Bath City 2-1 Maidenhead United
By Kevin Porter
Photos by Simon Howe
Bath City’s remarkable start to the season continued when they recorded their fourth straight victory by overcoming the stern challenge of Maidenhead United at Twerton Park. Goals from Frankie Artus and Matt Coupe eventually turned the tables on the visitors, who had taken the lead midway through the first period.
The game began in largely uninspiring fashion, with neither side able to consistently maintain possession. United created the first opening in the 2nd minute which saw Ryan Upward’s shot comfortably gathered by Steve Phillips between the City sticks.
The hosts produced momentary flashes of neat approach work, and former City loan keeper Carl Pentney had to clutch a looping header from Artus under his crossbar on 7 minutes.
It was the Berkshire side that were posing the greater threat going forward, and it was no surprise when they forged in front in the 23rd minute. Andy Gallinagh was penalised for a foul on the point of the penalty area, and the home defence was caught napping by a quickly taken free kick. Harry Pritchard played the ball into the danger area, and Ben Wright’s shot from 8 yards was deflected into the corner of the net beyond the wrong-footed Phillips.
The Magpies looked to drive home their advantage and, two minutes later, Pritchard’s well-struck shot from 25 yards was well saved by Phillips.
City were clearly rocked by their setback, and took a while to find any rhythm. They did, however, gradually find their way back into the game and began to put the United defence under pressure.
Nick McCootie turned cleverly 20 yards from goal but was well wide with his effort and, after 28 minutes, Jon Davies low drive was blocked by Pentney’s legs. On the half hour mark, the Maidenhead custodian held Ashley Kington’s rising shot under his bar, and then Davies’ goal-bound attempt was deflected behind for a corner.
Pentney made a wonderful diving save to repel Kington’s rasping shot on 38 minutes when a goal looked certain, but he could do nothing to prevent an equaliser three minutes before the break. The ball was bobbling around inside the away box, and Davies was upended as he tried to work some space for himself. The referee, Mr. Justin Amey from Dorset, took his time to consider his decision, but eventually pointed to the penalty spot. Artus stepped forward to crash the ball into the roof of the net via the underside of the crossbar, in the process ending City’s woeful run of misses from 12 yards.
City were suddenly in the ascendancy, and United were grateful to hear the half time whistle, but not before Chas Hemmings had headed wide of the far post from Kevin Nicholson’s inswinging corner.
The home side commenced the second period on the front foot, and Kington half-volleyed straight at Pentney from 18 yards after a neat knock down from Dave Pratt. Artus scuffed a shot from outside the box that was easily held by Pentney, as City’s early domination continued.
Thereafter followed a flurry of chances that saw Pratt’s shot clear the crossbar from the edge of the area after muscling his way through a challenge, and this was sandwiched by two efforts at the other end. Firstly, Dave Tarpey contrived to miss the target from 8 yards out after some close interplay with Wright, and then the latter was narrowly wide with a fierce free kick from distance, although Phillips appeared to have the situation calmly under control.
The balance of play was now fairly even with Artus firing wide from 20 yards following a partially cleared corner and, on the hour mark, Wright again went close for Maidenhead with a dipping free kick that just cleared Phillips’ bar.
The visitors gradually began to gain the upper hand in terms of possession and, for a prolonged spell, looked the more likely to add to the scoreline as City appeared to tire. Dean Inman nodded narrowly wide of the far post after a free kick from the right, and Lee Howells introduced Brad Williams at the expense of Artus on 70 minutes in an attempt to stem the flow.
Phillips produced a good save low down to keep out Upward’s firm shot from 18 yards. In an increasingly rare home attack, McCootie shot wide of Pentney’s post after turning adeptly, but it was the City goal that remained under pressure. James Mulley shot straight at Phillips from a useful position, and Josh Huggins dragged his effort across goal following a strong run into the home box.
The best opening for the visitors fell to Jake Reid with 11 minutes left on the clock when a pinpoint cross from the right picked him out unmarked in front of goal, but the ex-City man lifted his header tamely over the crossbar.
Andy Watkins came on for Davies after 80 minutes, and the substitute immediately injected some pace into game. He caused the United defence untold problems down the left flank and, once again, the balance and thrust of the game changed. The hosts were now swarming around the Maidenhead box in search of a winner, and the pressure finally told with three minutes of normal time remaining. Nicholson delivered a delicious cross into the box from the right, and Coupe was on hand to force the ball into the net from close range, sending the home faithful into raptures.
Despite nearly five minutes of added time, the closest United came to a response was a Huggins header that dropped over the bar following a corner from the right, and the final whistle heralded vociferous acclamation for the home side from the majority of the 648 present on the Twerton terraces.
This was certainly a hard fought three points for City, and they needed to display considerable resilience to keep a very useful and well-organised Maidenhead side at bay, particularly during the middle stages of the second half. The introduction of Watkins was pivotal as he re-energized the home side and provided much needed forward momentum in the final minutes against wearying defenders. United will, no doubt, feel that they deserved something from the game but missed their chances and, once again, City found a way to secure victory.
Bath City – Steve Phillips, Andy Gallinagh, Dan Ball, Matt Coupe, Kevin Nicholson, Chas Hemmings, Ashley Kington, Frankie Artus (Brad Williams 70), Jon Davies (Andy Watkins 79), Nick McCootie (Dan Bowman 89), Dave Pratt.
Subs not used – Chris Allen, Louis Perry.
Maidenhead United – Carl Pentney; Ryan Peters (Mark Nisbet 27), Harry Pritchard, Ryan Upward, Alan Massey, Dean Inman (Sam Barratt 86), Dave Tarpey, James Mulley, Jake Reid, Ben Wright (Rene Steer 72), Josh Huggins.
Subs not used – Gavin James, Kai Walters.
Referee – Justin Amey (Dorset).
Attendance – 648.