Welling United (1) 2 Bath City (0) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 6 April 2019 – Park View Road
Bath City’s seven-match unbeaten run came to a cruel end at Welling United as Danny Mills’ late strike meant the Romans went home pointless. It was Mills’ eighth goal against Bath, a side he must relish playing against having netted against the Romans for Kettering, Whitehawk, Dartford and the Wings in the last eight years.
Before the match, boss Jerry Gill earmarked set-pieces as a danger for the home side, so would have been left cussing as Jack Batten needlessly brought down Brendan Kiernan near their dugout inside two minutes. Gavin McCallum took the free-kick, Anthony Acheampong headed it on and Thierry Audel produced a smart finish on the half volley, sweeping it past Ryan Clarke’s despairing dive. It was a body blow, particularly against a side that hadn’t lost a league match scoring first in two years. City regrouped. James Morton and Joe Raynes sent shots too close to Dan Wilkes, but he was extended into a fine save from Freddie Hinds as the fleet-footed forward danced around the backline on the edge of the box. Welling had pace on the break but seldom exploited any gaps at the back, with a flurry of poor clearances from defence to put them under the cosh. Only Mills had a glimmer of an opening, bustling his way past Robbie Cundy before Clarke parried with his legs. Bath tried to mount a counter attack when Tom Smith started a move which concluded with Wilks batting away Hinds’ stinging drive at his near post.
City started the second half brightly with Andy Watkins’ effort easily gathered, Clarke slightly more tested by McCallum and Brad Goldberg at the other end. The visitors’ patience paid off just before the hour. It looked like Sean Rigg’s afternoon would be over, with Adam Mann warming up on the sidelines, but he was left on long enough to meet Kevin Amankwaah’s pinpoint cross to the back post, nodding past Wilks from close range.
It was practically his last involvement, Mann returning after five weeks out, with United introducing Mo Bettamer and Julian Anau for Goldberg and McCallum. Mills swivelled and sent a volley over with Mann also unable to hit the target at the other end, a decent curler which Wilks had covered. The final seven minutes were as frantic as the final few fences at Aintree. Kiernan released Bettamer but he curled wide under pressure from Batten when he should have hit the target. Smith, producing arguably his best performance of 2019, fizzed in a low drive which Wilks did well to not just save, but hold, having thrown himself to his left. It proved pivotal. At the other end, Anau’s perfectly weighted ball over the top was beautifully brought down by Mills, who kept his composure and rolled it past Clarke. There was further drama in stoppage time. Substitute Ross Stearn sent in a hanging cross which looked routine for Wilks, but he inexplicably let go under no pressure. Smith reacted quickest, poking the ball goalwards, but it bounced agonisingly against the angle of post and crossbar and was retrieved by the relieved custodian.
Lady Luck had shone on Welling’s number one. Such an escape made it inevitable the three points would be collected by the Wings, and they duly collected them swiftly after. Having been thoroughly deserving of them at Twerton in September, they would have breathed a sigh of relief at this success, which all-but guarantees their place in the play-offs. It means City have a bit of work to do yet, but with players back into the fold from injury and performance levels still more than acceptable, there’s a belief that they’ll secure a deserved top-seven spot. They just won’t want to face Mr Mills again in a potential play-off.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Amankwaah, Straker (c), Batten, Watkins (Price 83), Rigg (Mann 61), Hinds (Stearn 67), Cundy, Raynes, Morton, Smith. Subs not used: H Wiles-Richards, Romanski.
Scorers: City – Rigg (59); Welling: Audel (2), Mills (86)
City Bookings: Batten
Officials: S Jackson, M Marsh, J Harris