Frome Town (0) 1 Bath City (2) 2 – Tuesday 22 March 2022 – Somerset Premier Cup Semi-Final – Badgers Hill
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Cody Cooke’s double earned Bath City a place in the Somerset Premier Cup Final for the first time in 14 years.
The leading scorer, back from injury, added to his brace against Frome Town in the FA Cup earlier this season with two more at Badgers Hill to help City progress to the competition’s showpiece event, where they’ll face Odd Down or Yeovil Town.
Rex Mannings pulled one back on 59 minutes for the hosts, keeping up his record of scoring in every round in this season’s competition.
But they couldn’t find another past Ryan Clarke as the Robins will be left to concentrate on a promotion push to Southern Premier South.
Jerry Gill made three changes from Saturday’s win over Hemel Hempstead as he continued to treat this competition seriously this term, recalling Dan Ball and Omar Holness with Cooke available following a hamstring strain, and switching to 3-4-3 to match Frome’s formation.
The Romans started positively with Cooke linking up with Ryan Jones before the striker’s stinging volley required a smart tip-over from Seth Locke.
From Jones’ resulting corner, Jack Batten was left all alone to head to the back post, where Dave Sims-Burgess nodded against the upright before Town desperately cleared.
Danny Greaves’ men settled and nearly broke the deadlock on 20 minutes. Batten’s loose ball from defence was intercepted by James Ollis, who set Kane Simpson free down the left. The forward passed back inside to Mannings, whose ferocious first time effort from 18 yards curled inches over Clarke’s crossbar.
A couple of long throws from former Frome man Joe Raynes caused his former employers some issues, with Sims-Burgess nodding one narrowly wide and another scrambled clear.
The home defence was dealt a blow on the half hour when Alex Hallett was forced to withdraw through a calf issue, which saw former Roman Ryan Harley enter the fray with Joe O’Loughlin moving back into the back three.
Omar Holness’ 30-yarder sizzled just over Locke’s bar before Bath took the lead on 43 minutes.
Alex Fletcher found room down the left and looped the ball back from the byline for Cooke to head home with ease from three yards.
They found time to add another and effectively kill off the contest in first half stoppage time.
Raynes appeared to be fouled by Mannings on the City right but referee Kevin Johnson played advantage to allow Tom Smith to thread the ball through to Sims-Burgess. The former Yate man unselfishly squared to Cooke, who side-footed into a near unguarded net from 12 yards.
It eased any nerves as City started the second half in confident fashion, with the legs of Locke denying Jones after he found space in the box from Ball’s long pass from the back.
A timely intervention from Warren Maidment snuffed out Sims-Burgess’ low cross with Cooke waiting for a hat-trick, before Frome pulled one back just before the hour.
Mannings cleverly slipped the ball behind for Simpson who was superbly denied by Clarke, but the keeper was helpless to prevent Mannings gobbling up the rebound, the striker firing a controlled half volley home from 14 yards past two players on the line.
The hosts introduced former Bath City midfielder Jon Davies four minutes later and his trickery proved a handful for the Romans back three.
A through ball by the substitute nearly saw Mannings in again but Raynes’ vital interception snuffed out a leveller.
Davies then won a free-kick on the left which he took himself, picking out the unmarked Ollis at the far post but the former Bath City Academy man’s firm header was turned behind by Clarke.
Locke needed to be at full-stretch to tip over Holness’ rasping drive from over 30 yards as City regained control and tried to make the game safe.
They saw the contest out comfortably to ease into their first final since 2008, where they’ll be aiming to win the competition for a record 25th time and earn Gill his first piece of silverware as City boss, having won it twice as a player in 1994 and 1995.
It also makes it four games unbeaten in all competitions ahead of a tricky test at Eastbourne Borough on Saturday in National League South.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Batten, Fletcher, Holness, Cooke (E Jones 80), Smith, Frear, Ball, R Jones, Sims-Burgess (Richards 90+3). Subs not used: Fuller, Cannings, Andrews.
Scorers: City – Cooke (43, 45+2); Frome – Mannings (59)
City Bookings: none
Officials: K Johnson, M Russell, J Broham