Woking (1) 1 Bath City (3) 3 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 27 October 2018 – Kingsfield
If the rest of National League South were not aware just how serious Bath City’s ambitions are, they were left in no doubt by the marker they laid down at Woking. The Romans leap-frogged their promotion rivals into third with a sumptuous performance that had a little bit of everything. From the kick-off they were in control. They were first to every ball and pressing high up the pitch. They looked assured in their possession play and plenty incisive moving into the final third. With a 3-1 lead at the break, the second period was more of a battle, but City dug in and put bodies on the line to ensure there was no sniff of a Woking comeback.
It was a far cry – and a perfect response – to the previous weekend’s lacklustre FA Cup defeat at Weston-super-Mare; the battle and the energy returned.
The Romans were ahead within six minutes when Adam Mann had to awkwardly contort himself to slide the ball into an empty net, after Joe Raynes’ 30-yard crack had bounced back off the face of the bar. And on 22 minutes the lead was doubled, Robbie Cundy netting from close in following another rebound off the bar, this time from a Mann header. The performance of Mann typified the first-half display from City. He was moved into the central role of City’s front three, in place of the more physical Ryan Brunt, and popped up across the frontline to hustle and chase everywhere in a tenacious outing. Max Kretzschmar pulled one back from the spot for Woking, which could easily have set Roman nerves jangling. The Cards have conceded first in all of their home league fixtures to date, but fought back to lose only one before their defeat here. Yet City denied them the chance to build any momentum off the goal and reaffirmed their superiority with a third, converted from the penalty spot by skipper Anthony Straker, the latest Roman to take his shot at the 12-yard roulette.
There was an opportunity for them to counter in the very early stages, Ross Stearn slipped in behind by Tom Smith, but fluffing his attempted pass across to the unmarked Raynes. The wideman also had a drive from a tight angle blocked out, all that action – plus a Jack Batten yellow card – coming before Mann put City ahead in just the sixth minute for his fifth of the season. The home threat was almost entirely restricted to free-kicks swung into the City box and largely dealt with comfortably, though Ben Gerring would nod one wide. Smith crashed a stinger of a volley that home keeper Craig Ross plucked out of the air well. His strike would have rippled the net if placed two yards either side of the stopper. The Romans scrambled well to block out a Nicky Wheeler effort, the follow-up from Donovan Makoma sliced wide and out closer to the corner flag than the goal. The crossbar had another hand in City’s second. Raynes controlled well on the right, held off his defender and checked the ball in to Frankie Artus, just inside the box. The midfielder scooped a cross to the far post and though Mann’s header back across hit the bar, Cundy was in the right spot to net. The home crowd had calls for a penalty against Cundy turned down as he got somewhat on top of Jake Hyde under a high ball, but soon enough there would be a penalty for Woking. Paul Hodges charged free into space down the right and had his heels clipped by the back-tracking Stearn. Kretzschmar stepped up to the spot and crashed his shot justin side the right-hand post, beating Ryan Clarke’s dive. City’s fine reaction almost saw a whipped Stearn cross find the top corner, before he would redeem himself for giving up the spot-kick as he won a penalty of his own, tripped by Makoma. Straker confidently strolled up to the spot and sent Ross the wrong way. Not content with their 3-1 advantage, Cundy nodded a free-kick back across goal and agonisingly wide. And Ross was panicking in similar fashion when Smith went for a long-range strike that skidded into the side-netting.
The second period began with Gerring’s attempted flick-on from a long throw looping over the top, while at the other end Smith poached the ball in the deep-right corner but had his pull-back cut out. The hosts had more about them after the break, presumably following stern words from boss Alan Dowson in the changing rooms. City, however, stood firm to the task, committing bodies to block Woking’s best efforts. They might have extended their own advantage when Mann won possession with Woking on the back foot in their own half, though Stearn skewed horribly wide when played in on the left of the area. Still Woking stirred, Kretzschmar striking the outside of Clarke’s right-hand post as City’s lead remained intact. Smith had Ross at full-stretch with a low, 25-yard strike, while substitute Ryan Brunt hooked wide with a quick shot on the turn in the closing stages for City. Woking, meanwhile, mustered a Hodges volley that failed to trouble Clarke, who also clung on to a wide Kretzschmar free-kick driven towards the near post Greg Luer also got sight of the City goal, only to be shut down by the defence as time ran out on Woking, booed at the final whistle by the home support.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Efete, Straker (c), Cundy, Batten, Artus, Morton, Raynes, Smith, Mann (Rees 85), Stearn (Brunt 73). Subs not used: Amankwaah, Ball, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Mann (6), Cundy (22), Straker (pen 38); Woking – Kretzschmar (pen 31)
City Bookings: Batten (2), Clarke (90)
Officials: R Whitton, R Carter, D Sotimirin