Hungerford Town (0) 0 Bath City (1) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 14 March 2020 – Bulpit Lane
Report by Kelston Koppite
Bath City earned three points with a solid performance against struggling Hungerford Town at a breezy Bulpit Lane this afternoon. A solitary, scrappy goal from Adam Mann on the stroke of half time proved sufficient to secure victory for the Romans in a game of few clear cut chances.
City began the match playing down the considerable slope, but with the keen early spring breeze blowing into their faces. Hungerford created the first opening in the 6th minute when a cross from the left was headed over Harvey Wiles-Richards’ crossbar by Matt Jones.
The game settled into a midfield battle which was evenly contested and it was not until the 20th minute that the visitors produced an attempt at goal. Mann picked up possession of the ball just inside the Town half, and advanced towards the penalty box before striking his shot wide of the near post.
Bath were gradually gaining the upper hand, and home custodian Will Henry was required to produce a good diving save on 24 minutes to keep out Lloyd James’s curling shot following a tricky free kick routine on the edge of the area. Two minutes later Frankie Artus lifted a volley well over the bar and, shortly afterwards, the same player tried his luck from distance but, this time, his shot lacked the power to unduly trouble Henry.
With 31 minutes on the clock, Mann played an enticing through ball into the path of Sam Pearson who raced into the box, only for Henry to block his eventual angled shot at the near post.
As half time approached, The Crusaders enjoyed their best spell on the opening period. City lost possession to Oliver Artell on the edge of their own box, but the striker fired his shot straight into the grateful arms of Wiles-Richards. However, the visitors had the final say as they took the lead in the 45th minute. Two defenders attempted to shield the ball back to Henry, but Mann’s persistence resulted in him prodding past the hesitant keeper, the ball rolling agonisingly slowly over the goalline.
Ryan Brunt replaced the injured Pearson ahead of the restart as City began to play uphill.
James Rusby’s 47th minute shot following a corner was deflected over Wiles-Richards crossbar as the hosts looked to push men forward. At the other end, Dan Ball nodded over the bar on 53 minutes after James had delivered a free kick into the danger area and, on the hour mark, Brunt’s shot on the turn from inside the box was wide of the target.
Hungerford were causing problems down both flanks through the pace of Zidan Akers and Artwell, but they were struggling to break down Bath’s well organised and resolute defence. There was a scare for the Somerset side on 64 minutes when Akers’ raking cross from the right picked out Liam Ferdinand who flashed a volley just over the top, albeit an offside flag had already been raised.
Dan Martin saw his ferocious goalbound shot from outside the box in the 65th minute somehow blocked by George Smith’s brave intervention, and the same Cityman had another shot blocked by Henry after the left wing-back had rapidly advanced goalwards from the halfway line.
Connor Riley-Lowe’s cross from the left just eluded the outstretched leg of Tom Smith in front of goal. Mann then underhit a shot from outside the box that was comfortably collected by Henry, before the tiring Tom Richards was replaced by Zak Smith in the 75th minute.
Hungerford continued to search for an equaliser, but the City rearguard held firm under the pressure, and it was the visitors who came closest to adding to the scoreline in the closing minutes. Cameron McGilp’s backpass was miscontrolled by Henry with the ball spinning back dangerously close to the goalline, but the keeper recovered just in time to save his own blushes.
This game could not in any way be described as a classic, but Jerry Gill’s men produced a workmanlike and determined performance to take the spoils, factors that were well appreciated by the travelling support who had arrived in impressive numbers. Hungerford played some decent football at times that belied their lowly league standing but, ultimately, they lacked the penetration to breach the well drilled Bath defensive line. As for City, they will feel that this was a ‘job well done’ as they kept themselves firmly in the promotion chasing pack. Obviously, with the looming spectre of the forecast medical crisis, there is huge uncertainty of what the coming weeks will bring, but it can only be hoped that this intriguing season can, at some stage, be played out to its conclusion. Only time will tell!
City’s Line-Up: Wiles-Richards, Riley-Lowe, T Smith, Bowry, Artus, Mann, Martin, Ball (c), Pearson (Brunt HT), Richards (Z Smith 74), James. Subs not used: Clarke, Chilvers, Simpson.
Scorers: City – Mann (45); Hungerford – none
City Bookings: none
Officials: S Tallis, G Pearce, C Kidd