Bath City 1-1 Ebbsfleet United
Liam Kelly’s confidently struck penalty in the 89th minute rescued a richly deserved point for Bath City against National League South table toppers Ebbsfleet United at Twerton Park on Sat 12th March 2016.
The high flying visitors started brightly and put the home defence under early pressure. Bryan van den Bogaert’s shot in the 2nd minute was deflected wide for a corner and, three minutes later, Danny Kedwell’s glancing header from a left wing cross was wide of the far post.
City began to find their feet, and Dan Ball’s long searching pass on 9 minutes almost set Andy Watkins clear on goal, but the forward was just unable to gain control allowing United keeper, Nathan Ashmore, to collect.
The home side suffered a blow after 13 minutes when Matt Taylor’s afternoon was brought to an early conclusion by a leg injury. He was replaced by Dan Bowman, who slotted into the right back position, with Andy Gallinagh moving into the centre of the defence.
On 16 minutes, Dave Pratt released Watkins down the inside right channel, whose progress was cynically halted by van den Bogaert. The full back was perhaps somewhat fortunate that the colour of the card produced by the referee, Mr. Steven Plane, was only yellow. Frankie Artus’ resulting free kick drifted harmlessly wide of the far post.
City were now playing the better football but were unable to fashion any genuine openings. Ball once again found Watkins with a precise pass on 27 minutes and, as the striker raced into the United area he was pulled back by a defender but, to his credit, he battled to stay on his feet. Alas, his eventual cross was cleared, and Mr. Plane waved away appeals for a penalty.
Ebbsfleet remained threatening going forward, and Steve Phillips produced an outstanding save to tip Sam Deering’s rising shot over the crossbar.
The hosts almost took the lead 7 minutes before the break when Watkins again found space in the box and forced a low save from the goalkeeper, who could not gather at the first attempt. Pratt reacted quickly to reach the loose ball, but Ashmore recovered sufficiently to smother the danger.
At the other end, Sean Shields’ cross shot was deflected wide of the target by Ball, but the half ended with City on the offensive. Bowman’s deep cross from the right flank reached Kelly beyond the far post, but his volleyed effort from a narrow angle lacked the power to trouble Ashmore.
The second period almost began disastrously for The Romans when Deering’s shot from 20 yards took a wicked deflection, and the wrong footed Phillips was relieved to see the ball pass wide of the post.
Kelly delivered an inviting low corner in the 48th minute that flashed across the face of Ashmore’s goal, with Watkins desperately close to finding a telling touch. However, this proved to be Watkins’ last involvement as he pulled up lame on the half way line, and was duly replaced by Brad Williams.
As the hour mark approached Gallinagh produced a determined run down the right wing, his progress being abruptly ended by a crude lunging challenge by Anthony Acheampong, an act that cost the defender a caution.
The Kent side slowly began to gain an element of superiority in the midfield areas, and Danny Greenslade was penalised for a foul on Kedwell 18 yards from goal. Kedwell dusted himself down, but sent his free kick well over Phillips’ bar from a more than useful position. The same player then had a shot cleared off the line by Gallinagh on 73 minutes, as the spell pressure on the home defence continued.
Ebbsfleet finally took the lead after 76 minutes when Kedwell crossed from the by-line into the path of substitute Charlie Sheringham who, with the goal at his mercy, fired his shot against the bar. The reprieve, however, was fleeting as the ball rebounded to Jordan Parkes, who drilled into the net through a crowd of players.
City were momentarily rocked back on their heels, and Sheringham was just wide with a curling effort from 20 yards. Ashley Kington came on for Artus in the 80th minutes and, thereafter, the hosts pressed forward in search of an equaliser without creating clear cut openings. Just when it seemed that all their efforts would be in vain, Bath were handed a lifeline when Kington was injudiciously nudged in the back by skipper Dean Rance, and Mr. Plane had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Kelly stepped forward and, despite Ashmore diving the right way, found the corner of the net with aplomb.
Despite four minutes of added time, the remainder of the game passed without notable incident, and City were given a rapturous ovation by the home faithful at the final whistle.
There is no doubt that a share of the spoils was no less than the hosts deserved for a performance full of tenacity and determination. The league leaders were restricted to brief spells where they were allowed to show their promotion credentials, this being largely down to City’s pressing game and not allowing their opponents time on the ball. Gary Owers’ men will need more of the same on Tuesday night at Truro City, but the injuries to Watkins and Taylor will be cause for concern.
Bath City: Steve Phillips; Andy Gallinagh, Matt Taylor (Dan Bowman 13), Dan Ball, Danny Greenslade; Chas Hemmings, Frankie Artus (Ashley Kington 80), Billy Murphy; Liam Kelly, Dave Pratt, Andy Watkins (Brad Williams 51)
Subs not used: Sekani Simpson
Ebbsfleet United: Nathan Ashmore; Dean Pooley, Bryan van den Bogaert, Stuart Lewis (John Paul Kissock 59), Anthony Acheampong, Kenny Clark, Dean Rance, Sam Deering, Danny Kedwell, Aaron McLean (Charlie Sheringham 72), Sean Shields (Jordan Parkes 72)
Subs not used: Joe Howe, Jon Miles
Referee: Mr. Steven Plane