Tonbridge Angels (0) 0 Bath City (1) 1 – Saturday 21 August 2021 – Vanarama National League South – Longmead Stadium
Match Report by Mark Stillman
Cody Cooke’s 8th minute strike proved the winner as Bath City overcame a nightmare journey before seeing off Tonbridge.
A series of holdups on the M4 meant Jerry Gill’s mean didn’t arrive until 2.25pm meaning a 15-minute delay for kick-off, but the Romans made up for lost time with Cooke’s early strike.
Mo Touray was replaced immediately afterwards through injury, and his substitute Tom Richards was later withdrawn for Ryan Harley in the second half.
Tonbridge pressed in the final half hour but posed little threat to Ryan Clarke, who marked his 100th appearance for Bath with a clean sheet.
With fans back at Longmead for the first time since February 2020, they were made to wait a little longer for City’s arrival, and the majority were silenced early on.
Eddie Jones’ precision ball carved the home defence apart and Cooke collected it to coolly side-foot home from 15 yards.
The joy was dampened somewhat as Touray hobbled off straight after to be replaced by Richards and the visitors missed the trickery of the on-loan forward as Tonbridge, who found themselves 4-0 down inside half an hour a week before at Ebbsfleet, shored up.
The hosts’ issue was a lack of finesse at the other end. Joe Turner hooked a shot over from 25 yards whereas Cooke’s 20-yarder on 38 minutes was Bath’s only other shot on target of the half, an easy gather for Jon Henly.
Within 30 seconds of Cooke’s opening the home side threatened as Aaron Smith-Joseph held off Jones but shot into the side netting.
Ibrahim Olutade was left frustrated by a lack of service and after a running battle with Ben Gerring, the forward was cautioned for retaliation at the City captain.
The second half started as the first ended – Tonbridge with more of the ball but posing little threat against a well-organised Bath side who stifled any attacking intent.
Callum Wood had barely put a foot wrong at the back and started a move at the other end by robbing Ricky Modeste and playing it through to Alex Fletcher. The striker span away from Sonny Miles with ease before curling over from the edge of the penalty area.
Wood reverted to his solidity at the other end, throwing himself in the way of the advancing Harry Hudson after the full-back linked up well with Turner before the City centre-back snuffed out the danger.
Gill replaced substitute Richards with Harley to try and assert more control into midfield where Angels were gaining more control but to little effect due to the lack of a creative spark to prize the visitors open. A crunching challenge by Gerring on the edge of the box to end Modeste’s slaloming run epitomised City’s commitment to the cause.
It took until 71 minutes for Tonbridge to register a shot on target. Turner tried his luck from 25 yards but his daisy cutter was an easy gather for Clarke. The Tonbridge man was pushed further up soon afterwards as Zak Guerfi replaced the fading Olutade, while City reverted to a back four to keep Steve McKimm’s men in check. While the hosts fired plenty of crosses in, Bath’s centre-backs Batten, Gerring and Wood were rarely stretched to deal with them, giving Clarke a quiet afternoon.
Smith’s volley after Jones’ corner was half cleared gave Henly a rare touch of the ball in the second half whereas a set-piece for Tonbridge caused more panic when Tom Beere’s whipped corner flashed through a crowd of bodies on the goalline and flew out for a goal kick. An ensuing debate regarding a possible foul on Clarke saw Turner and Jones cautioned.
Harley’s rash stoppage time foul on Beere gave Turner a chance to be the hero, but his free-kick from 22 yards summed up their afternoon as he wastefully lofted it over Clarke’s crossbar.
In truth it was the only heart in mouth moment for Gill’s men which demonstrates the strength of their backline and conversely how little the hosts offered despite seeing plenty of the ball. The contest itself won’t live long in the memory but made for a happier, hassle-free journey home for those from Somerset.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Gerring (c), Batten, Wood, Fletcher, Holness, Cooke, Smith, Frear, Jones, Touray (Richards 9 (Harley 67)). Subs not used: Fuller, James, Ball.
Scorers: City – Cooke (8); Tonbridge – none
City Bookings: Jones (88), Harley (90+4)
Officials: S Hughes, J Hurst, P Conn