Maidstone United (0) 0 Bath City (1) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Tuesday 18 February 2020 – Gallagher Stadium
Report by Mark Stillman
Goals from Frankie Artus and Sam Pearson sealed a second successive win for City at the expense of play-off chasing Maidstone United.
The Romans were good value for their first win over the Stones since September 1986, with Artus’ deflected strike giving them a first half advantage, sealed by Pearson’s composed run and finish in added time.
Maidstone struggled to make inroads against a determined rearguard, but they were aggrieved when Alex Hartridge’s foul on Iffy Allen was adjudged outside the box when home players pleaded for a penalty.
It would have been rough justice on Jerry Gill’s young team who produced a mature, controlled performance to lift them up to third.
Dan Martin was thrown into the starting XI having signed on loan from Cardiff on the eve of the game, and his first involvement was an important one, getting a toe in before Justin Amaluzor when the Maidstone man nearly concluded a flowing move.
City grew in confidence and grabbed a deserved opener on 16 minutes. Dan Ball spread the ball to Pearson in space on the right, who in turn picked out Adam Mann. The forward laid it off to Artus who, 20 yards out, saw his shot deflect off Andre Boucaud and fly over Jake Cole for his first away goal since August 2017.
Hartridge nearly inadvertently gifted a leveler when he looped the ball over Ryan Clarke under pressure from Ibby Akanbi, with defender and goalkeeper relieved to see it narrowly miss the target.
Amaluzor’s raking drive flew agonisingly wide of Clarke’s post via a slight deflection as the Stones fought for a leveler before the break.
They were similarly determined after the interval with Akanbi’s shot on the turn well gathered by the alert Clarke.
The keeper incurred the wrath of the home following by attempting to run the clock down which eventually earned him a caution, as Maidstone grew frustrated by City’s chasing and harrying from all over the pitch, with Martin’s energy a useful outlet on the counter.
Amaluzor’s snap-shot hit the base of Clarke’s post as they asked a few questions of the Bath backline and with seven minutes left, thought they had a penalty when substitute Allen was tripped by Hartridge erringly close to the penalty area, with a free-kick awarded amid several protestations. City’s defensive display was summed up as Artus threw himself in the way of the set-piece and snuffed out a shot on goal, soon after Ball’s never-say-die tackle on Allen was worth a few scratches from the 3G surface.
At the other end, the Romans should have wrapped it up when an intricate move saw Mann’s stinging effort parried by Cole to Tom Smith, but the leading scorer couldn’t readjust his body to get a telling shot away, with the grounded Cole grateful to gather.
In additional time, the win was wrapped up. Mann picked up a loose ball in midfield and found a willing runner in Martin. The debutant fed inside to Pearson who went alone and calmly struck past Cole via a deflection from George Elokobi.
It made the closing minutes comfortable for Gill’s men who now look play-off certainties and will be looking more to seal a bye to the semi-finals, which is easily achievable if they produce more displays of this level.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, T Smith, Bowry, Artus, Mann, Chilvers, Ball, Pearson (Simpson 90+5), Hartridge, Martin. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Riley-Lowe, Brunt.
Scorers: City – Artus (16), Pearson (90+2); Maidstone – none
City Bookings: Ball (71), Raynes (79), Clarke (90), Pearson (90+3)
Officials: C Walchester, L Torz-Brown, J Pope