Ebbsfleet United (1) 3 Bath City (0) 0 – Saturday 18 December 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Stonebridge Road

Ebbsfleet United (1) 3 Bath City (0) 0 – Saturday 18 December 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Stonebridge Road

Match Report by Mark Stillman.

Three goals in a mad five-minute spell either side of half-time consigned Bath City to defeat at Ebbsfleet United.

Elliott Romain’s double and Dom Poleon’s 10th of the season was enough for Dennis Kutrieb’s side, who went top of the table following this success.

City were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal, particularly in the first half with Cody Cooke and Dave Sims-Burgess having four openings between them.

But their failure to score for in a match for the eighth this season proved costly as the hosts gained more control in the second half to secure three points despite a spirited performance from Jerry Gill’s men.

Both sides were hit by a raft of absences, each left with 14 available players. In Bath City’s case that included Tom Richards on the bench to simply make up the numbers with the midfielder weeks away from a return from injury.

Ebbsfleet started brightly, forcing a succession of corners with Rakish Bingham’s drive deflected over by Callum Wood. The Bath defence otherwise dealt well with a catalogue of near post deliveries, Zak Delaney proving a reliable blocker in a bright display by the youngster.

City weren’t overawed and should have taken the lead when Alex Fletcher’s effort took a nick off former Roman Sido Jombati, falling kindly to the unmarked Cooke six yards out but Chris Haigh’s rapid reflexes batted his strike away.

Sims-Burgess missed a glorious chance to open his City account on 26 minutes. Cooke’s flick-on set the former Yate man clear as the home defence hesitated, but he tamely side-footed wide from 16 yards when he should have tested Haigh.

The same player headed straight at the home stopper from Fletcher’s cross and Cooke tested the overworked Haigh after cutting inside of Chris Solly, but shot too close at the Ebbsfleet custodian who thwarted him with his legs.

Ebbsfleet broke the deadlock with 30 seconds of the normal time in the half remaining. Jack Paxman and Sefa Kahraman linked up for their 12th corner before the latter saw his stinging drive saved by Ryan Clarke at his near post. With the defence powerless to clear, Romain was able to turn and fire home from six yards.

It was the fifth time this season City had conceded in the 45th minute when they looked set to head into an interval level. On this occasion their return from the break saw a similar collapse to England’s batters in Australia, resulting in a previously close contest effectively over within five minutes of the restart.

Romain turned provider for ‘fleet’s second, netted 40 seconds into the second half.

Having won the ball in midfield, his clever dink over the Bath defence found Poleon one-on-one and he nonchalantly side-stepped past Clarke before rolling home from 10 yards.

The City keeper was left exposed again three minutes later. Bingham’s hefty clearance from a defensive position was loosely headed inside by Wood to Romain, who nodded the ball into his path and sprinted through. The defender did his best to put the forward off, but Romain showed great strength and balance to stay on his feet before seeing his initial attempt parried by Clarke, only for it to loop back to the same player to easily head home the rebound.

Romain was only making his second league start of the season with his inclusion enforced following a long list of sidelined players through positive Covid tests and suspension. He nearly marked this rare opportunity with a hat-trick after Ben Chapman’s low strike was spilled by Clarke, but the keeper made amends in deflecting the rebound from Romain wide with his legs.

The returning Romans stopper also denied Poleon and neatly tipped Romain’s header over when Chapman picked him out.

Despite the hosts becoming more dominant, City didn’t surrender and looked more comfortable in possession than in previous defeats this season with Sims-Burgess’ thumping drive from Cooke’s assist grazing the top of the bar.

Haigh kept out Cooke at his near post, Tom Smith’s low drive was deflected wide and substitute Omar Holness dragged off target as Gill’s side sought a goal which their efforts deserved.

They couldn’t find one as the home side saw out the closing stages to confirm their top spot over Christmas while City remain in 16th ahead of a Boxing Day and New Year double against local rivals Chippenham Town.

Att: 765

City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Delaney, Batten, Wood, Fletcher, Cooke, Smith, Jones, Sims-Burgess (Holness 71). Subs not used: Fuller, Richards.

Scorers: City – none; Ebbsfleet – Romain (45, 49) Poleon (46)

City Bookings: Cooke (54), Delaney (82)

Officials: J Packman, T Kelly, G Baker