Welling United (0) 1 Bath City (1) 1 – Saturday 12 March 2022 – Vanarama National League South – Park View Road
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Jerry Gill labelled a key decision from referee Callum Walchester as “terrible” in Saturday’s draw at fellow strugglers Welling United, who sacked manager Peter Taylor within 24 hours of this contest.
City looked on course for their first away league win in 2022 when Cody Cooke headed them in front on 26 minutes.
But Ben Allen’s equaliser, which stood despite the attacking midfielder appearing to catch Jack Batten in the head, earned the Wings a point.
“It’s cost us the game,” said Gill afterwards. “The protocol for a head injury is to blow up straight away, which the referee rightly did for an earlier incident involving them. Jack was struck in the middle of the pitch, they ran through where he would have been, play a pass and score. Maybe we could have defended it better but you’ve got to blow the whistle. The explanation from the referee was he assessed the situation. He must have a really sharp brain to do that within seconds.”
Only Billericay Town sat below Bath and Welling United heading into this contest. With a quarter of the season remaining it didn’t fall in the ‘must-win’ category, but a positive result would have been a big psychological boost for both out-of-form sides with just one win in their previous 19 league matches between them.
Dave Sims-Burgess headed Ryan Jones’ corner wide on eight minutes during a slow start from both teams, who struggled on a bone dry pitch at Park View Road.
The Romans took the lead on 26 minutes. Elliott Frear’s inviting free-kick saw Cooke nip in ahead of home keeper Jack Sims to head in his 17th goal of the season.
Welling spurned a glorious opening to level within 120 seconds. Sims’ free-kick from inside his own half was headed on by Tom Derry to Dipo Akinyemi, who fed it through to Allen. With only Ryan Clarke to beat he rolled wide from 12 yards.
Aside from that lapse City comfortably soaked up what was thrown at them and headed into the interval ahead.
City started strongly after the break with Alex Fletcher heading Frear’s corner narrowly past the left post.
The Wings missed an easier opening on 51 minutes when Kristian Campbell’s teasing ball picked out Akinyemi six yards out but the home side’s leading scorer somehow headed wide.
One-time England caretaker boss Taylor reacted by switching to a back four and bringing on Brad Stevenson and Joe Muscatt for Derry and Arthur Penny. Stevenson made a bright impact by arrowing wide within five minutes of his introduction.
Two pivotal incidents at both ends with 10 minutes remaining changed the course of the match. Having dispossessed Mason Saunders-Henry, Fletcher’s low cross found Frear but he side-footed wide from eight yards.
From the resulting goal kick, Allen collided with Batten in the air leaving the centre-back horizontal. Akinyemi beat Jordan Dyer to the ball and touched on to Muscatt, whose intelligent flick left Allen clear. His strike from 16 yards wasn’t the cleanest but it had enough to slip under Clarke.
It was well-worked, Welling’s best move of the game, but arguments erupted over the decision for the game to continue while Batten was holding his head.
The long stoppage contributed to six minutes added on where both teams hunted for a winner with attacks more frequent than at a basketball match.
City looked the more likely to snatch it as Brad Pearce and Tom Davis got in vital clearances close to goal while Stevenson pulled wide from 25 yards after galloping into a good position.
Neither could claim all three points with a draw Bath City’s first away from home of the season and also ended a five-match losing streak.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, Delaney, Batten, Fletcher, Cooke, Frear, E Jones, Dyer, R Jones, Sims-Burgess (Holness 67). Subs not used: Fuller, Smith, Ball, Rowe.
Scorers: City – Cooke (27); Welling – Allen (81)
City Bookings: Clarke (63)
Officials: C Walchester, P Burnham, M Grant