Larkhall Athletic (1) 1 Bath City (2) 5 – Pre-Season Friendly – Saturday 3 July 2021 – Securitas Stadium
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
A few hours before England went goal-crazy in Rome, the Romans provided an ideal warm-up act to get their pre-season off to a flier at nearby Larkhall Athletic.
Alex Fletcher bagged a hat-trick with Cody Cooke and Jayden Neilson also marking their first outings with a goal apiece in City’s first friendly of the summer.
Step 4 Larkhall had taken the lead through Mike Baker’s powerful header but were powerless to prevent their National League South neighbours running away with the contest following the early setback.
Manager Jerry Gill was delighted with his team’s display as they registered 24 shots at goal and boasted an impressive 85% pass success rate.
“Overall it’s a really good pre-season game,” he said afterwards. “What you want is to try and build a rhythm early in pre-season if you can. There were lots of changes like any normal friendly game and plenty of good individual performances. To score five goals is pleasing, obviously, and I’m really pleased with how dangerous we looked on set-pieces. I thought Lloyd James’ deliveries were fantastic and with Cody Cooke and Ben Gerring there’s a real threat. A hat-trick for Alex Fletcher is a good habit and a goal for Cody is a great start. A downside is we’ve conceded from a set-piece. That’s probably down to us as a staff actually, we didn’t organise it as we wanted to. There’s still a lot to work on as a team to try and gel, building those relationships and click.”
The line-up had an unfamiliar feel with all four summer signings in from the off plus trialists Will Fuller and Jordan Williams starting in goal and at left-back respectively.
Former Malta under 17 international Williams impressed before he was forced off with 20 minutes remaining. He’d played a part in Fletcher’s second and Neilson’s volley before a crude lunge from Jack Camm saw him hobble off.
Half-time substitute Kitan Jaiyeoba lasted only 15 minutes as injury also forced the pacey winger’s withdrawal.
“Kitan’s twisted his knee a bit in his willingness to track back,” Gill confirmed. “I took Eddie off at half-time as a precaution, but he said he was happy to go back on to stop us playing with 10 men, which I was quite happy to do. It was a really bad tackle on Jordan Williams, it didn’t need to happen. “We haven’t got an abundance of numbers at the moment. Ideally I would have played two XIs but I don’t want to take players on trial for the sake of it. I’m still looking to sign a couple, it’s not the finished article.”
Tom Richards managed a half despite suffering a dead leg recently while Ryan Clarke and Jack Batten missed the game through knee and ankle problems respectively.
Gill also confirmed trialist George Dowling was set to feature but suffered a quad injury which forced him to miss out.
Instead it gave opportunities to the likes of Neilson, who played at Larkhall’s level last season for Bristol Manor Farm.
“It’s a good opportunity for players like Jordan and Jayden to come and show what they can do,” said Gill. “There’s a big void between Southern League to our level but they’ll be given every opportunity to impress. They’re not here to just make up numbers. We want to take in quality. Jayden scored a wonderful goal, Jordan put a terrific cross in for Cody’s header where Alex Fletcher eventually scored from. When the level goes up that’s when you’ll start to notice them. When you have games like Cardiff City, Gloucester and Hereford, we need to be close to what we want to go with. I’d like to thank Larkhall for hosting the game. The pitch was really good and it’s a nice venue, I wish them well for the season.”
City’s Line-Up: Fuller, Jones (Holness 60 (Jones 80)), Williams, James, Gerring (c) (Barnard HT), Ball, Harley (Jaiyeoba HT (Harley 60)), Holness (Richards HT), Cooke, Smith (Neilson HT), Fletcher.
Scorers: City – Cooke (36), Fletcher (42, 62, 84), Neilson (68); Larkhall – Jones (19)
Referee: R Hulme