A warm summer’s evening at the football isn’t a bad way to conclude your average Tuesday, and so it was that I found myself at Twerton Park, home of Bath City FC, for my first game there this season. The home side welcomed Gloucester City, their local rivals an hour north away, up the M5.
Sadly I hadn’t managed to get to Twerton Park since March, when I shivered through ninety minutes of a 1-0 loss to Eastbourne Borough. The game was a rearranged fixture caused by the heavy snowfall we experienced earlier this year, yet I was still unprepared for just how cold it would be. Thankfully the weather this time was much more forgiving, and despite this summer’s heatwave having left our shores, it was still a really pleasant evening, and perfect conditions for the players.
Somehow I had managed to convince a small group of my work colleagues to attend the game, so we had a good mix of football veterans and virgins in attendance.
Before arriving at the ground we stopped by Moorland Road, one of Bath’s hidden treasures on the outskirts of the city. If you ever get the chance to visit Bath, it is well worth taking the time to visit Moorland Road in the heart of Oldfield Park, host to a number of great places to grab some quality food. Our group were in the mood for burgers, and the recently opened Magu Burger Diner was our restaurant of choice. We washed down our excellent burgers with a pre-match pint in the Velo Lounge before walking the short distance to Twerton Park, just 10-15 minutes away.
Once we squeezed through the turnstiles and found our spot on the terrace, Caleb and I (the “regulars”) proceeded to introduce the first-timers in our group to the rustic charm of Bath City’s old fashioned ground. The 8,880 capacity stadium certainly has a lot of character to it, and is a world away from what many expect a football ground to be (if you’ve only ever watched the Premier League on television at least.) This is most definitely a good thing, as your access to the players and your proximity to the pitch is unparallelled.
With the 2018/19 Vanarama National League South season just three games old, Bath were playing at home for only the second time, so I was glad to catch them so early this year. After opening their campaign with tough (and undeserved) losses to Dartford and Torquay United, the Romans picked up their first points away to Hampton & Richmond Borough at the weekend, with a gritty 1-0 win. Gloucester began the evening with the same record as Bath, with two defeats and a win in their opening trio of games, but were coming off the back of a home loss to Slough Town. Last season Bath dispatched Gloucester 5-1 in the same fixture, so the omens were positive as the match got underway.
The worst thing that can happen when you take fledgling football fans to a game is to witness a dour 0-0. If it rains as well, you are really in trouble. Thankfully, any fears I had of this happening were to put to rest by the home side, who ensured we got our money’s worth with a fast start.
Just three minutes into the game, City captain and left back Anthony Straker put a pinpoint cross on the head of Ryan Brunt to nod home and give Bath an early 1-0 lead. It was absolutely textbook and would be the most successful tactic Bath would use all night; get the ball on the head of the big fella.
Brunt didn’t have to wait long for his second, when he struck again in the twentieth minute to effectively put the game beyond Gloucester’s reach. Bristol-born midfielder James Morton played a perfectly weighted ball into Brunt’s path and the towering forward easily guided the ball past the Gloucester ‘keeper to make it 2-0.
Brunt is a recent addition to the Bath squad, having joined this summer. The 25 year-old was signed by manager Jerry Gill after his release from Exeter City, and has played for Bristol Rovers and Plymouth Argyle in the past. The eventual Man-of-the-Match was an absolute menace for the Gloucester defence and his movement, hold-up play, and ability to attack crosses really impressed me. If Bath can keep Brunt fit and firing, they stand to have a quality player this year.
In the second half Bath continued their barrage and domination, and put the result beyond doubt with half an hour left in the game. Ross Stearn, City’s tricky winger and another local lad, had been pushing for a goal every chance he got and was finally rewarded when he fired a low shot past the ‘keeper to make it 3-0. Stearn really relished the goal, and celebrated right in front of us.
Gloucester were unable to match Bath’s intensity all night, and their midfield was entirely bypassed by Bath’s ability to exploit the wings. The home side were able to use their width to stretch Gloucester constantly, with Stearn and the young right back Joe Raynes able to get into great areas. Both men were particularly impressive throughout the entire game and really stood out for their work rate. Raynes and the rest of the defensive line were rarely troubled by the underwhelming Gloucester forwards.
Bath were able to continue creating chances until the final whistle blew, and the locals applauded their team off the field after a comprehensive 3-0 display. The fans around us in the second half were in great voice, and it made for a brilliant atmosphere.
The football-aesthetic obsessive in me must make a quick comment about Bath’s kit this season, a bespoke effort from Errea that I am a massive fan of. The red trim on the collar, sleeves and shorts really makes it, a top effort this year. City look the business in them.
Altogether it was a thoroughly enjoyable time had by all, and my group came away with the most positive Bath City experience possible. As we departed Twerton Park, I’m certain we left with at least one more die-hard City fan than we’d arrived with. A successful night all in all.