FA Trophy 3rd Round
Saturday 24 January 2014 - Twerton Park - kick off 3.00pm
||Mellor, Simpson, Gallinagh (c), Walsh, Ball, Hemmings, Watkins (Diallo 72), Adelsbury (McCootie 58), Pratt, Allen (Stearn 75), Artus. subs not used: Bowman, Kington.
|man of the match:
||A Bromley, M Whaley, L Sheridan
|league position: n/a
||next match: Eastbourne Bor (A)
Report taken from
Bath City are through to the FA Trophy quarter-finals for only the second time in their history after Phil Walsh’s 78th-minute header deservedly sunk Vanarama Conference Premier outfit Altrincham at Twerton Park on Saturday.
The centre-half produced an emphatic finish from substitute Ross Stearn’s free-kick to seal City’s place in Monday’s last-eight draw and send an 863-strong crowd into rapture.
After years of under-performance in non-league’s premier knockout competition, City have now claimed two Conference Premier scalps this season.
And, like in the famous first round win at Bristol Rovers, victory was thoroughly deserved as City ensured they were competitive in the first half before ramping up the pressure after the break.
City made two changes to the XI which started last week’s 2-1 win over Staines Town in Vanarama Conference South, with the fit-again Sekani Simpson getting the nod ahead of Dan Bowman at right-back and Ashley Kington – a goalscorer at Whitehawk in the previous round – being replaced by Chris Allen.
Both teams came into the tie in good form, which was reflected in a lively start to proceedings as Nicky Clee’s clever footwork earned a corner for Altrincham which was cleared by City and sparked a break which ended with Andy Watkins racing through on goal but firing into the side-netting.
Things settled down after that, with both teams working their way into promising positions before moves invariably broke down with a loose pass.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute that the next chance of note came and it again fell to Watkins, who was picked out in the inside-left channel by a wonderful curling pass by Frankie Artus. However, rather than take another touch and drive into the box, the City striker tried a first-time shot which rolled harmlessly across the box.
Damian Reeves was also found in space by Nicky Clee at the other end moments later but was immediately flagged offside, although his shot was saved by Jason Mellor anyway.
Altrincham were perhaps having the edge in terms of possession but City were posing a threat going forward, particularly down the left where Watkins again worked some space and drilled in a cross which Tom Marshall bravely headed to safety as Chas Hemmings charged in.
The visitors’ first real attempt on goal came in the 32nd minute when Allen gave the ball away in midfield, allowing Jake Moult to nip in and surge to the edge of the box where referee Adam Bromley deemed he was fouled by Walsh.
Captain Shaun Densmore stepped up to take the free-kick and saw it clear the City wall but also the bar by a fraction.
Reeves then saw a looping header drop onto the roof of the net from Gianluca Havern’s slightly over-hit cross as Altrincham began to probe.
The first shot on target from either side arrived five minutes before half-time as James Lawrie played in Altrincham winger Clee, whose angled drive was blocked at his near-post by Mellor.
The City keeper made a better save in the closing seconds of the half, diving to his right to ensure Lawrie’s shot went wide of the far post after he had been played in by Reeves.
City will have been pleased with their first-half showing but knew they had to up the intensity in the second period – something Allen did in the 50th minute as he jinked between two defenders and fired in a snap-shot which visiting keeper Stuart Coburn did well to parry before Marshall hacked the loose ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
Both sides were playing at a quicker pace during an entertaining start to the second period and there was a let-off for City in the 56th minute when Mellor fumbled a shot from Lawrie but recovered well to smother Reeves’ follow-up at point-blank range.
Perhaps City’s best moment of the match so far followed seconds later as typically tenacious play down the right by Dave Pratt saw him battle past Adam Griffin and drill in a cross which was met on the full by Ben Adelsbury as he raced into the box but his powerful header cleared the bar.
That was the midfielder’s last contribution of the game as he was replaced by Nick McCootie, who occupied the central striker’s role as City switched from a diamond in midfield to three up front.
The hosts clearly felt the game was there for the taking and thought they should have had a penalty when Marshall slid in on Allen in the box but the referee said the Altincham defender had won the ball.
Marshall was in the thick of the action again moments later, brilliantly hooking a goalbound drive from Hemmings over the bar as City piled on the pressure.
They had another great chance in the 68th minute when a straight ball from Artus caught the Altrincham defence flat-footed and allowed Watkins to again race through. This time he managed to get his shot on target but Coburn pulled off a fine save to keep the scores goalless.
Watkins was replaced by new boy Naby Diallo in the 72nd minute, while the visitors’ first change saw former Bristol City and Bristol Rovers forward Steven Gillespie come on for Ryan Crowther.
City’s final roll of the dice saw Stearn replace Allen with 15 minutes to go – and he had an instant impact by providing the assist for the winning goal.
Brilliant play by Pratt on the right forced Densmore to concede a free-kick, which was whipped in by Stearn and met with an emphatic header by Walsh which flew past Coburn into the net.
That sent the majority of an 863-strong crowd into delirium and they almost had more cause for celebration when another set-piece dropped to Dan Ball at the back post but the angle was too tight and his shot hit the side-netting.
Altrincham were not really threatening a reply, although Andy Gallinagh did have to produce a good block after Gillespie had worked a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box.
With Walsh and Ball standing strong at the back, City’s lead never looked like being breached as they took another step closer to a dream Wembley visit in their 125th-anniversary year.