Bath City 1-0 Hemel Hempstead
By Mark Tanner – Video Steve Mellor
David Pratt’s penalty on the 57th minute was enough to beat a decent Hemel side on a cold November Tuesday night in front of a real hard core of fans. The referee was busy that night in trying to let the game flow but has no choice in his 3 red cards he showed to the Hemel players. There is an excellent traditional match report by Chronicle Reporter Andrew Kerslake on their site, so this report will be looking at our own version of the 3 danger signs for City during that 90 minutes of football.
This was a game that City dominated for large periods of the game and won. There were a fair amount of chances created and if it finished 11 a side then most supporters would be happy to get the 3 points. However when a team finishes the game with just 8 players and looked like they could have won it in the closing stages then your supporters aren’t so pleased.
Just one point to add before looking at Bath too much; credit must go to Hemel. Their players never gave up the game and played some of their best football with just ten men. After a first half giving them only one clear cut chance in the second they created a lot more. Down to ten men for most of that half their bench used subs wisely and tried to go all out of the win. Even their keeper came up for a corner when they had 9 men on the pitch, their desire to get something from the game was to be admired; winning most of the 50/50 balls in the latter stages.
So Bath’s top goal scorer for this season, and last, Dave Pratt stuck away his penalty to give Bath the win the club needed. However if Bath going to climb the table then they will need goals from elsewhere, they really missed the presence of Pratt on Saturday; going down 2-1 to Chelmsford. City need goals to come from the other strikers and midfielders at the club if they want to be competitive at the top end of the table.
At the beginning of the season Ben Adlesbury looked to be shooting from everywhere when he advanced but has since been dropped from the starting line up. Frankie Artus is still gaining match fitness but he looks capable of creating and scoring goals once he get’s his sharpness back. The disappointing aspect of this season is the lack of goals from Andy Watkins and Ross Stearn as between them last season they contributed 24 goals helping Bath to finish 7th in the table.
This season they have managed just 6 at nearly the halfway stage, so it’ll be easy to identify where the problem lies, but this isn’t fair on the two players as it’s largely down to tactics.
This season the most often tactic is the 4-3-3, allowing Lee Howells to use three forward players with mainly Watkins, Pratt and Nick McCootie used. This then allows for a tight midfield in the middle of the park with one defensive midfielder to help protect the back four with the other two to close down anything through the middle. The back four looks traditional but whichever side the play is a full back will go forward to help support, crossing from deep.
Now this sounds good in theory but doesn’t always work in practice if the opposition plays with 5 in the middle as the tight midfield will get over run or the forwards will have to drop back. Once the forwards drop back they haven’t got the legs to get forward to support the attack if the ball needs to be hastily cleared to relieve pressure and another attack will start for the opposition. This renders the whole formation useless and almost invites pressure on the back four.
The other tactic used recently has been a 4-4-2 diamond with one defensive midfielder and one more attacking. This still leaves just two in the middle of the park with a few more gaps in the middle for the opposition to pass into. However this formation at least allows for wingers; with two forwards staying up top. This would suit the playing styles of Watkins and Stearn more as it would allow them both to be on the pitch supporting and feeding off Pratt up front. That way the goals could come and with a player like Artus or Ashley Kington filling in that attacking midfield slot and Dan Bowman as possibly the other winger.
It’s clear that both formations have their flaws but it’s also a hard job for Howells and his team when their are suspensions and horrific injuries. There have been far too many yellow cards which have come to ahead less than half way through the season with players missing games, Dan Ball and Dave Pratt have already sat out games whilst Chas Hemmings and Bowman will miss the next one. Injuries have also been particularly cruel to City with Phil Walsh and Artus missing long periods of football early on with both only just getting the game time they need now.
Hopefully Howells will be able to get the best out of this talented squad sooner rather than later so that they can push on up the table. He needs to be able to get Pratt, Watkins and Stearn on the pitch for a run of game in their favoured positions to get the goals and the excitement back to Bath City’s play.
Every club up and down the country needs more fans every week with the price of being competitive in their leagues rising year on year. Bath City had their lowest ever crowd since 1987 on Tuesday night, that’s the lowest in 27 years! The last time City had below 300 for a league game was in 1996, yet in 2010 there were around 4,800 fans packed in to Twerton park to see the club go up to the Conference Premier.
It was a cold, rainy Tuesday night with Champions League football on TV so you can argue that you shouldn’t read too much in to it. Not suggesting that these crowds are expectable by any means but you can see why someone would want to stay at home. So the more pressing point we should consider is the lack of advertising for the game which is being talked about on their fan’s forum.
Now up to two years ago the club had two paid full time employees who were responsible for sponsorship and promotion, between 2010-2012. This has mixed results with the sponsorship side doing very well but the crowds not reaching the heights that should have been expected. Since then the club have not appointed anyone officially in those vacant roles, paid or voluntary.
This season the club are starting to make steps in the right direction but still as of yet no one has taken ownership for those roles with each volunteer looking to help seemingly doing their own little bit without consulting each other. The posters and social media content produced this season have been of a very good quality with two regular fans pushing the new social media accounts. These tools and skill sets need to be used more in getting these professional looking pieces of content out to an even wider audience.
Therefore if the club are going to be attracting the 700 plus crowds they need to keep this squad together then a collective effort must happen when it comes to PR and Marketing. Once the games are advertised and being pushed in the local media and in the high streets surrounding the football club then you should see more people coming back.
This won’t be to any avail if the product you’re selling isn’t right on pitch, so it needs all three of these topics needs to be addressed and changed at the same time.
To conclude, City needs goals from all of their strikers with the midfield chipping in more than they have done. The players themselves need a settled formation to play to their squads strengths, allowing for a more creative style of play with Pratt, Watkins and Stearn starting more games together. Once this exciting brand of football is back along with some regular fixture promotion then the club will be looking stronger going into the second half of the season and more attractive to potential buyers or sponsors.