Vanarama National League South
Saturday 23 April 2016 - York Road - kick off 3.00pm
||Phillips (c), Bowman, Ball, Batten, Hemmings, Kington, Murphy, Kelly (Perry 79), Pratt (McCootie 69), Artus, Watkins. subs not used: Gallinagh, Williams, Hutchinson.
|man of the match:
||Kelly (pen 55, pen 61), McCootie (70)
||I Rathbone, A Humphries, E Clark
|league position: 17th
||next match: Margate (H)
Report taken from
Minutes after the final whistle there was still uncertainty.
The final batch of Bath City fans left on the terrace huddled around phones, desperately scouting their rivals' results and deciphering the league table to confirm whether victory over Hayes & Yeading was enough to end months of relegation terror.
It had been. The cheers that greeted each of the three goals they struck past Hayes – now virtually consigned to relegation themselves – had been euphoric.
The yelps that greeted news of St Albans City's draw with Wealdstone were as much cathartic as jubilant.
A month on from perhaps their lowest ebb, the 3-1 Good Friday defeat to Maidenhead United that left them winless in eight and in serious danger of the drop, the Romans returned to Hayes' temporary York Road home and confirmed another year of National League South football.
City looked the more likely side in a pensive first period and returned after the interval to capitalise on a shaky home defence.
Reading loanee Liam Kelly struck with two penalties in six minutes to put the Romans in control, with Nick McCootie finishing the job seconds after clambering off the bench.
It was a good job they left with the points, too, as their fellow relegation candidates continued to pick up unlikely wins.
By half-time Margate and Havant & Waterlooville were both winning, while City and Hayes remained locked in stalemate.
An early free-kick from Kelly went to waste and it was Hayes who worked the first shot on goal as Elliot Benyon's flick header ran for Luke Williams to drill wide.
But City always looked threatening and had multiple chances to run in behind.
Frankie Artus slipped Andy Watkins past the home defence with one such chance, only for the frontman to drag his shot across goal.
Soon enough Ashley Kington tried his luck with an ambitious 35-yard half-volley that dipped onto the roof of the net with Hayes keeper James Hamon backpedalling.
Another Romans free-kick, taken just inside their own half by Jack Batten, flicked off the head of a defender and ran through for an alert Watkins, who drew a save out of Hamon from a tight angle.
Hayes right-back Adetayo Osifuwa had a shot blocked at the other end as City turned away a corner, before another Artus through ball for Watkins just ran away from the frontman at the byline.
An overlapping Dan Ball almost scored a fluke goal when he latched onto a Watkins nudge, which bobbled up as he attempted to cross, the ball eventually bouncing behind off the top of the bar.
Hayes still had chances, however. Williams had two shots on goal, his first blocked by Ball and the second, from the rebound, held by Steve Phillips.
Portly home defender Darren Purse – once a Premier League player – also clipped an angled ball forward for Benyon to control, turn and fire wide of the near post.
After the interval, good defensive placement from Batten prevented a dangerous Williams run coming to anything, while Watkins got under a corner to head harmlessly over.
But finally, and deservedly, the Romans' breakthrough came from the spot on 55 minutes.
Chasing back under pressure from Pratt, Purse played an ambitious, volleyed backpass to Hamon.
The keeper had no choice but to control the bouncing ball with his head and did so poorly, hacking down Pratt in a desperate attempt to corral his loose touch.
A week on from his penalty miss against Eastbourne Borough, nerveless Kelly stepped up to the spot and sent Hamon the wrong way with a casual finish.
Before long he doubled that tally, smashing home an unstoppable penalty high into the net after Pratt had been fouled by Osifuwa.
From then on the game opened up for the Romans, as the desperate hosts searched for a route back.
That left gaps that Watkins in particular took advantage of, forcing the Hayes defence to scramble on more than one occasion.
However, it was substitute McCootie that killed the game and, with it, Hayes' season.
Seconds after replacing Pratt, he took control of the ball and charged goalwards, staying on his feet from a despairing Purse shove and slotting past Hamon.
With the game won and the visitors more relaxed, Hayes began to make inroads into the City third, but had only a near-post Benyon header, hit straight at Phillips from six yards, to show for it.
And City could have added a fourth at the last when Watkins fired in a cross-shot that ended inches out of McCootie's reach.
Though five minutes of injury-time had been signalled, the referee brought the game to an end after three, leaving City supporters to clamour over phones, awaiting their rivals' final scores.