Wealdstone 1-3 Bath City
The Vale Stadium
By Kevin Porter
Bath City progressed to the 3rd Round of the FA Trophy on the back of a scintillating first half performance against Wealdstone at a blustery Grosvenor Vale ground. Their early supremacy saw them go into the break with a two-goal cushion, a margin that could have been greater but for the woodwork and some last ditch defending by the hosts.
City commenced the game playing down the slope but with the wind against them, and it was Wealdstone who created the first goal scoring opportunity in the very first minute. The ball broke to Richard Jolley on the edge of the City box, but his shot was partially blocked by a defensive challenge, and Jason Mellor was able to gather comfortably.
The Somerset side took the lead on 3 minutes when Dave Pratt won the ball out wide on the left and crossed into the area. The home defence failed to deal with the situation, and Andy Watkins profited by poking the loose ball into the net beyond the stranded keeper. It was somewhat ironic that Stones’ custodian Jonathan North was beaten so soon after receiving the Vanarama Conference South player of the month award that had been presented shortly before kick off.
Wealdstone responded within three minutes when Jolley found room out on the right, and his cross was nodded into the near corner of the net by the diving Elliott Godfrey.
Thereafter, City took control of proceedings and the lively Watkins was causing all manner of problems for the home defence down either flank, with Pratt a willing partner in the central area. Frankie Artus was also becoming increasingly influential in midfield as Wealdstone were pinned into their own territory.
Watkins worked his way to the byline on 17 minutes and drove a low cross into the six-yard box that resulted in Carl Martin somehow managing to lift the ball over his own crossbar from barely 2 yards out. Artus then turned his marker inside out before delivering an inviting cross, that saw Ben Adelsbury’s thumping header come back off the bar, and Pratt’s follow up effort narrowly missing the target.
City deservedly re-took the lead in the 21st minute when a ball into the home box reached Ashley Kington. The midfielder had plenty to do, but he jinked past two challenges before planting a firm shot into the corner from 15 yards, giving North no chance.
Wealdstone once again tried to restore parity when Jolley broke away down the right and found Scott McGleish with a pass inside, only for Mellor to make a brave and timely save at the forward’s feet.
It was the visitors, however, that continued to look the more threatening in attack. Watkins raced forward on to a 27th minute through ball from Kington and rounded North, but his angled shot was turned behind for a corner by Wes Parker. At the other end, Shaun Lucien struck a shot from distance that disappeared out of the ground over the stand behind Mellor’s goal.
Bath’s lead was increased eight minutes before the interval, when a corner from the left was met with a Walsh header that was cleared off the goal-line, but only towards the edge of the box to the lurking Artus. The midfielder carefully steered his shot into the far corner of the net from 18 yards, with the wrong-footed North rooted.
The Romans continued to press forward in numbers and almost reaped further reward on 43 minutes. Dan Bowman’s cross from the right was headed into the air by Sean Cronin, and North had to scurry backwards to push the ball on to the top of his own crossbar. The resulting corner kick again found Walsh, and his goal-bound effort was blocked by a defender.
The final action of the half saw Mellor produce a good diving save to keep out a header from Parker following a long free kick into the City box.
Understandably, the hosts came out after the interval looking to regain a foothold in the game, and they enjoyed the greater share of possession. For their part, City were struggling to come to terms with the wind, which was now at their backs, as through balls continually carried straight through to North.
Lucien was becoming a menace down the left flank and his cross on the hour mark found the unmarked McLeish in front of goal, but the striker contrived to direct his diving header wide of Mellor’s near post. Bath responded with an attack of their own a minute later, that resulted in Adelsbury’s 25 yard drive flashing narrowly wide.
Strong penalty appeals were waved away on 67 minutes by the referee, Mr. Lee Betts, as the home side unsuccessfully claimed that Sekani Simpson had deliberately handled the ball inside his own area.
Lucien’s cross on 77 minutes picked out substitute Joe Turner at the far post and Mellor reacted brilliantly to tip his header over the bar, a save that proved unnecessary due to a raised offside flag.
Watkins was replaced by Nick McCootie as City began to come more into the game. Pratt robbed a defender 25 yards from goal, and his low shot passed just wide of North’s post. The battered, bruised and bloodied Pratt was then withdrawn, with Ross Stearn being introduced to the action for the final four minutes.
The home side refused to throw in the towel and Martin tried his luck from outside the box. His shot spiralled into the sky and Mellor claimed the ball with his raised foot catching an opponent in the chest. The City keeper needed lengthy treatment with the home faithful behind the goal appealing vociferously for a penalty. Much to their annoyance, the referee awarded a free kick to City once Mellor had finally risen to his feet.
Despite three minutes of stoppage time, the visitors survived without any further undue alarm, and Mr. Betts’ final whistle was met not only with glee from the travelling supporters, but also with continued protestations and derision from those of Wealdstone persuasion.
City were fully deserving of their progress in the competition, and the first half performance was probably their best of the season. Lee Howells’ side defended manfully after the break as they sought to preserve their lead and, despite having the second half territorial advantage, Wealdstone failed to carve out many clear-cut openings. The draw for the Third Round will now be eagerly anticipated by those with an allegiance to The Romans.
Wealdstone – Jonathan North, Carl Martin, Ryan Watts, Wes Parker, Sean Cronin, Elliott Godfrey (James Hammond 61), Shaun Lucien, Matt Ball (Joe Turner 68), Scott McGleish (Jonny Wright 68), Richard Jolly, Luke O’Nien. Sub not used: Daniel Brown
Bath City – Jason Mellor, Dan Bowman, Andy Gallinagh, Sekani Simpson, Phil Walsh, Dan Ball, Andy Watkins (Nick McCootie 78), Ben Adelsbury, Dave Pratt (Ross Stern 86), Ashley Kington, Frankie Artus. Subs not used: Pat Keary, Jim Rollo.
Referee – Mr. Lee Betts.
Attendance – 553