Bath City 0-1 Basingstoke
Mayday Trust Park
Basingstoke took advantage of a confused City line up which played with very little fluency throughout the 90 minutes, but left it late as they failed to make the most of their attacking pressure. Mayday Trust was buzzing but for the wrong reasons as Bath released their commanding centre back Mark Preece just 45 minutes before kick off much to the surprise of the player and his former team mates, causing all sorts of rumours to spread on the terraces.
The game wasn’t as spectacular as this sudden departure and the first chances fell for Basingstoke and on 10 minutes they nearly went 1-0 up. Midfielder Shaun McAuley’s low shot slipped underneath Jason Mellor in the Bath goal only for him to recover just in time. Basingstoke continued to come forward running directly at Bath’s flat back four which saw rare starts for Sekani Simpson and Aaron Brown, with both full backs struggling for fitness this season. Their execution in the final 3rd was poor though and didn’t test Mellor further, much to the frustration of manager Jason Bristow who would have liked an early goal to really put pressure on a below par Bath side.
Bath’s first effort came on 24 minutes when Simpson floated a ball up field to David Pratt who chested it down for Andy Watkins who took on a 25 yard half volley which went over the bar. Just five minutes later it was Pratt’s turn but he saw his header, from a Ross Stearn free-kick, go just wide of the far post. However these two chances was as good as it got for the home faithful as the remainder of the half saw Basingstoke with the best of the possession but they couldn’t carve out any real chances. This is until the 36th minute when Jordace Holder-Spooner tricked his way free of the Bath defence only for his finish to fizz past Mellor’s far post with the keeper stranded.
A big response was expected by the home fans for the second half after a very below par first half performance. If Basingstoke has been more clinical in their final balls Bath would have had a mountain to climb so Lee Howells half time team talk would have been easy at 0-0, just step it up a gear and play with more conviction. However after coming off the back of two away defeats with the team fading the second half of both games it wasn’t going to be that easy.
This meant that it was more of the same in the second half with Basingstoke having the better of the attacking pressure yet their finishing or quality of the cross letting them down, with many of their free-kicks not beating the first man. Holder-Spooner continued to work hard up front and cut in from the right forcing Mellor into a low save ten minutes into the second half. Then shortly after Louie Soares dribbled his way to the byline but could only force a corner. Soares then started to get the better of a tiring Brown on the right hand side and ball was being played wide on most of the attacks to expose Bath on the flanks. There was a rare attack for Bath on 60 minutes resulting in a Stearn free-kick which was cleared for a corner, with Danny Ball just heading over from a Brown delivery.
A minute after that though Brown’s last ditch header conceded a corner with Ball off the pitch for treatment leaving Bath a man short. Basingstoke too advantage of this and played it short then out to Wes Daly who had time to steady a shot through a crowded box only for Mellor to be equal to the task. Bath tried passing through their 3 man central midfield but their passes weren’t sticking so long balls were used more and more. Eventually one of these created a chance on target albeit with 15 minutes left on the clock, with Pratt battling well to release Stearn with a run into the box. However Basingstoke’s keeper, Louis Wells, was alert and saved well down low as the shot was straight at him from a tight angle.
Howells wasn’t idol on the bench though and recognised a need for change after Bristow had already added some pace to his front line and Howells went with Jake Reid and Josh Low with ten minutes left to add an aerial treat. This only seemed to give Basingstoke even more possession initially and Andy Gallinagh made a vital clearance in his 6 yard box to prevent the on rushing Robbie Matthews from converting a Soares cross from the right. Then on 83 minutes Basingstoke made the break through that their attacking pressure deserved when Nathan Smart advanced with the ball on the right hand side under no challenge. This gave him time to pick and shot and it flew in via the underside of bar from 25 yards dipping enough to give Mellor no chance.
Just a moment later the linesman’s flag came to Bath’s rescue as Kezie Ibe was played through by the impressive Soares only for the flag to go up. The 4th official then announced 5 minutes of injury time which gave Bath a real chance to ask questions of the Basingstoke defence. Their defence performed well though and stayed strong. Matthews even forced a good save from Mellor as he looked to get on the end of a through ball. Reid did have a half chance on goal from a Simpson cross into the box but his turn and shot was well wide. Manny Williams up front for Basingstoke then had one final chance to double the lead but after making space well he blazed his shot over to end a miserable day for Bath.
This moves Basingstoke up to 10th with Bristow looking forward to a vital last couple of months to the season. Bath on the other hand are now 3 games without a win or a goal but still sit in 6th place but the teams below have games in hand. Bath will need to sort themselves out quickly as they travel to run away leaders Bromley next weekend who will be going all out for the 3 points with Eastleigh hot on their heels with games in hand. Whilst Basingstoke take on Maidenhead United at home as they look to force their way into the playoffs at Bath’s expense come the end of the season.