Eastbourne Borough (0) 1 Bath City (2) 2 – Saturday 19 August 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Priory Lane
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Bath City survived a late onslaught as they showed tremendous determination to collect three points from Eastbourne.
First half goals from Jordan Thomas and a Cody Cooke penalty put the Romans in control.
Boro’ made three half-time substitutions and it looked to have haunted them when Shiloh Remy hobbled off on 66 minutes, leaving them with 10 men.
But Decarrey Sheriff’s well-placed header gave them hope and they nearly rescued a point in extraordinary circumstances when goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski’s 25-yard volley was finger-tipped wide by opposite number Ollie Wright.
City reverted to a back three following Tuesday’s heavy loss to Weston-super-Mare and they started comfortably, showing no ill-effects from the midweek mauling.
The recalled Cooke couldn’t quite connect with Dan Greenslade’s dangerous ball into the area in a cagey opening where both sides cancelled each other out.
That was until a costly error gave City a 24th minute lead. Debutant Sam Beard, son of Boro’ boss Mark, lost control of an Alex Finney pass high up the field, allowing Thomas to intercept and charge on goal before coolly sliding past the advancing Dudzinski – his fourth goal in four games since arriving.
It appeared to drain the confidence of the hosts who suddenly struggled to combine any string of passes having looked confident before the opener.
Beard atoned for his mistake with a stunning block. Wright’s goal kick bounced favourably for Scott Wilson who squared to the onrushing Thomas, but his goalbound effort was brilliantly deflected behind by the centre-back.
Wilson and Thomas were denied by Dudzinski while Eastbourne’s only real threat saw Remy’s attempted cross fall just wide of Wright’s far post.
City were gifted an opportunity to double their lead in first half stoppage time. Cooke somehow squeezed a ball from the left to Wilson in the penalty area, who when heading away from goal was foolishly pushed to the ground by Jack Paxman.
Cooke took the resulting spot-kick and placed it just out of Dudzinski’s reach to his left to make it 2-0.
Paxman was one of three Boro’ men withdrawn at the break as the freshened up side started to have more territory but were often let down by a woeful final ball or well-organised defending by Jerry Gill’s side.
One of the replacements in Jay Beckford forced Wright into a tip-over save but it looked like any hope of an unlikely comeback was extinguished when the Sports were forced to finish a man down.
Remy pulled up in the penalty area clutching his hamstring and couldn’t continue, depriving Boro’ of last season’s top scorer for the remainder of the contest.
Finney lashed a difficult opening over the bar moments before the hosts pulled one back with a well-worked goal.
Jack Clarke found Leone Gravata in room on the right following a patient move and his first-time cross was superbly headed home by Sheriff, who snuck in front of Kieran Parselle to re-direct the ball into the top corner from eight yards.
The momentum was clearly with the 10 men. Iraq international Yaser Kasim tested Wright from distance and Wright got wrong hands to Stefan Vukoje’s stinging effort, parrying it away from a packed penalty area.
Another pinpoint Gravata delivery saw Clarke steam in unopposed, but he headed over when he should have tested Wright.
Finney was launched forward as an unorthodox forward and his absence left a hole in the home back-line, which City nearly exploited in the fourth minute of added time.
Wilson got to the ball before Dan Quick and squared to substitute Tom Smith, who with only Dudzinski to beat shot wastefully too close to the glovesman, who gathered.
The keeper nearly turned superhero at the other end. After Kasim’s effort was deflected behind, Boro’ threw everyone forward for a final corner. Jordan Dyer headed a follow-up delivery away straight onto the boot of Dudzinski, whose first time volley from the edge of the box nearly crept into the bottom corner before Wright flicked behind at full-stretch.
City dealt with one final delivery before a few puffs of cheeks and smiles greeted the final whistle and meant their long journey home was a happy one.
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Greenslade, Batten, Parselle (c), Hayfield, Cooke, Frear, Clark (Raynes 90+2), Thomas (Smith 81), Wilson, Russe (Dyer 90+2). Subs not used: Forster, Lines.
Scorers: City – Thomas (24), Cooke (pen 45+3); Eastbourne – Sheriff (77)
City Bookings: Wilson (30), Clark (51), Cooke (56)
Officials: T Ellsmore, C Britton, D Ellis