Next Match – Aveley (H)

Bath City welcome National League South newcomers Aveley to Twerton Park this Saturday for the celebration of City’s Foundation and Family Day – when under-16s come in for free and the Bath City Foundation offers multiple activities before the match.

This is Aveley’s first season at this level, and this will be the first time they have played Bath City. The Essex outfit have been the surprise package in the NLS, defying expectations to rise to second in the table going into this match. The Millers have won their last four league games, beating Hemel Hempstead Town 2-1 at home on Monday evening after consecutive wins over Weston-super-Mare, St Albans City and Havant & Waterlooville. And it would have been five on the trot but for a 96th-minute equaliser for Truro City in their match before that run.

Their success has been built on a defence that has let in just 14 goals in 16 league matches. Only Maidstone Town, with 13 goals against in 15 matches, have conceded fewer. But they have been scoring at the other end too – 26 so far. This despite losing two players who were their leading scorers at the time of their departure. Jon Benton has gone to Solihull Moors of the National League, and Matt Rush has recently departed for Maidstone United. But this hasn’t stopped them. New arrival Sydney Ibie, a 23-year-old Dutch forward brought in on loan from National League side Dagenham & Redbridge, has scored in both the games he has played in since his arrival.

Their manager is Danny Scopes, who led Concord Rangers to the FA Trophy Final in 2020. (That match was postponed until 2021, due to the pandemic, and was Scopes’ last game in charge at Thames Road.) Scopes was appointed by Aveley two years ago this week, on 7 November 2021, and guided them to the Isthmian Division One North title at the end of that season, two points ahead of other local rivals Canvey Island. In his second season, Scopes won a second promotion, this time reaching the NLS through the play-offs after Aveley finished fourth in the Isthmian Premier League.

The Romans, for their part, are back to winning ways and up to third place, four points behind Aveley, after their commanding 5-1 win at Weymouth on Tuesday night. With Ewan Clark rested, Elliott Frear was recalled to the first eleven and repaid the gaffer’s faith by scoring his ninth and tenth goals for the club. Scott Wilson, Jordan Thomas and Cody Cooke completed the rout. The margin of the win now makes the Romans the league’s top scorers, with 32 goals from 16 games.

Aveley play their home matches on a 3G pitch at Parkside, having moved there in 2017. That will be the venue for Bath City’s last game of the regular season, on 20 April. But first we will see what the League’s newest team have to offer in front of what should be a bumper crowd at Twerton Park on Foundation and Family Day.