Hungerford Town (0) 0 Bath City (0) 0 – Vanarama National League South – Friday 19 April 2019 – Bulpit Lane
Neither Bath City nor Hungerford Town could make the breakthrough at a sweltering Bulpit Lane. It was the Romans’ fourth goalless draw of 2019 alone, compared to Hungerford’s first at home for two years, and second consecutive match without netting. Their busy Easter weekend continues on Monday afternoon back at Twerton Park, when Oxford City are the visitors, City eager to finally confirm their end-of-season play-off place.
“At the present moment, we’re not quite doing enough in the final third,” admitted City chiief Jerry Gill afterwards. “It’s not workrate or attitude, it’s about dynamic movement. We’re not doing enough with that, hence not scoring the goals that we were earlier in the season.”
City started brightly, forcing several corners, but Crusaders goalkeeper Michael Luyambula was largely untroubled.
“The most disappointing thing for me is their goalkeeper hasn’t been worked too much,” Gill added. “I’ve said it umpteen times now, teams are going to drop off and make it difficult for us. I felt we were always in control of the game, which may sound like an open record. We’ve tried everything we can – change of personnel, changing shape several times.”
Ryan Clarke was called upon twice in the first half, smartly tipping over Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist’s free-kick and keeping out Conor Lynch’s effort with his legs after the diminutive forward had a rare opening inside the back four.
“Ryan Clarke’s done terrifically, the back four have done well,” Gill said. “That’s what’s set us up for the season. We have the best defensive record in the league, it’s a solid base. That gives you an opportunity to go and win the game. At the moment, we’re not winning games because the fire power has dropped away from the level.”
Andy Watkins flashed a shot just over following good work by James Morton down the right. He was one of three players withdrawn in the second half, Gill explaining this was largely down to the heat, with temperatures touching 25 degrees in west Berkshire. The Romans implemented a different style after the break, abandoning their usual fluid passing for an alternative plan. It was under instructions from the boss.
Gill explained: “We’ve gone in a little bit more direct second half up to Ryan [Brunt]. I’d challenge any team to play on this surface. It’s really difficult – it might look okay but it’s rock hard, it’s solid. There’s no value playing out the back here. It’s so bobbly and firm.”
The final ball gave the forwards little to work from with Freddie Hinds’ well-directed header gathered by Luyambula in a rare lapse in the otherwise organised Town backline. Hungerford’s only real opening in the second half saw Michael Jones ball over the top pick out Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis, whose stinging drive was palmed behind for a corner. Such balls over the top for City seldom came off.
Gill added: “We’re asking for quality when it goes in there, not just a lump. It petered out into a nothing game on a very, very hot day.”
City will be hoping that Billericay Town, home to Hemel Hempstead, and Dartford, away to Eastbourne Borough, slip up on Saturday. Having sat in a play-off spot since New Year’s Day, a victory on Easter Monday should be enough to see City remain there.
Gill will be back in Berkshire to watch their opponents on Monday, who are away to Slough. “A win at home against Oxford will cement us in the play-offs,” he said. “I’m going to watch them tomorrow with Jim [Rollo, assistant] so we’ll have done our homework. We’ll come in ready and it’ll always be positivity from us.”
Sean Rigg was taken off with a facial injury against Hungerford, but Gill is hopeful he’ll feature on Monday.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Watkins (Brunt 55), Rigg (Artus 71), Stearn, Mann (Hinds 69), Cundy, Raynes, Morton, Smith. Subs not used: H Wiles-Richards, Ball.
City Bookings: none
Officials: P Staynings, A Evans, L Lungarella