Maidstone United (1) 2 Bath City (0) 1 – Saturday 5 February 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Gallagher Stadium
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
“We’ve been unlucky to come away with nothing” was Jerry Gill’s assessment as Bath City were edged out by Maidstone United at the Gallagher Stadium.
The Kent outfit had to work had to reach a dozen games unbeaten as goals from Jack Barham and Joan Luque proved enough for the hosts in the end.
Substitute Elliott Frear pulled one back with six minutes remaining but Bath couldn’t rescue a point which few would have disputed after a spirited display.
“That was a really good performance from the lads,” said Gill. “It was more like the level that we want.
“We had to respect them because of where they are in the league. Hakan (Hayrettin), a good friend of mine, is doing a fantastic job and rightly has a new contract.
“This is arguably one of the toughest places to come in the league – they’re a full-time outfit and on a rich vein of form, scoring nine in their last two games.
“Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to be a team that’s played well and lost – but the results are coming.”
The early stages suggested that a close encounter was not in the offing as Maidstone piled forward. A superb save from Ryan Clarke kept out Luque’s low curling free-kick, with Dan Ball superbly denying Sam Corne from the rebound.
City’s plan appeared to try and catch Maidstone on the counter with Ben Seymour playing through the middle. He was picked out by Alex Fletcher’s clever ball down the right, but with no support he was forced to shoot across goal with the angle against him and saw his attempt drift harmlessly wide.
A similar break down the right nearly resulted in Bath’s opener. Joe Raynes’ ball eluded Joe Ellul, who initially did well to block Seymour but the forward managed to pick out Tom Smith, whose low strike from 10 yards was brilliantly tipped behind by Yusuf Mersin, making his first start for the club.
Maidstone opened the scoring on 42 minutes when Regan Booty’s free-kick was inadvertently flicked back towards his own goal by Cody Cooke to Luque, who hooked it over Clarke for Barham to easily tap home from two yards.
“We had kept the crowd quiet before then,” said Gill. “The gameplan had worked to a tee.
“The disappointing thing is we’ve gone to sleep on a second and third phase. It’s a poor goal to concede.”
City were forced into a change at the break with Seymour succumbing to an ankle injury which Gill believes will rule him out for two weeks. Frear was introduced as Cooke was switched to his preferred role as a central striker.
Three corners in the first seven minutes of the half highlighted the Romans’ pressure whereas Maidstone created little, with Corne wildly volleying Booty’s corner against the roof of the impressive Genco terrace.
The hosts were hampered when Ellul came off with a hamstring strain, forcing the attack minded Roarie Deacon into a full-back role due to a lack of defensive options.
His absence up top went unnoticed when the Stones made it 2-0 on 75 minutes.
George Fowler’s floated pass from defence was latched onto by Luque, who cleverly slipped it on to Corne. The midfielder miscontrolled at the vital moment but the ball came back off Clarke to the perfectly placed Luque, who easily side-footed home from eight yards.
Cooke’s header was well tipped over by Mersin and Mo Bettamer went closer at the other end, nodding against the bar when he should have scored.
The Romans pulled one back when Zak Delaney’s quick throw was touched back by Fletcher to Frear, who tidily volleyed past Mersin.
But despite added pressure they couldn’t find another way past the Turkish stopper.
“We were on the front foot in the second half,” reflected Gill. “We dominated the game. We had bravery on the ball and were pressing high when we could have gone under.
“Elliott was excellent when he went on. It was a great goal from him and they were hanging on in the last 10 minutes.
“There were some really strong individual performances. Zak Delaney drove himself high up the pitch and defended against some really good, athletic players who are quick on the attack.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Gill’s side, who face league leaders Dorking Wanderers at Twerton Park this Saturday.
“I told them to keep their heads up and chests pumped out,” said the City boss.
“We’ll have a gameplan against Dorking. It’s important that we know what they’re all about.
“We’re at home and will have a good support again no doubt. We’ll be positive all week.”
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Delaney, Batten, Fletcher, Cooke, Smith, Ball, Seymour (Frear HT), Rowe, Dyer. Subs not used: Fuller, Holness, Jones.
Scorers: City – Frear (84); Maidstone – Barham (42), Luque (75)
City Bookings: none
Officials: T Danaher, L Chaoman, H Collins