Bath City FC vs Oxford City FC

Bank Holiday Blues For Bath In 2-1 Loss

Another gorgeous day at Twerton Park was how I spent my Bank Holiday Monday this week, watching Bath City take on Oxford City in an early-season clash in the Vanarama National League South.

Yet again I’m pressed for time but will provide a quick rundown of the day’s events.

The Journey

A trip to see the local side doesn’t involve much of a journey for me thankfully, about 30 minutes walk to the ground. Temperatures were in the mid-to-high 20’s though, so I was feeling pretty warm by the time I arrived.

Caleb and Camila were my trusty companions for the visit of Oxford, and Caleb’s son was making his first trip to see his hometown team as well, so it was a special occasion for the youngster.

The Atmosphere

The Bank Holiday Monday helped draw 1,030 supporters on the day, Bath’s highest attendance of the young season thus far. We had a large group around us close to the halfway line as you’d expect but the vocal support further down from us were unusually quiet for the afternoon, which surprised me. I don’t recall hearing any songs throughout the day, which was a shame.

Perhaps Bath’s disastrous loss away to Slough just two days prior had sapped some of the energy from the occasion. City had a firm 2-1 lead until the last few minutes but conceded two late goals and contrived to lose to Slough 3-2, leaving the Romans empty-handed, slumping to their first loss of the campaign.

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The Food

No food purchased on this day, although the club had hired an ice cream truck as you entered the ground, which I thought was a nice touch. Given the heat of the day, I’d hope the truck got some decent business from the supporters. I’ll admit, I was tempted at half time and regret not getting one.

The Match

A scrappy start to proceedings indicated both teams were well matched and it would be a close contest, but the hosts were the ones to break the deadlock.

Bath striker Tyler Harvey did well with his back to goal, controlling the ball and expertly keeping possession, before playing the ball wide to the far post. Midfielder Tom Smith made a bursting run to meet Harvey’s pass and was available to smash the ball first-time, high into the roof of the net.

The goal seemed to awaken something in Bath and they dominated the rest of the first half. Left back Connor Riley-Lowe stood out in particular, constantly posing a threat down the left wing. City forced a multitude of chances and possibly the longest streak of consecutive corners I’ve ever seen, but regretfully missed out on extending their lead as the referee brought an end to the half.

Oxford had shown very little attacking intent in the opening 45 minutes but started the second half much brighter, and leveled the score shortly after the restart. A cross in the 50th minute was bundled in at close range to make it 1-1.

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The visitor’s equaliser certainly impacted Bath mentally and they struggled to recapture their dominance. Perhaps it was the heat, or the fact they had played a disheartening 90 minutes in Slough just two days before, but the City players looked rather leggy after being pegged back.

Joe Raynes, the always adventurous right back, almost got City back in front when he hit the post with a vicious effort. Raynes went on a mazy run after cutting in from the wing, before unleashing his shot. Our group were positioned right behind it and had the perfect angle to witness the physics-defying swerve of the ball. Before my very eyes, Raynes had been reborn as younger, right-footed Roberto Carlos, just for an instant.

Only with much better hair.

Raynes’ agony at being denied a goal was only compounded minutes later when his challenge on an Oxford player in the Bath penalty area was adjudged to be illegal. The referee never hesitated in pointing to the spot. Oxford striker Stefan Brown made no mistake and gave the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Oxford, like any smart away side would do, shut up shop. Their compact and resolute defence kept Bath at an arm’s length and they saw out the game for a vital away win. Twerton Park isn’t a ground many teams claim points from but Oxford deserved their win, putting in a disciplined performance after solving their problems from the first half.

Bath’s man-of-the-match was Tom Smith, who earned the award despite the defeat. His goal was well taken, a reward for being in the right place at the right time after his timely run. Smith also had a wonderful Maradona-inspired burst through the heart of the Oxford defence in the second half but his shot was tame.

Final Thoughts

I won’t envy any athlete who has to play two games in three days, especially in the heat we’ve experienced in these dying days of summer. Jerry Gill and his men will be disappointed to have lost two in a row but the season is young, and there’s a lot of football left yet. In spite of the results, the performances have been largely positive, and there is still much to admire about this Bath squad.

We’ll be back at Twerton Park for more, I can assure you.

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Bath City FC vs Hungerford Town

Hungerford Lose Appetite In 2-1 Loss To Romans

WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE,

SAY WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE!

Sure, we’re just four games into the 2019/20 season, but why not celebrate these moments when you can?

Thanks to Bath City’s commanding 2-1 win over Hungerford Town on Tuesday night, the Romans find themselves top of the Vanarama National League South pile heading into the next weekend of fixtures.

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Camila and I were in attendance – my second consecutive home game, Camila’s first of the new campaign. We changed things up a bit by standing on the opposite side of the pitch to where we usually station ourselves; this evening we chose a spot in front of the main grandstand, behind the Bath City bench. We could hear Jerry Gill and Jim Rollo issuing their instructions to the players and Camila, president of the Ryan Brunt Colombian fan club, was happy she could be so close to her guy as he did his stretches.

Bath had the run of things in the first half, dominant in possession and steadily pulling the Hungerford defence apart. City ‘keeper James Pardington had little to worry about in goal, making his home debut at Twerton Park after keeping a clean sheet away to Welling on Saturday. The 18 year-old was recently brought to Bath on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, as captain Ryan Clarke is still recovering from injury. Pardington, who surely gets asked for ID in every pub in the country, looked composed and in control all night, despite his youthful features. I couldn’t help but think he looked a lot like Mike from Stranger Things at a distance.

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Bath’s control of the game, dictated by the energetic battery in midfield that is Tom Smith, finally brought them the goal they needed to help settle the nerves.

Centre back Harvey Smith connected with a Connor Riley-Lowe corner and after a mix-up between goalkeeper and defence, the ball managed to work it’s way over the line to give the Romans a deserved 1-0 advantage to take into half time.

The start of the second half saw fan favourite Ross Stearn introduced and it was the veteran forward who doubled City’s lead after 64 minutes.

Central midfielder Harry Hamblin (who enjoyed his best game for Bath since I’ve seen him) struck a long range effort with enough force that the Hungerford goalkeeper could only parry it directly to Stearn, and he made no mistake putting the opportunity away to increase City’s lead to 2-0.

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Bath had further chances, particularly when Brunt was introduced with just over 20 minutes remaining, but weren’t able to add to their tally. Still, they did look on course to coast home with their clean sheet intact, but a 90th minute Hungerford goal by Kofi Halliday provided us with a nervy finish in the stands.

City were not to be the denied the three points however, and held on for the victory to go top of the table.

At the final whistle I could see Jerry Gill walk across to Hungerford boss Ian Herring, but after their handshake tempers flared, with Herring apparently taken aback at the force of Gill’s handshake technique (I can only assume). Despite a couple of physical challenges in the match, there was nothing Herring had to complain about, so I don’t understand why he was so agitated – Herring was being a bit of gobshite to the referee and his assistants most of the game to be honest, so maybe he was just in the mood.

Regardless, we stayed to applaud the City players off the pitch. It was another professional performance from Gill’s side, and all the more remarkable considering the squad is missing some key players. To their credit the new lads have stepped up, and look completely at home already.

We’ll be back soon to follow the Romans once more.

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Portsmouth vs Tranmere Rovers

Pompey Pressure Equals Fratton Frustration For Rovers

My adopted Tranmere Rovers were in Portsmouth this weekend for their first away game of the 2019/20 season, and I was on hand to join the SWA on the south coast.

I’m a bit pressed for time this week to provide a complete rundown of my day like I usually do, so I’ve broken it down into quick categories:

The Journey

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Matt, the man responsible for my Tranmere affair, was making the journey from Birkenhead and agreed to pick me up from Bath on the way down. Our drive from the west country paled in comparison to the 260-mile effort the Prenton Park faithful had to endure – our trip in the car was a mere 2 hours (slightly longer with Portsmouth’s awful summer Saturday traffic).

When I climbed into Matt’s car he had a gift waiting for me; my first Tranmere Rovers home shirt, brand-new-in-bag directly from the club shop. I had finally made the decision to own one, completely won over by this year’s very clean and stylish design by Puma. It will be worn to all future Rovers game, that’s for sure.

The Atmosphere

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Fratton Park, the charming and historically cosy home to Portsmouth since 1899, was our host for the afternoon. As soon as the fixture list was released I immediately targeted this match, so I was happy to make the trip to Portsmouth so early in the new season.

It was standing room only at the back of the visitor’s Milton End, packed together with the 689 travelling supporters from the Wirral. We spent the entire game being battered in the face by gale force winds – it was strong enough to make your eyes water. Despite being at the back, Matt and I found no respite from the punishing vortex, yet it did nothing to damper our enthusiasm.

Thanks to Tranmere’s young drummer our spirits were kept high with repeated rounds of Tequila, and all of the SWA were in fine voice throughout the entire day, clearly relishing their first away fixture since promotion to League One.

Oh, and apparently Will Ferrell was in the crowd too. We had no idea.

The Food

Sadly we didn’t have time to savour the delights Fratton Park had to offer. A McDonalds pit-stop on the drive down was the lone meal during the day, but two chaps stood to my right seemed to enjoy their Pompey pies at half time.

They smelled pretty good (the pies, not the men, you pervert).

The Match

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Portsmouth ran out 2-0 winners on the day and were good value for their victory. To be honest, the scoreline could have been larger and Tranmere, despite having a few promising passages of pressure, were clearly second-best; Pompey always looked the stronger team.

Portsmouth’s first goal midway through the first half was a fantastic 30-yard volley by midfielder Ben Close, a really special hit into the top corner that you couldn’t help but admire. Their second goal came with fifteen minutes remaining , a scruffy close-range effort from captain Tom Naylor after Tranmere failed to clear a corner. It was a poor goal to concede and  ended any hopes Tranmere had of gaining something from the game.

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A couple of very windy boys

Micky Mellon’s tactics were difficult to comprehend from the beginning and didn’t bring him the results he might have envisioned. Summer signing Morgan Ferrier (the man with the unenviable task of replacing James Norwood) was pushed out on the wing, and Connor Jennings, a very effective winger, played through the middle instead. Both players looked uncomfortable and struggled to impose themselves against a stubborn Portsmouth defence. We couldn’t understand why Mellon didn’t swap them over.

It was a frustrating afternoon for the majority of the Tranmere squad but one man stood out – new loan signing Kane Wilson, who debuted at right back. The man from West Brom was alert all afternoon and looked dangerous overlapping down the right flank. He made a positive impression on myself and the fans around us with his impact.

Final Thoughts

Despite the result, Matt and I still enjoyed the day and I would gladly return to Fratton Park again. Micky Mellon and the supporters will be disappointed at Tranmere’s start to life in League One but it’s a long season, and there’s plenty of time left to right the ship. I aim to see a few more Rovers games before the end – hopefully results will be in our favour next time.

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