Slough Town (1) 3 Bath City (2) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 24 August 2019 – Arbour Park
Two runs came to an end in baking Berkshire on Saturday as Bath City’s unbeaten stretch ended at the hands of previously winless Slough Town. A contest which perhaps wasn’t as exciting as the topsy-turvy scoring pattern suggests saw the hosts eventually claim victory, thanks to Warren Harris’s 50th goal for the club, a stoppage-time winner to add further celebrations, and relief, as the Rebels got their season up and running. They initially led through Dan Roberts, but it was extinguished by Tyler Harvey’s neat finish, and the hosts found themselves behind when Tom Richards’ sublime strike from 25 yards flew into the top corner past a helpless Jack Turner.
The initial recovery was appreciated by Jerry Gill. “Having gone behind and got ourselves back in the game with two very good goals, it looks like we’re in control,” the Romans boss said. “At half-time, it was at that point where I thought ‘we’re not going to lose this game’.”
But it was the galling nature of defeat that irked Gill, who was less than impressed with the second half.
“I didn’t foresee what I saw second half,” he added. “We never started. It’s as poor as we’ve been. Compared to the first half where I felt we looked like a top-three team, especially dealing with a setback and coming back, which is a good sign.”
An enforced change worked wonders for Slough. Centre-back Guy Hollis hobbled off having been caught by Richards. With replacement defender Mark Nisbet only recently overcoming a heart scare, home managers Jon Underwood and Neil Baker threw on 37-year-old forward Manny Williams, who was a real livewire. City, in contrast, barely laid a glove on Turner, wilting somewhat in blazing sunshine.
Gill continued: “We’ve asked players – ‘why did it happen?’ You can give credit to the opposition, and we do. But we should have been better in managing the game and seeing the game through. We looked like everything we worked on for 45 minutes had gone out the window. It was unrecognisable – we didn’t keep the ball.”
Frankie Artus was introduced for Harry Hamblin on 66 minutes. Although Slough had more possession, they hadn’t forced many scares, with Ryan Clarke rarely called into action.
The City chief explained the substitution. He said: “There was no leadership out there. That’s why I put Frankie on, he’s going on to organise people, give us some stability in the centre of the park, because we’re very young. But even then it’s difficult for one to go on there, you need leaders across the pitch.”
Defensively, City were sturdy enough, until a late surge from the Rebels caused a collapse. Williams thrashed home from ten yards on 87 minutes, his sixth goal against Bath for his fourth different club. They penned City back thereafter, forcing throw-ins and corners aplenty, and eventually it paid off with Harris slamming in a stoppage-time winner, sending most of Arbour Park into bedlam.
“Even the winning goal, you could see it coming to be honest,” Gill said. “We didn’t look like we wanted to throw our body on the line, which is a worry. Losing a game 3-2, when you’re in that position, is very unacceptable. Credit to Slough because they deserved to win the game. But we’re not going to lie down and say ‘that’s the way we’re going to be’, we have to do something about it.”
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Riley-Lowe, T Smith, Mann, Harvey (Brunt 69), Stearn (Bower 78), Richards, Hartridge, H Smith, Hamblin (Artus 66). Subs not used: Watkins, Pardington.
Scorers: City – Harvey (24), Richards (38); Slough – Roberts (13), Williams (87), Harris (90+4)
City Bookings: Richards (50), Brunt (71)
Officials: M Ryan, C Bullock, J Cushey