Bath City 0-0 Dartford
By Kevin Porter
Photos by Simon Howe
Bath City and Dartford played out a goalless draw at Twerton Park, with neither side being able to find the crucial breakthrough. City enjoyed the greater possession and territorial advantage, but were indebted to their goalkeeper, Steve Phillips, for brilliantly denying Dartford’s Tom Bradbrook when the game’s clearest chance fell to the visiting forward midway through the first half.
The hosts started brightly and created the first opportunity in the opening minute, when skipper Andy Gallinagh drove a rising shot over the bar from 20 yards.
A quiet period ensued during which both sides were searching for midfield supremacy, with the visitors at times showing some crisp passing ability. Indeed, they should have taken the lead on 17 minutes when Andy Pugh found the unmarked Tom Bradbrook in a central position but, as the home faithful held their collective breath, the striker was denied by an outstanding save low down by Phillips.
The home side were struggling to impose their authority on the game, but came close to success in the 29th minutes. Kevin Nicholson found space out on the left and his ball into the box picked out Frankie Artus. The midfielder turned adeptly, but his volleyed effort was just too high to trouble Deren Ibrahim in the Darts’ goal.
This appeared to spark City into life as they began to produce some flowing football, putting the Dartford defence under pressure for the first time. Nicholson’s long-throw from the left was flicked on by Andy Watkins and was deflected over Ibrahim’s bar off a defender’s head. Dave Pratt had the ball in the net on 36 minutes, but the home joy was short-lived due to a raised offside flag.
The hosts continued to push forward and Ibrahim had to be alert to parry Dan Ball’s low shot, with Pratt’s follow up attempt thwarted by a combination of the recovering keeper and a defender.
With three minutes left on the clock before the break, Watkins unleashed a fizzing drive that Ibrahim gathered at the second attempt. The same player then raced goalwards down the right and flashed an angled shot just wide of the far post.
The final action of the half saw Ibraham produce a smart save at the foot of his post to keep out Nicholson’s curling free kick from 25 yards.
The visitors came close to breaking the deadlock two minutes into the second half, the unsighted Phillips again making a good save low down to repel Mark Onyemah’s drilled shot, with the loose ball being scrambled away to safety.
Pratt won the ball in a dangerous position in the 50th minute, and found Ashley Kington with his lay-off, only for the midfielder to fire narrowly wide from 20 yards. At the other end, Elliot Bradbrook sliced a volley well wide of the target, but City came desperately close to finding an opening goal on 54 minutes. Pratt eluded his marker and broke forward down the inside right channel, but his powerful cross-shot flew just wide of the far post.
Pugh’s angled shot drifted narrowly over Phillips’ crossbar, but it was the home side who continued to look the more dangerous going forward. Nicholson’s long throw from the left on the hour mark eventually reached Watkins at the far post, but his downward header was expertly saved by the agile Ibrahim. The keeper then confidently held on to Kington’s effort from 18 yards.
Dartford again threatened on 66 minutes, but Tom Bradbrook’s goal-bound header was cleared by Aden Baldwin.
Watkins gave way for Nick McCootie a minute later, as Lee Howells sought a winning goal and, within two minutes of his introduction, the substitute volleyed just over the bar following Bradley Williams’ cross into the box.
Nicholson curled a shot wide of the far post from the right flank, and Ibrahim was called into action again, producing a smart save to keep out McCootie’s low drive from an extremely tight angle.
Jon Davies replaced Williams on 73 minutes, but it was the visitors who finished the game stronger. They suddenly rediscovered their earlier passing movement and began to dominate possession, without causing the home defence any major alarm. Despite holding the upper hand, Dartford appeared to settle for a point as the clock ran down. They very nearly paid the price when, in the final minute of normal time, Baldwin turned cleverly in the box and sent a dipping volley just over Ibrahim’s crossbar.
There remained time for Dartford centre half Callum McNaughton to try his luck from the edge of the area, but his effort lacked the accuracy, both in terms of height and direction, to trouble Phillips before the referee, Mr. Steven Plane of Tewkesbury, who gave an excellent performance, brought matters to a conclusion.
Whilst the game was goalless it was never dour, and both sides had periods of supremacy and opportunities to take all three points. City had the greater share of possession overall but, unlike the Havant & Waterlooville match seven days earlier, the ball would not quite fall for them in front of goal. Dartford will point to Phillips’ save in the first half and their growing strength as time wore on, and a draw was probably a fair reflection of proceedings.
Bath City – Steve Phillips; Andy Gallinagh, Dan Ball, Aden Baldwin, Kevin Nicholson; Chas Hemmings; Ashley Kington, Bradley Williams (Jon Davies 73), Frankie Artus; Andy Watkins (Nick McCootie 68), Dave Pratt.
Subs not used – Dan Bowman, Ben Adelsbury, Matt Coupe.
Dartford – Deren Ibrahim; Ronnie Vint, Mark Onyemah, Tom Gardiner, Callum McNaughton, Ebrima Adams, Danny Harris, Elliott Bradbrook, Tom Bradbrook, Andy Pugh (Ryan Hayes 85), Becka-Kah Dembele.
Subs not used: George Sykes, Ben Francis, Richard Seixas, Jamie Turner.
Referee – Mr. Steven Plane (Tewkesbury).
Attendance – 766