Hemel Hempstead Town (1) 3 Bath City (1) 1 – Saturday 15 January 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Vauxhall Road
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Hemel Hempstead Town ended 340 days without a home league win by deservedly seeing off a below-par Bath City.
Gus Scott-Morriss opened the scoring on 39 minutes before Cody Cooke’s swift equaliser.
But that was as good as it got for the Romans who succumbed to a Charlee Hughes solo effort on 65 minutes, with substitute Alex Addai wrapping up the points with four minutes remaining.
City also lost Eddie Jones to an ankle injury to heap further misery on a gloomy afternoon in Hertfordshire.
The Romans went into the contest at Vauxhall Road without Jack Batten, Callum Wood and Omar Holness through injury while Mo Touray dropped to the bench. Elliott Frear and Dave Sims-Burgess were recalled, Joe Raynes returned from a groin strain and Dan Ball came in for his 294th appearance for the club.
In contrast Hemel’s starting XI only had 188 appearances between them, but they looked the more cohesive early on, showing little signs of a side that had won just two of 23 in all competitions on their 3G surface laid in the summer of 2020.
Josh Castiglione wastefully blazed over as Raynes’ pass sold Jones short and he also tested Clarke at his near post on 12 minutes having skipped inside from the left.
City’s weak defending from set-pieces was magnified moments later when the towering Cole Kpekawa, who scored an own goal against the Romans for Chelmsford last season, nearly made amends with two identical headers from Samir Carruthers corners, requiring tip-overs from Ryan Clarke.
A formation change to 3-4-3 prevented Bath from being further overrun and they should have opened the scoring ten minutes before the break when Raynes found a gap in the Hemel defence to find Alex Fletcher, but after a heavy first touch he miscued wide from 16 yards.
The hosts took a deserved lead four minutes later. Castiglione picked up the ball in midfield and spotted the onrushing Scott-Morriss with an inch-perfect pass behind the visiting backline, where the captain met it with a first time strike across Clarke who couldn’t get down in time.
To City’s credit, they showed spirit in replying within three minutes. Raynes’ hooked pass over the top found Dave Sims-Burgess in oceans of space down the right. His delicious delivery was met at the far post by the left foot of Cooke, who volleyed home his 15th goal in all competitions this season from six yards.
Scott-Morriss was denied a second six minutes after the interval when Castiglione’s shot from Carruthers’ short free-kick deflected back via the offside Jack Westbrook, penalising the innocent Hemel skipper.
King showed sharp reflexes to bat away Fletcher’s intelligent near post flick from Frear’s cross, and the home custodian denied the City number seven again to his right after he was given too much space in the box.
It proved to be the last time he was significantly troubled as it was City’s glovesman left picking the ball out of his net for a second time instead.
Hughes did it all by himself, showing great composure to tie Ball, Raynes and Jordan Dyer in knots before his scuffed effort across Clarke from 10 yards dribbled just inside the goalkeeper’s right post.
Despite having 25 minutes left to conjure up more opportunities, City offered little of an attacking threat, with Sims-Burgess’ angled drive from an acute angle flying past King’s right post in a foray forward.
They were dealt a further blow when Jones appeared to turn his ankle in tackling the lively Hughes, and two minutes after his enforced substitution, Hemel made the game safe.
Substitute Addai was set free down the left and having cut inside of Dyer and Raynes, his curler from just inside the penalty area took a wicked deflection off Dyer to loop over the helpless Clarke.
It helped Hemel move above City in the table and gave their fans some rare home comforts as they were able to witness the Tudors win at Vauxhall Road in the league for the first time since 7 March 2020, with last year’s only home success over Havant & Waterlooville played behind closed doors.
City return to Twerton Park on Saturday against Eastbourne Borough hoping to enjoy similar success.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Raynes, Delaney, Fletcher, Cooke, Smith, Frear (Touray 75), Jones (Kadji 84), Ball, Dyer, Sims-Burgess. Subs not used: Fuller, Richards.
Scorers: City – Cooke (42); Hemel – Scott-Morris (38), Hughes (65), Addai (85)
City Bookings: Smith (35)
Officials: R Martin, R Preca, V Anekwe