Worthing (1) 2 Bath City (0) 3 – Saturday 11 March 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Crucial Environmental Stadium
Match Report by Mark Stillman.
Cody Cooke, Tom Smith and Scott Wilson were on target as City recovered to defeat Worthing in a pulsating clash at the Crucial Environmental Stadium. Ollie Pearce had fired Worthing ahead from the penalty spot but Cooke’s header restored parity soon after half-time. Smith drilled home a free-kick after he had been pulled back from Joe Rye, resulting in the centre-back being dismissed, before Wilson netted 65 seconds after arriving off the bench to make it 3-1. Joel Colbran’s well-placed set-piece halved the deficit, but they couldn’t snatch a dramatic leveller as Bath moved within four points of the play-offs, while the hosts have now lost a league high 32 points from winning positions this term.
Worthing’s insistence on patient passing reaped benefits early as they barely gave the ball away in the opening three minutes, eventually leading to the contest’s goal. Reece Myles-Meekums’ attempt to skip past Elliott Frear saw the wing-back upend him near the byline and referee Harry Wager pointed to the spot. Leading scorer Pearce stepped up to fire home his 23rd goal of the season in all competitions for a deserved lead. Smith tamely shot too close to Harrison Male after Cooke set him away down the right and Dan Hayfield’s free-kick just before the break was well taken by the stopper, exemplifying the form which earned him an England C call-up.
Male did well to prevent Sonny Cox’s swerver just after the interval but he had no chance in denying City’s leveller at the end of a lovely move. Frear, Chris Lines and James Morton were involved in midfield before the latter’s penetrative pass found Smith in room. The midfielder fed it wide to Cox whose perfectly dinked cross was nodded home from Cooke from eight yards, tremendously generating the power back across goal. A dreadful error by Aarran Racine saw his pass across his own penalty area intercepted by Cox but the captain redeemed himself by blocking the resulting goalbound effort. Worthing’s frailties in defence cost them again just past the hour when Cooke’s intelligent reverse ball was pounced on by Smith, who was subsequently shoved over by Rye on the edge of the box with no covering defenders. The inevitable red card followed before Smith dusted himself down and blasted home the free-kick from 20 yards out of Male’s reach, a double punishment for the Rebels. Cox thumped against the outside of the post when Luke Spokes’ clever chipped pass saw him with just Male to beat, which was the striker’s last act as Wilson was introduced for the final 16 minutes. It didn’t take him long to make an impact. Having received Jack Batten’s ball over the top, the substitute’s heavy touch allowed Male to intercept with his feet, but the loose ball fell to Frear whose chipped cross was nodded by Wilson over Danny Barker on the line, the Worthing man only able to head it against the underside of the bar with the assistant signalling a goal. Home boss Adam Hinshelwood responded with a triple change and one of those introduced, former City trialist Mo Dabre, made a bright start, winning a free-kick 20 yards out after Batten upended him. Colbran stepped up and bent it low into the bottom right corner past a standstill Max Harris to give Worthing hope with four minutes remaining. Davide Rodari headed Sukjae Lee’s well-floated cross harmlessly over in the only glimmer for the hosts in the closing stages as the Romans clinched three very merited points at a venue which delivered expected entertainment – it’s now 93 goals in 22 games in all competitions at the Crucial Environmental Stadium.
City’s Line-Up: Harris, Dyer, Batten, Parselle (c), Hayfield, Cooke, Smith, Frear, Lines (Spokes 57), Morton, Cox (Wilson 73). Subs not used: Clarke, Greenslade, Minzamba.
Scorers: City – Cooke (51), Smith (64), Wilson (75); Worthing – Pearce (pen 4), Colbran (85)
City Bookings: Batten (22), Smith (65)
Officials: Harry Wager, Oscar Whiting, Robert Harrison