Monday 24 March 2014 - Westleigh Park - kick off 7.45pm
||Mellor, Simpson, Ball, Gallinagh (c), Burnell (Allen 56), Bowman, Keats, Connolly, Pratt, Watkins (Wilson 77), Brown (Stearn 68). subs not used: Low, Adelsbury.
|man of the match:
||R Atkin, J Connolly, J Creswick
|league position: 6th
||next match: Sutton Utd (A)
Report taken from
Bath City's Skrill South play-off hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow as they paid the price for failing to take their chances at Havant & Waterlooville on Monday night.
Noah Keats headed against the bar from inside the six-yard box, while strikers Andy Watkins and Dave Pratt were both unable to cash in on some careless passes from the home defence.
Instead who was the Hawks who grabbed the only goal of the game 11 minutes into the second half, with keeper Jason Mellor unable to react as Nic Ciardini's low show came through a crowd of players.
The result leaves Havant - who also hit the post in the first half via a Scott Donnelly free-kick - just three points adrift of sixth-placed City with six games in hand.
As promised, with the game coming just two days after the 4-1 win over Chelmsford, City brought in a host of fresh legs - making five changes in total.
Ross Stearn, Josh Low, Chris Allen and Ben Adelsbury all dropped to the bench, while loan defender Phil Walsh was not in the 16 at all.
Into the starting XI came Keats, Joe Burnell, Dan Bowman, Adam Connolly and Aaron Brown, who was making his first appearance since last month's miserable home defeat to Basingstoke Town.
Pratt and Watkins continued to lead the line and they combined beautifully in the ninth minute for what should have been the opening goal.
Watkins' wonderful cross from the right was headed back across the six-yard box by his strike partner for Keats but the midfielder's header slammed against the bar from close range.
Brown's follow-up was deflected behind for a corner, from which Watkins found space in the area to fire a low shot through a crowd of players which goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel did brilliantly to save.
Despite the torrential rain, City had settled into the game the better but almost paid the price for two lapses in concentration in the 15th minute.
Bowman's heavy back-pass went behind for an unnecessary corner, from which City left acres of space on the edge of the box for Hawks full-back Daniel Blanchett to gallap into. His low drive took a deflection and almost fell for Dan Strugnell but Pratt managed to get in a last-ditch tackle to force the ball behind once more.
City were this time able to clear the danger and that proved to be the last chance of note until the 28th minute, when Watkins pounced on a heavy touch by Strugnell to get a sight of goal but was denied a shooting chance as the defender recovered.
From the subsequent corner, Burnell was left unmarked as he charged into the box but the midfielder - who had scored only the fifth goal of his career in his previous start against Dorchester Town - couldn't direct his header on target.
City continued to pose the greater threat and Buchel had to make another fine save at his near post after rampaging right wing-back Bowman had broken past a couple of weak tackles.
The home side were perhaps guilty of trying to play too much football at the back at times and another misplaced pass, under pressure from City, allowed Pratt to fire in a shot from 25 yards which Buchel held at the second attempt.
Havant had offered little going forward but a needlessly-conceded free-kick on the edge of the box almost presented them with the opener two minutes before half-time, with Donnelly curling his shot against the base of the post as keeper Mellor stood rooted to the spot.
Hawks manager Lee Bradbury was obviously disappointed with his team's first-half perrformance and sent on Dennis Oli for the second period, replacing the quiet Matt Paterson.
And the hosts were quick out of the blocks, with Mellor forced into his first save of note in the 47th minute from Perry Ryan's header.
However, they were still prone to giving the ball away in dangerous positions and Pratt should have done better when he was gifted the chance to race through on goal, only to blaze his shot high and wide.
Oli's physical presence up front had given the Hawks more of a threat, though, and he forced a fantastic save from Mellor before putting in a cross which Bowman managed to divert behind under pressure.
However, the resulting corner broke to Ciardini on the edge of the box and his low, left-footed drive through a crowd of players sneaked past the unsighted Mellor and into the corner of the net.
City's immediate response was to send on Allen for the defensive-minder Burnell but the wind - both literally and metaphorically - was now behind Havant and the visitors had to endure a few nervous moments at the back.
Lee Howells and Adie Britton, seeking to inject some life back into the City attack, replaced Brown with winger Stearn on the 70th minute, while the Hawks' second change saw Alex Przespolewski come on for Donnelly.
Referee Ryan Atkin, who had let the game flow well, produced his first yellow card of the night in the 76th minute when Ciardini stopped Pratt's charge but Stearn put the subsequent free-kick out of the ground.
The visitors made their final throw of the dice moments later, replacing the tiring Watkins with fellow striker Scott Wilson, but while they enjoyed more possession in the closing stages they failed to threaten the Hawks keeper.
Sahr Kabba came on for the final two minutes, replacing Christian Nanetti, as Havant comfortably held on for the three points.