Vanarama National League South
Saturday 4 March 2017 - Princes Park - kick off 3.00pm
||O'Leary, Rigg, Welch-Hayes, Batten, Hemmings, Artus (c), Watkins (Hunter 63), Murphy, McCootie, Morgan (Hutchinson 79), McCoulsky. subs not used: Diallo, Simpson, Marshall.
|man of the match:
||L Venamore, T Marshall, J Simpson
|league position: 12th
||next match: Hemel Hempstead (H)
Report taken from
A second successive defeat appears to have extinguished any lingering play-off hopes for Gary Owers' Bath City.
Third placed Dartford completed the double over the Romans thanks to an Elliot Bradbrook penalty, and Duane Ofori-Acheampong's header at Princes Park.
Although the performance was a vast improvement on the fiasco witnessed 14 months ago at the same venue, which proved to be Lee Howells' last in charge, City lacked a cutting edge and failed to significantly test hosts' keeper Deren Ibrahim throughout.
Tony Burman's well-organised side shouldn't be written off for automatic promotion yet, as their first win in four leaves them six points shy of leaders Ebbsfleet.
Traffic on the M3 meant City's players didn't arrive until around 40 minutes before kick-off, but they started brightly, with Chas Hemmings heading Billy Murphy's corner wide early on.
Frankie Artus created the next opportunity. His superb diagonal ball found George Rigg, whose equally impressive cross was met by Shawn McCoulsky, but the loanee forward, who scored against Dartford earlier this season for Weston, fluffed his lines, slicing his volley in the air and failing to test Ibrahim.
It proved costly. Within 60 seconds, Ryan Hayes was left in space on the right. He tried to outpace Miles Welch-Hayes, before rather theatrically throwing himself to the floor under slight contact.
Referee Lee Venamore pointed to the spot, and captain Bradbrook superbly smashed the ball past Max O'Leary off the underside of the bar, as good a penalty as you're likely to see.
It ended the goalkeeper's run of saving spot-kicks, and his misery was compounded by picking up a caution for dissent.
Hemmings warmed the gloves of Ibrahim just before the break with a free-kick from 28 yards, before O'Leary was called upon at the other end.
Ofori-Acheampong managed to sneak in behind the City defence unnoticed, but in trying to round the City stopper, he was forced wide and allowed the Welch-Hayes to eventually clear.
The home side flew out of the blocks in the second half, with O'Leary denying Hayes a 100th goal in Dartford colours.
Murphy was proving to be one of City's most instrumental performers, tidying up play in the midfield and trying in vain to create openings for his team-mates.
The King of Assists this season nearly had another to his name when his intelligent ball saw McCoulsky with an opening, but Ibrahim dashed off his line to bravely dive at the feet of the onrushing forward.
The Darts introduced joint top-scorer Andy Pugh for Lee Noble on the hour. He nearly doubled his side's lead when Ofori-Acheampong beat Jack Batten to the ball, drilled in a cross to the leading marksman but again O'Leary came to City's rescue by spreading himself in the way, preventing his attempt from close range.
Shaquille Hunter was thrown into the fray in place of Andy Watkins. The substitute hadn't netted since September in the league, and failed to get enough purchase with his header following Welch-Hayes' cross in a decent opening for the visitors.
Instead it was a header at the other end which proved City's undoing as Dartford made the game safe with just under quarter of an hour remaining.
Hayes worked some space on the right and floated in a cross for Ofori-Acheampong who, despite losing his balance, did enough to nod the ball just inside the post past O'Leary's desperate dive.
It was the forward's first goal since Boxing Day and appeared to be the killer punch to end the visitors' hopes of rescuing a point.
The difference in finishing was more evident 10 minutes later when another pinpoint Murphy delivery found McCoulsky, who escaped the shackles of the home defence but looped his header onto the roof of the net with Ibrahim beaten.
That was a rare blip by the Dartford back four. Subs Josh Hutchinson and Hunter linked up, with the latter working space inside the penalty area but messrs Tom Bonner and Ronnie Vint threw themselves in the way to thwart the winger.
It proved the final opening for Owers' charges. The effort and commitment was certainly evident, as is progress from last season's campaign. Barring a miraculous swing in City's favour, it looks like a top half finish is a more realistic hope than top five.