Vanarama Conference South
Saturday 7 March 2015 - Vauxhall Road - kick off 3.00pm
||Mellor, Simpson, Gallinagh (c), Walsh, Ball, Hemmings, Kington, Bowman (Allen 62), Pratt, Watkins (Stearn 44), Artus. subs not used: McCootie, Adelsbury, Rollo.
|man of the match:
||Artus (45), Stearn (85), Pratt (87)
||R Hooper, C Wicks, J Vallance
|league position: 11th
||next match: Weston SM (A)
Report taken from
Bath City got their Vanarama Conference South play-off push back on track with victory at ten-man Hemel Hempstead.
The first half was held up by an injury to one of the assistant referees and Frankie Artus netted deep into stoppage time at the end of it to give the visitors an interval lead.
Hemel's David King saw red after a clash with Ashley Kington early in the second period and City made their numerical advantage tell late on thanks to goals from substitute Ross Stearn and top-scorer Dave Pratt.
After yet another dose of aerial combat against physical opponents, the result demonstrates, if nothing else, that City are at last beginning to come to terms with the slightly more direct style of football played by some sides at this level.
If the two sides offered a contrast of styles, for much of the first 45 minutes it was more no style at all. The ball spent more time in the air than a space probe and when it landed, bounced over players' heads on a hard and bobble-laden surface.
Indeed, virtually the only chance of the opening period came when Hemel keeper Laurie Walker saw his clearance after five minutes charged down by Pratt. As the ball rebounded off the City forward, in normal conditions the ball would have landed in the goal, instead it rebounded off the surface and over Walkers bar.
If the game was disjointed it was not helped when just a few minutes later the assistant referee, after a long consultation with the man in the middle, left the pitch with what looked like a pulled hamstring.
Despite the game being played at a frantic pace, neither side really troubled their opposing keepers. On 26 minutes Artus put a free-kick narrowly over the bar after Dan Bowman had been fouled. Town replied with Asafu-Adjaye firing over from long range, followed by Oliver Hawkins getting on the end of a Dominic Hyman cross but only able to put his header straight in to the hands of Jason Mellor.
The visitors were then disappointed on 44 minutes to see Andy Watkins pull up and limp from the pitch after a good opening spell, to be replaced by Stearn.
With 11 minutes of stoppage time to be played in the first half City pressed forward as the clock wound down. This time Bowman found some rare space down the left and put in a good cross for Artus some 25 yards from goal. The midfielder took a couple of touches before carefully placing his shot in the bottom left hand corner of Walker's net.
It was a goal that had Town vigorously appealing that the replacement assistant had flagged for an earlier infringement. However, the referee had played an advantage and the goal stood.
After the interval Hemel, now with the wind behind them and the slope in their favour, began to pick up the pace, playing with a simple, but effective style suited to the conditions. It primarily consisted of a long ball downfield, held up by the big centre forward while any number of up to four runners went past looking for a knock on.
It so nearly proved City's undoing as they struggled to get to grips with the pressure. With the second half only six minutes old they had withstood four assaults. Twice Phil Walsh cleared off the line and when City's big centre-back could not come to the rescue the woodwork did, with shots from Zane Banton and Jordan Parkes both rebounding off the upright.
However, the match then turned again. At Twerton Park earlier in the season Town had three players sent off, this time it was only one as King, after a slight tussle, inexplicably went to headbutt Kington. Referee Mr Hopper had no hesitation in showing King a red card, leaving Hemel to play out over more than half an hour of the second half with ten men.
Although the advantage was not immediately apparent as time wore on City gradually began to find more space. With seven minutes to go Kington released Stearn down the left, virtually free on goal. As he raced forward with only Walker to beat, Stearn hesitated before putting his shot over the bar.
He needn't have worried, as from the goal kick the ball found its way to Artus, who immediately released Stearn again. This time he made no mistake, hitting a shot on the volley from just inside the 18-yard box which gave Walker no chance.
But City were not yet done. Just three minutes later it was Pratt's turn. He picked up the ball on the right, cut inside and released a shot across goal that again left Walker stranded.
It was match that might not have ben a classic but for the visitors it should have begun to wash away some of the heartache from their North Ferriby defeat. However, Hemel's style of play will have left some panful reminders, both mentally and physically, as a number of City players limped from the Vauxhall Road ground.