Bath City 2-2 Ebbsfleet United
Mayday Trust Park
Bath City couldn’t get the win they needed to try and maintain their play off position, come the end of the season, against high flying Ebbsfleet. Andy Watkins was the star of the show with two really well taken goals but Ebbsfleet came back quickly after both goals with quality strikes of their own to keep a 6 point gap between them and the chasing play off pack in the Conference South.
A well organised Bath side started well, with two good chances inside the opening ten minutes. On 4 minutes Andy Watkins, playing of the left wing in a front 3, latched on to a long ball but could only fire over from a tight angle. Then two minutes later David Pratt, playing of the right of the front 3, crossed the ball to Jake Reid (in the middle) but he could only direct his header over the bar. This was an early indication for Preston Edwards, in the Ebbsfleet goal, that he would have a busy night; Watkins was having the most joy on the left hand side.
The next clear cut chance came on 16 minutes with a Joe Burnell cross from the right. It came in on the head of Watkins but he saw the run of Danny Ball behind him and left it, but the advancing wing back could only put his fierce shot straight at the keeper who parried it away. Bath didn’t have to wait too much longer for a break through with Watkins chasing down a Chris Allen measured ball on the left on 21 minutes. Edwards advanced to meet it, with Watkins out pacing the Ebbsfleet defence, but the striker coolly lobbed the ball first time over the stranded keep to make it 1-0.
The Bath front 3 were linking up well with Reid keeping the taller centre backs busy by providing an aerial threat leaving Watkins and Pratt to beat the full backs time after time as Ebbsfleet played with a high back line. On 28 minutes Watkins showed some trickery with the ball to outwit his marker to put in a cross but Pratt could only head over. However the game was about to change with Ebbsfleet’s first real opportunity of the game two minutes later. Alex Osborn made a good run down the left hand side beating two Bath defenders to pull the ball back for Billy Bricknell who hit it first time, with the ball flying into the top corner giving Jason Mellor, in the Bath goal, no chance.
Mellor was a lot more alert from that point on and did very well to claim a dangerous cross with five minutes left to play of the half. Ebbsfleet then had two good chances to take the lead, somewhat against the run of play, just before the break. Ben May, up front for Ebbsfleet, managed to find some space to try a dipping volley, which ended up on the roof of the net. Then deep into injury time Ebbsfleet had a free-kick on the left hand side which was loafed in by Aiden Palmer but Dan Rance’s header was saved by Mellor; the whistle then went for half time.
Ebbsfleet came out for the second half with a deeper back line to counter the effectiveness of Bath’s front 3 and pushed forward a lot more. This almost paid off after just 3 minutes of the restart. Daryl McMahon was allowed to roam forward with the ball from defence and managed to get in a well struck shot from distance but it went wide. However a moment later Ebbsfleet were undone at the back when Watkins cut infield to get on the end of a through ball. Edwards came out to meet him on the edge of the box but Watkins managed to take it round him but his shot was somehow saved by the feet of the back tracking keeper; which pushed Watkins to the byline with defenders now covering on the line. Watkins kept his head though and did well to pull the ball back to the penalty spot where Reid was arriving but the tall striker missed the ball and the chance was gone.
Anthony Cook and Osborn on the wings for Ebbsfleet had swapped sides for the second half with Cook’s pace being more effective against Sekani Simpson. On 52 minutes Cook’s pace took him forward creating space for a long shot but his shot went over the bar. Ebbsfleet then created another good chance five minutes later with Bricknell showing quick feet in the area under pressure, but his turn and shot was well saved. Ebbsfleet’s quick counter attacking football was giving Bath all sorts of problems this half; making them a lot more dangerous than in the first half. However despite this it was Bath who took the lead again on 61 minutes. Allen’s corner was eventually scrambled clear but only to the edge of the box with Watkins there to hit a first time shot with the outside of his boot, which rocketed on to the underside of the bar and into the net.
A moment later Phil Walsh had a great chance to add to his 25 Bath career goals when he got on the end of Allen’s corner, but it went just over. After some good attacking pressure from Ebbsfleet they levelled the score on 76 minutes with the game’s fourth wonder strike. Bath gave away a free-kick 20 yards out in the centre of the goal with Palmer and Cook standing over the ball. After a step over from Palmer, Cook hit it round the wall and into the bottom right hand corner past the diving Mellor. Lee Howells, Bath’s First Team Coach, tried to make some changes to win the game for Bath by bringing on Adam Connolly for Burnell but Cook still threatened the Bath goal after a minute of the substitution turning two defender the wrong way; however Mellor saved well this time. Then fans favourite Ross Stearn was introduced to the fray with just 9 minutes left for the tiring Reid.
Bricknell saw his header sail over the bar on 82 minutes, then two minutes later his smart turn and shot was well saved by Mellor. Bath had one final push on goal in the final few minutes but couldn’t find another break through. Ball got forward well after a good spell of passing but his cross came off the back of a defender but Edwards adjusted well to hold the ball. Then Noah Keats steadied himself for a well struck shot from 20 yards but found Edwards up to the task again as the final whistle approached.
So a really good game of football to watch but the result suited Ebbsfleet more then Bath. This keeps Ebbsfleet two wins ahead of the chasing play off pack in 4th, in a game which could have been easily lost, but for some good tactical changes at half time. The result for Bath means that after doing so well to get into the play offs in February, and getting so many games on, they are now in danger of a mid table finish. Currently in 6th place they will be looking over their shoulders having played a lot more games than the teams around them, leaving them with having to win nearly all of their remaining games to make stay in the play offs come the end of the season.