Shaftesbury FC (0) 0 Bath City (0) 1 – Saturday 18 September 2021 – FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round – Coppice Street

Shaftesbury FC (0) 0 Bath City (0) 1 – Saturday 18 September 2021 – FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round – Coppice Street

Match Report by Mark Stillman.

Omar Holness’ header ensured Bath City’s progression in the Emirates FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round against plucky Wessex League outfit Shaftesbury.

The substitute was perfectly placed to nod in his first goal for the club after Eddie Jones’ cross from the byline picked him out.

Shaftesbury defended tremendously throughout with Billy Maybury outstanding, while goalkeeper Alex Cull frustrated Mo Touray and Holness with decent saves.

They were finally breached to deservedly ensure the dominant visitors a passage to the 3rd Qualifying Round for a tenth successive season.

With nearly 70 places between the clubs, the Romans were expected to see off the hosts, whose journey began in the Extra Preliminary Round vs Amesbury and were at this stage of the competition for the first time since 1909.

Jerry Gill’s men enjoyed a lot of possession early on but didn’t test Cull until the 15th minute when Touray’s intricate footwork gave him room to try and bend an effort from 18 yards, but the former Southampton stopper dived to his left to fingertip behind.

Shaftesbury went into the game short of defenders, forcing winger Mali Benjamin to fill in as an emergency centre-back. On a marauding run forward, Benjamin was left in a heap following an innocuous collision with Ben Gerring, who immediately signalled for medical assistance for his opponent. After a four-minute delay the Shaftesbury man was carried off with Ash Pope on in another formation re-jig.

Cooke headed straight at Cull from Jones’ cross and was further frustrated in the air when he rose highest to Elliott Frear’s corner but home captain Louis Kellaway was well-placed to head away from the goalline with Tom Smith eventually slashing the loose ball over.

The hosts were largely on the back foot but found encouragement in one attempted break with Micky Finch’s cheeky lob floating over debutant Bath keeper Archie Matthews.

The second half started with Shaftesbury pressing higher, urging wing-back Jordan Foot further up the field but Joe Raynes dealt with the further threat well, looking calm and assured in his second successive start after such a long injury lay-off.

With the wing-backs being more adventurous, it gave Bath extra room in behind, where they looked threatening all afternoon. Touray spotted the overlapping run of Frear who drilled across from the byline but it somehow evaded Cooke and Alex Fletcher much to the relief of the hosts.

Top scorer Cooke was replaced just past the hour with Holness on in his place, and the substitute nearly made a quick impact. Jones’ long throw wasn’t dealt with and Frear’s ball back in eventually bounced for Holness whose overhead kick looked destined for the top corner, only for Cull to spring to his left and flick behind for a corner.

Smith hammered a free-kick comfortably over Cull’s crossbar in what was becoming a frustrating half for City who enjoyed almost all the possession but struggled to test the home number one, who was superbly protected by his side who had to ditch their often free-scoring approach for determined defending, striker Cam Beard willingly helping the cause.

They managed to create one scare for City with 10 minutes remaining. Substitute Joe Wickham led a breakaway and laid it off for Jamie Wilson wide of goal, but the British Virgin Island international produced a shot that lacked finesse and was a comfortable save for Matthews low to his right.

Their dreams of even a money-spinning replay at Twerton were dashed two minutes later. Despite having a line of defenders acting as a barricade, Jones and Fletcher managed to find room down the right. Jones kept the ball in from the byline and chipped it towards Holness who leapt above Luke Winsper and thumped a header past the helpless Cull to finally break the deadlock much to the delight and relief of the travelling contingent.

It wasn’t as such a case of hanging on for the closing stages as the Rockies fought gallantly but if anything should have conceded again when Fletcher’s flicked header was too close to Cull who batted away to safety.

It didn’t matter as Gill kept up his 100% record against lower league sides in the FA Cup with a fifth win from five potentially tricky ties in the last three years. Shaftesbury’s dreams are over for another year but they took the plaudits for their efforts and still have hopes of Wembley in the FA Vase, continuing Saturday with a trip to Arundel.

Bath City face tough opposition next in unbeaten Maidstone United at Twerton Park this weekend as attention switches back to the league.

Att: 610

City’s Line-Up: Matthews, Raynes, Gerring (c), Touray, Fletcher, Cooke (Holness 61), Smith, Frear, Jones, Owers. Subs not used: Fuller, Harley, James, Richards.

Scorers: City – Holness (82); Shaftesbury – none

City Bookings: none

Officials: M Fletcher, P Barber, G Lynch