Bath City 2-1 Dover Athletic
FA Trophy Quarter Final replay
By Kevin Porter
A dramatic evening at Twerton Park saw Bath City advance into the semi-final stage of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history with victory over Vanarama Conference Premier Division side Dover Athletic. Their passage was secured by virtue of a dominant first half performance, and heroic defending after the break.
Ahead of the game a minute’s silence was immaculately observed for those who lost their lives in yesterday’s tragic road traffic accident in Weston Village.
City began the match in the ascendancy and immediately put the Dover defence under pressure. Frankie Artus’ free kick in the 7th minute was spilled by Athletic keeper Mitch Walker, allowing Andy Watkins to head home at the far post. Alas, the referee, Mr. Lee Swabey, spared Walker’s blushes by indicating that a foul had been committed by the hosts.
Strong appeals for a penalty were turned away by the man-in-black on 10 minutes when Dave Pratt was pushed over inside the box by Richard Orlu as the forward attempted to reach Sekani Simpson’s cross.
Dover’s first attacking threat arrived after 12 minutes, with Nick Deverdics heading wide of the target following a cross from the left. However, it was the home side who continued to ask all the questions, and Naby Diallo’s dangerous cross was awkwardly pushed away by Walker from just under his crossbar.
Artus clipped a free kick into the area on 17 minutes that just eluded the onrushing Phil Walsh and, after exchanging passes with Watkins, Artus forced Walker into a useful blocking save at his near post.
Simpson shot high and wide in the 23rd minute, but City took a deserved lead one minute later. Chas Hemmings sent Watkins away down the left, and the latter’s cross was met with a glancing header from Pratt that nestled neatly in the far corner of the net.
Dover tried to find an immediate response, but Tom Murphy sliced his shot high and wide from a good position, and Orlu’s back-header following a free kick into the Bath box was comfortably held by Jason Mellor.
The hosts extended their advantage in the 29th minute, when Chris Allen’s perfectly executed free kick from the left was glanced into the top corner by Hemmings’ deft header.
The visitors were clearly shell-shocked and skipper Connor Essam was fortunate to see only yellow following a reckless tackle from behind on Diallo. Indeed, The Romans almost added to the scoreline on 36 minutes when Hemmings’ ferocious dipping free kick from 30 yards hit the underside of the crossbar, with Walker grasping at thin air. Pratt was cautioned for a foul on Walker as he attempted to latch on to the rebound.
Thereafter, The Whites, playing in a curious shade of pink, came more into the match and City were required to defend in numbers. As half time approached, Orlu’s header from a corner kick was held by Mellor, and Murphy curled a shot well over the bar from the edge of the box. The final action before the break saw Walsh’s sliced clearance fly narrowly over his own crossbar, much to the relief of the majority of the 858 in attendance.
Dover emerged after the interval in determined mood as they pushed City deep into their own half for long periods, their midfield denying the hosts any space to repeat their earlier neat passing movement. They forced a number of corners and, on 55 minutes, Mellor was required to push Sean Raggett’s firm header over the bar. The same player met the ensuing corner but, this time, he nodded over the top from close range.
A free kick from the right in the 62nd minute found Barry Cogan beyond the far post, and the City custodian made a good blocking save low down. Six minutes later Dover reduced the arrears when the unfortunate Walsh slipped out on the touchline. James Poole took advantage as he raced towards the byline and picked out Tyrone Sterling on the edge of the box, who rifled his shot into the corner of the net beyond Mellor’s despairing dive.
The travelling supporters now sensed a comeback to rival that seen in the latter stages of the match at The Crabble on Saturday. Their side continued to camp in City territory but, despite their dominance of possession, they were struggling to create further clear-cut openings as the hosts defended tenaciously.
Ashley Kington and Ross Stearn came on for Allen and Pratt respectively, as Lee Howells sought to inject some much needed fresh legs into the fray. However, Bath’s plight became greater when Diallo was shown a second yellow card for an innocuous looking trip on an opponent midway inside his own half.
Dover continued to press forward, and came desperately close to an equaliser two minutes from time. Ricky Modeste’s cross from the right picked out Poole six yards from goal, but he somehow contrived to glance his header wide of the far post.
City’s final substitution saw Ben Adelsbury replace Watkins and, with the visitors committed to almost total attack, the hosts had an excellent chance to seal their victory. Stearn broke clean through on goal, but the advancing Walker did exceptionally well to block the flying winger’s shot with his feet.
The final opportunity fell to Sterling, but he fired wildly over Mellor’s crossbar from inside the penalty area. The final whistle sounded shortly afterwards, sparking scenes of unbridled joy amongst the home contingent both on and off the pitch.
This was a hard fought and highly competitive match with no quarter asked or given by either side. City were fully deserving of their half time lead, but great credit must go to Dover for their dominance after the break and refusal to lie down. The Somerset side were forced to defend with great determination and fortitude, and they showed huge resilience in the face of a sustained onslaught by the visitors. Certainly, the tension on the terraces was palpable, and there was a huge sense of relief when the game was brought to a conclusion.
The two-legged semi-final with North Ferriby United will now be eagerly awaited, with the first encounter due to take place at Twerton Park on Saturday 21st February.
BATH CITY – Jason Mellor, Sekani Simpson, Andy Gallinagh, Phil Walsh, Dan Ball, Chas Hemmings, Chris Allen (Ashley Kington 78), Naby Diallo, Dave Pratt (Ross Stearn 83), Andy Watkins (Ben Adelsbury 88), Frankie Artus. Subs not used: Nick McCootie, Pat Keary
DOVER ATHLETIC – Mitch Walker, Connor Essam, Chris Kinnear, Sean Raggett, Richard Orlu, Tyrone Sterling, Nick Deverdics, Tom Murphy, Barry Cogan (James Poole 63), Tom Wynter (Ricky Modeste 46), Jake Reid (Solomon Taiwo 76). Subs not used: Lee Hook, Sean Francis
REFEREE – Lee Swabey
ATTENDANCE – 858
Videos with thanks to Steve Mellor