Vanarama National League South
Saturday 24 September 2016 - Vauxhall Road - kick off 2.58pm
||O'Leary, Rigg, Ball (c), Artus, Monthe, Batten (Diallo 34), Marshall, Hemmings, Watkins (Hunter 69), Morgan, Hutchinson (McCootie 34). subs not used: Bowman, Fleetwood.
|man of the match:
||Morgan (55, 80), Hemmings (62)
||J Smith, M Gospel, A Loe
|league position: 8th
||next match: Potters Bar Town (FAC) (A)
Report taken from
Bath City staged a remarkable comeback in a pulsating clash at Vauxhall Road, home of Hemel Hempstead Town.
Trailing 2-0 on 32 minutes, Gary Owers made the brave decision to throw on two substitutions before the half was out and it proved fruitful in an eventful afternoon in Hertfordshire.
The City chief made four changes going into the game following a demanding midweek cup replay at Oxford City and his new-look side got off to the worst possible start, conceding in 33 seconds.
Jack Batten hesitated and was robbed by James Potton, who squared it to Graeme Montgomery. The left-sided player, who netted in the same fixture last season, kept his composure to roll the ball across Max O'Leary and into the net.
The same player nearly created a second 20 minutes later. A cross from the left from the Hemel winger saw Potton rush in, but he was unable to fully connect, allowing Dan Ball to clear.
While Hemel largely attempted to play attractive football on a neat surface, their second goal was purely route one.
A scrappy piece of play in midfield saw the ball eventually run loose to Ollie Thorne, who launched a ball over the top.
With Batten and O'Leary hesitating, the ball bounced awkwardly between both, allowing Mitchell Weiss to nip in and get the slightest of touches in diverting the ball almost apologetically over the line.
Owers had clearly seen enough, and almost immediately withdrew Josh Hutchinson, making his first start of the season, as well as Batten, introducing Naby Diallo and Nick McCootie, resulting in Chas Hemmings moving to centre-back.
Andy Watkins, making his first appearance in three weeks following an injury, finally forced Jamie Butler into a save a few minutes before the interval; his shot from distance batted away from the keeper with Marvin Morgan penalised for a foul in the follow-up.
The home side suffered a blow just before the interval when Weiss - a handful of a striker - was withdrawn owing to illness, though they had a ready-made replacement in Jake Robinson available to take his place.
Although City had the advantage of kicking down the slope and with the wind behind them in the second half, there was little in the opening minutes of the second half to fuel hopes for a comeback.
Their frustrations were summed up by McCootie picking up his fifth booking of the season, which will trigger a one-match ban.
On 55 minutes, the visitors pulled one back. Lee Marshall's dangerous free-kick saw Morgan escape from his marker and provide the slightest of touches to divert the ball out of Butler's desperate reach.
The keeper managed to thwart McCootie within after a trademark barnstorming run saw him find himself one-on-one, but the Tudors custodian was able to smother his effort.
He was powerless to prevent City's second of the afternoon just after the hour; a sumptuous strike which most goalkeepers would have had to stand and admire.
After Frankie Artus' corner wasn't fully cleared, Diallo did enough to touch it on to Hemmings who, with his back to goal, managed to swivel and expertly bend the ball into the top corner past a stand-still keeper from 18 yards.
City were enjoying their best spell of the game but were left aggrieved by a couple of refereeing decisions in quick succession.
The bench were furious when Manny Monthe's close-range strike clearly deflected wide, though a goal-kick was given, and they thought there was a case for a penalty when substitute Shaquille Hunter went down under a challenge from David King, but play was waved on.
Referee Josh Smith issued a stern warning to the coaching staff, suggesting they'd taken their protestations too far.
There was further anger from the away dugout as Hemel regained the lead with quarter of an hour remaining with their first effort on target of the half.
James Koloczi, a towering presence in midfield, rose highest to Potton's hanging cross to nod the ball past O'Leary from six yards.
It gave the hosts an extra spring in their step. They nearly extended their lead within a matter of minutes when the instrumental Montgomery produced an outstanding piece of skill to deceive George Rigg before flashing a shot just wide of the far post.
While going forward Hemel looked a threat, their defence let them down once again as they conceded their third, and a league high 27th of the season to date, on 81 minutes.
It was another Marshall free-kick that did the damage. This time Hemmings was able to get a flick-on to Morgan, remarkably unmarked, and he bravely headed past the advancing Butler before a near collision with the number one.
Having endured a miserable year with Havant & Waterlooville and Wealdstone last year, the 33-year old now has six goals to his name for Bath.
Both sides searched for a winner. Robinson curled a shot wide after his initial ascent on goal was delayed by Monthe and McCootie was denied on the line by Jack Kelly after Hunter's delayed cross picked him out at the far post.
The latter nearly went from villain to hero following his sending off in the week. With seconds remaining, the substitute's low strike from distance clipped the outside of the post and went wide, much to the relief of the home faithful.
Owers claimed afterwards that it was a point gained. It was City's first draw of the season following a disastrous start and he'll be hoping for a more relaxing afternoon back in Herts next week against Potters Bar Town in the Emirates FA Cup 3rd qualifying round.