Maidenhead 1-1 Bath City
By Kevin Porter
Honours finished even at York Road following an extraordinary game between Maidenhead United and Bath City. The hosts, playing down the slope in the first half, could have been out of sight long before the interval had they converted a modicum of their opportunities but, after the break, City enjoyed almost total domination.
The Magpies came out of the traps quickly, making use of the favourable incline, and took an early lead in the 4th minute. The ball fell to Adrian Clifton in a central position 25 yards from goal, and he hit a crisp shot into the corner of the net past Jason Mellor’s despairing dive.
Bath were finding difficulty in retaining possession, and the general pace amongst home players was causing numerous problems. Jonathan Hippolyte was proving a particular menace and he raced through on goal after a long ball over the City defence but, in lifting his shot over the advancing Mellor, it also cleared the crossbar.
In a rare threat to the United goal, Ross Stearn beat Harry Pritchard to a 19th minute ball into the box, but was unable to curl his shot round the home keeper Will Britt, who had come a long way off his line. Three minutes later, Dave Pratt crossed from the left and the ball reached Stearn, whose goal-bound shot was deflected wide. Phil Walsh nodded wide of the far post from the resulting corner that had been taken quickly to Chris Allen.
Following this short period of respite for the visiting defence, Maidenhead then re-took control of the game. Mellor made an excellent save to palm Clifton’s header round the post at the expense of a corner and, on 27 minutes, the goalkeeper produced a quite magnificent reaction save to keep out Hippolyte’s firm drive from close range, when the striker had looked certain to score.
Shortly afterwards, Danny Green lifted his shot over the bar from a good position, with the home faithful behind the goal howling in vain for a corner kick. Hippolyte had another chance to extend his side’s lead in the 33rd minute when, following a swift breakaway, he found himself clear on goal. Mellor again excelled by coming quickly off his line to save bravely at the forward’s feet. Pritchard was wasteful a minute later by scooping the ball over the bar when finding himself unmarked inside the City area.
Allen saw his shot from 20 yards comfortably saved by Britt, but Mellor had the final say of the half. Green struck a low effort goalwards, but the City stopper gathered at the second attempt.
Lee Howells sent on Andy Gallinagh and Andy Watkins at the expense of Walsh and Pat Keary ahead of the resumption, and the balance of the match changed almost immediately. Now with the lie of the land in their favour, and a better surface upon which to launch attacks, Bath pressed forward with purpose and United were forced to defend deeply.
However, the first attempt at goal came from the hosts when the lively Laure Azeez rifled in a rising drive that was well held by Mellor high above his head. Watkins was beginning to cause consternation for the Maidenhead defense down the left flank and his cross on 58 minutes found Stearn beyond the far post. In the event, the wideman hurried his angled shot, and blazed wildly high and wide.
There was now considerable momentum being generated by the visitors, and Pratt’s shot from inside the box following a neat turn was deflected narrowly wide of the post. Britt punched away unconvincingly from the resulting Frankie Artus corner, but Pratt was unable to keep his header down from the loose ball.
Nick McCootie came on for Allen after 70 minutes, and the City pressure continued unabated. The substitute was fouled 20 yards from goal with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, and this proved to be a crucial moment in the game. Stearn stepped forward to unleash a blistering free kick that beat the defensive wall, and Britt could only parry upwards, watching in agony as the spin took the ball over the goal line.
There was now only likely to be one winner as the Somerset side pushed forward earnestly. McCootie burst into the box on 84 minutes, but Britt made a useful save at the near post to repel his angled effort. The final action saw Dan Bowman’s cross from the right met with a near post header by Pratt that flew wide of the target.
Given the nature of the game, a draw was probably the right result. Maidenhead suffered for their profligacy in front of goal in the first half, and City effectively earned their point by keeping the deficit to one goal with a mixture of good fortune, well timed last ditch tackles, and some breathtaking saves by Mellor. Such was the change in the balance of play after the break that the visitors will feel slightly aggrieved that they could not find a second decisive strike but, on balance, defeat would have been harsh on either side.
MAIDENHEAD UNITED – Will Britt, Devante McKain, Harry Pritchard, Ryan Upward, Mark Nisbet, Simon Downer, Danny Green, Adrian Clifton, Eddie Hutchinson, Jonathan Hippolyte, Laure Azeez; Subs, Dave Tarpey, Reece Tison-Lascaris, David, Rogolski, Jacob Erskine, Elvijs Putnins.
BATH CITY – Jason Mellor, Dan Bowman, Sekani Simpson, Pat Keary (Andy Watkins 45 mins), Phil Walsh (Andy Gallinagh 45 mins), Dan Ball, Chris Allen (Nick McCootie 70 mins), Ashley Kington, Dave Pratt, Ross Stearn, Frankie Artus; Subs not used, Ben Adelsbury, Jim Rollo.
REFEREE – Mr. Ian Fissenden (Gillingham)
ATT – 321
Photo of Stearn by Simon Howe, his whole set can be found here