St Albans City (0) 0 Bath City (1) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 19 October 2019 – Clarence Park
Tom Smith’s first-half volley gave Bath City a deserved victory at St Albans as the hosts dropped to the foot of the National League South table. Jerry Gill’s charges were in control for the first 45 minutes but a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from Dean Snedker limited the visitors to a slender half-time lead. The second half was a more attritional affair but the City defence stood strong with new loan signing Dan Bowry helping to record a first away league clean sheet of the season as the three points came back to the West Country.
All in all, the performance left Gill a happy manager come the final whistle. “I feel that the three points were deserved,” he said. “The first half was excellent and I’m really excited with what I saw both on and off the ball. We should have been three or four goals up at the interval and that was my only gripe at half-time. We had several good chances; Sam Pearson was causing havoc including a one-on-one, Ryan Brunt had a header tipped over and Tom Smith hit the crossbar when played through in the box. The goal itself came from a really good passing move which is always pleasing to see. Sam Pearson has got to the byline, pulled it back and Tom Smith is great at arriving in the box at the right time. I thought it was a goal which put us deservedly 1-0 up in the game. The second half we allowed them to get back in the game somewhat and it became a bit of a battle. We didn’t want to do that so we just need to be a little braver in possession. However, we need to remember we have a lot of new players in this team so to get that complete performance in their first game all together as a new group is going to be difficult. But it’s three points and we don’t ever underestimate that. I said last week that the late equaliser against Maidstone might be a turning point and to come here and win the game, like we did last year, is excellent for the team.”
There were limited openings in the first 25 minutes, but having enjoyed the majority of possession, it was the Romans who created the first real chance. Joe Raynes and Sam Pearson initially linked-up well down the City right before the Bristol City loanee cut a cross-back to the penalty spot where Smith coolly volleyed into the bottom corner. From that point on, City dominated the rest of the half and were unfortunate not to extend their advantage before the interval. Just five minutes later, Smith found space on the edge of the box, clipping the crossbar with his curling effort before Ryan Brunt was denied twice by St Albans keep Snedker. Brunt was also involved again on the stroke of half-time, playing his part in a lightning City counter-attack which ended with Lewis Knight putting in a last ditch-block to deny goalscorer Smith. There was still time for another glorious City opportunity before the interval though as a defensive mix-up in stoppage time allowed Pearson in, but his shot across goal rolled wide of Snedker’s upright.
Half-time seemed to disrupt the Romans’ momentum with the second half not having the same fluidity. The first time either keeper was tested came just 20 minutes from time with Ryan Clarke reacting well to stop a quickly taken free-kick from St Albans substitute Taylor Myles. Whilst the hosts enjoyed the majority of possession in the closing stages, the City defence stood firm with a goalmouth scramble following a Sam Merson long throw and a late 20-yard strike from the St Albans frontman the closest they came to scoring. The victory moves City up to eighth in the National League South table with the majority of clubs having a weekend off with FA fourth qualifying round fixtures taking place.
Gill added: “It was really pleasing that we kept a clean sheet. It’s something the team have talked about and I thought we looked defensively sound despite some pressure coming on us late on. There were some important blocks going in, headed clearances and Ryan Clarke was outstanding, coming out to claim everything with his catching and that’s why they are in the team. I’m really pleased that we can come to a place like St Albans in indifferent form compared to where we were last year, but still put in a performance like that. In my opinion, we’re still in a really good place in the league. Rightly or wrongly we’ve come in for some criticism this year but we just continue to work hard and look to improve.
The Romans boss also thanked the fans that travelled to Hertfordshire.
“I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has jumped in their cars this afternoon to come and support us today,” he said. “We are aware that the prices are expensive here and it’s a big commitment for people to come and support us but the fans who travelled were brilliant which is why we made a point of going all the way up to them to say thank you after the final whistle. We need that support and it helps the team, particularly like in the dying seconds when we were under the cosh a little bit.”
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Riley-Lowe, T Smith (Richards 84), Bowry, Artus, Chilvers, Brunt (Mann 87), Pearson, Hartridge, Kensdale. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Stearn, Ball.
Scorers: City – T Smith (26); St Albans – none
City Bookings – none
Officials: P Johnson, A Berrow, J Clench