Adebayo-Rowling’s cross picked out the Brighton loanee but he nodded wide when well placed, and Sergio Torres’ pinged delivery saw the same man volley off target. Cundy’s vital block denied Adebayo-Rowling just before half-time, with Gill deciding a change of shape was required during the break.
A switch to a back four saw Tom Smith introduced for Joe Romanski, and in the second period City looked far brighter from the start. Smith and Frankie Artus saw efforts charged down by a determined home backline, who were harried into rushed clearances, Bath’s pressing and energy levels significantly improved. Joe Raynes and Stearn failed to hit the target from distance, the latter a difficult chance with goalkeeper Smith stranded after a foray from his goal. Andy Watkins was introduced for the stricken Artus, adding to injury woes with Adam Mann, Sean Rigg and Ryan Brunt all on the sidelines. He added his usual zip of energy, picking up the ball on the byline with his centre just missing Stearn, who was flagged offside.
City’s hat-trick hero from their last away match dragged a shot too close to Mark Smith, who was forced into his best save with ten minutes left. Straker and Freddie Hinds’ build-up play impressed, as did the swivel and shot from Tom Smith, but it was a nice height for the keeper who dived to his left and palmed it away from danger. Straker’s sweet drive whistled just past the post as the minutes ticked away, with Eastbourne comfortable on the ball but with no attacking threat to the Romans in the second half. That was until added time. Kane Wills’ lay-off saw substitute Andrew Briggs burst into the penalty area before throwing himself to the floor with Raynes in the vicinity. Referee Dean Skipper blew his whistle, briefly hushing the expectant home crowd, before they were reduced to groans as he awarded a free-kick in City’s favour for simulation, cautioning the youngster.
Although this was a game Bath would have expected to win, they could have few complaints with a point and leave a six-point cushion between them and sides outside the play-offs. Two conceded in six games extends City’s decent run in that respect; they’ll need to keep their concentration against title challengers Woking next week.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Artus (Watkins 67), Hinds, Stearn, Cundy, Raynes, Romanski (Smith HT), Morton, Pryce. Subs not used: Ball, Amankwaah, H Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – none; Eastbourne – none.
City Bookings: Batten (70)
Officials: D Skipper, C Bartlett, C Barnett