Bath City 1-0 Altrincham
By Kevin Porter
Bath City progressed into the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy following a victory over Vanarama Conference Premier division Altrincham that was full of grit and determination, and no little skill. The hosts found themselves under pressure for most of the first half, but took the game to their more illustrious opponents after the break, and eventually reaped the rewards that befitted their efforts.
The home side began brightly playing towards the Bath end of the ground, and the first opening fell to Andy Watkins. The forward broke away down the right, but the angle became too acute and his final shot was well wide of the near post.
Jake Moult volleyed wide of Jason Mellor’s post from the edge of the City area in the 8th minute after a long throw-in from the left had been only partially cleared. At this stage the balance of play was fairly even, and Bath created the next chance on 16 minutes when Watkins beat Gianluca Havern to a long ball into the Altrincham half. However, the Cityman was again denied by the tightness of the angle from which was forced to shoot, and the ball passed harmlessly wide of the far post.
Thereafter, the Cheshire outfit took control of the midfield areas, and The Romans were pushed back deep into their own territory for extended periods. In the 32nd minute, skipper Shaun Densmore curled a free kick over Mellor’s crossbar from a central position 20 yards from goal and, six minutes later, Damian Reeves’ looping header dropped narrowly wide of the post.
Nicky Clee struck the ball goalwards with an angled drive that Mellor blocked awkwardly at the near post and, at the other end, Ben Adelsbury’s speculative effort from 35 yards was too high to trouble Stuart Coburn between the Alty sticks.
The final action of the half saw James Lawrie turn cleverly inside the City box, and force Mellor into an excellent diving save to push his shot round the far post.
City came out after the interval in more enterprising mood and they began to take the game to Altrincham. Five minutes after the resumption, Chris Allen produced a low shot from 18 yards that passed through a crowded box, and brought a good diving save from Coburn. The keeper was unable to hold on to the ball, and it was hurried cleared behind for a corner by a defender before any home player could pounce.
A cross from the left on 52 minutes was met with a glancing header by Reeves that flew straight at Mellor, and the City stopper had to make a brave save at the same player’s feet four minutes later following a dangerous cross from Lawrie.
It was the Somerset side that were now looking the more threatening going forward and they came close to taking the lead in the 57th minute. Dave Pratt won the ball out wide on the right and crossed perfectly for the onrushing Adelsbury, but the midfielder could not keep his powerful header below the crossbar.
Adelsbury was then replaced by Nick McCootie, who formed a three-pronged attack with Watkins and Pratt, as the hosts looked to exert more pressure on the Altrincham defence.
Fervent penalty appeals from the home faithful were waved away by the referee, Mr. Adam Bromley, on the hour mark after Allen appeared to be upended as he broke into the penalty area from the right, and then Chas Hemmings’ thunderous goal bound shot was diverted over his own crossbar by Tom Marshall.
City created another excellent opportunity on 69 minute, when Watkins was released by Hemmings’ precise through ball. The striker advanced on goal, but was foiled by another outstanding save from the evergreen Coburn.
Naby Diallo provided some fresh legs when he came on for Watkins in the 73rd minute, and was in action almost immediately as he shot wide from 25 yards after being found by McCootie’s neat lay-off.
Lee Howells made his final substitution with 14 minute left on the clock, bringing on Ross Stearn for Allen. This move proved crucial as the replacement made a telling contribution on 79 minutes. From the left flank, midway inside The Robins’ half, he delivered a perfect curling free kick into the box, and Phil Walsh rose the highest to glance his header into the roof of the net beyond the static Coburn.
Inevitably, this signalled a period of sustained pressure from the visitors as they sought a way back into the tie, but they were unable to convert this into clear-cut chances. Indeed, there was the distinct possibility that City would profit on the break as Altrincham threw caution to the wind. The nearest they came to doubling their lead was following another Stearn free kick, this time from the right, that reached Dan Ball beyond the far post, but the centre half succeeded only in drilling his effort into the outside of the side-netting.
Despite three minutes of stoppage time, City survived without further undue alarm, and the final whistle was met with glee by the home supporters, who provided their side with a warm and much deserved ovation.
This victory was secured through resolute defending in numbers when required in the first half, and an ability to adapt their game to pressurize their higher league opponents after the interval. For all Altrincham’s early dominance and slicker passing movement, they were unable to break down the City defence, and the hosts were fully worthy of their victory when viewing the game as a whole. The draw for the quarter-final on Monday will now be eagerly awaited as the adventure continues.
BATH CITY – Jason Mellor, Sekani Simpson, Andy Gallinagh, Phil Walsh, Dan Ball, Chas Hemmings, Andy Watkins (Naby Diallo 72), Ben Adelsbury (Nick McCootie 58), Dave Pratt, Chris Allen (Ross Stearn 75), Frankie Artus. Subs not used: Dan Bowman, Ashley Kington.
ALTRINCHAM – Stuart Coburn, Shaun Densmore, Adam Griffin, Jake Moult, Gianluca Havern, James Lawrie (Kyle Perry 83), Simon Richman, Damian Reeves, Nicky Clee, Tom Marshall, Ryan Crowther (Steven Gillespie 72). Subs not used: Scott Leather, David Parton, Joel Swift.
REFEREE – Adam Bromley
ATTENDANCE – 863