Welling United (0) 0 Bath City (1) 1 – Saturday 9 September 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Park View Road
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Jerry Gill’s half-time dismissal didn’t deter Bath City who went top of National League South ahead of a two-week break from league action.
The City boss was cautioned in the 45th minute before referee Rob Ablitt showed him a red card as the players trooped off, with him unable to watch the second half from the stadium.
City had already led through Jordan Thomas and were forced to use substitute Chris Lines and the sidelined Jack Batten as a makeshift managerial team for the remainder of the contest.
While Welling enjoyed a lot of the ball they found stubborn resistance from the Romans who made it five wins in six, an impressive 16 points from 18 available.
The recorded temperature at kick-off was 32 degrees in Kent but the players coped admirably in suffocating conditions, playing at a good tempo in the early stages on a tidy surface.
Scott Wilson stung Ben Winterbottom’s mitts inside 90 seconds with an attempted cross which the keeper had to palm away with urgency before Lewis White blazed over from the edge of the box for Welling after the tricky Jephte Tanga found room to deliver from the right.
City took the lead on 20 minutes. Ewan Clark and Cody Cooke linked up down the right before the former crossed towards the penalty spot.
Wilson flicked it on to Thomas, who initially miscontrolled before thundering home via the underside of the bar from the tightest of angles – the 400th goal during Gill’s tenure.
The tension rose minutes before half-time when Tanga caught Dan Greenslade with a crude lunge just past halfway which went unpunished. Thomas collected the loose ball and knocked through to Wilson who collided with Jack Burchell on the edge of the box.
While both received treatment, Welling’s Teddy Bloor received a yellow card from the dugout with the punishment replicated for Gill.
As the players and officials made their way to the tunnel for the interval, referee Ablitt chose to send the Bath manager off and with assistant Jim Barron and goalkeeper coach Dean Gerken unavailable, it was left to Lines and Batten to instruct from the dugout.
The hosts started the second half positively with Crossley Lema’s run from defence concluding with a shot across Ollie Wright, who parried away with Joe Raynes quickest to clear.
Thomas headed over and Wilson curled off target as City sought to double their advantage.
A double substitution from the hosts saw them effectively move to a front four in trying to notch their first goal in three games. Tanga’s cross from the right was met by Dom Odusanya but his attempt was deflected wide by Raynes, who knew little about it.
Amadou Kassarate’s dangerous ball was gloved away by Wright with Luke Russe and Greenslade doing enough to clear as the hosts kept City penned back but were often too ponderous in the final third.
City nearly added a stoppage time second when subs Dan Hayfield and Elliott Frear led a charge for Wilson, who cut inside of Lachlan Byrd before firing inches over.
There were hearts in mouths as Tanga threw himself to the floor via a slight tug of the shirt from Raynes but referee Ablitt ignored appeals for a penalty.
It would have been cruel on City who saw their determination rewarded with a clean sheet and three points, the players celebrating wildly before knowing the win had helped them reclaim top spot.
While 37 games remaining means it’s far too early to book any open top bus parades, there’s still plenty for the players and management to smile about with a fifth of the season gone and they’ll be hoping to continue the momentum into next week’s eagerly anticipated FA Cup tie at Larkhall Athletic.
City’s Line-Up: Wright, Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c), Cooke (Hayfield 73), Smith, Clark, Thomas (Frear 58), Wilson, Russe. Subs not used: Fletcher, Lines, Morgan.
Scorers: City – Thomas (20); Welling – none
City Bookings: Smith (85)
Officials: R Ablitt, N Briggs, S Parbery