I have lived in Bath for nearly 10 years now, but I am not from this part of the country. In that respect, I have never truly considered Bath City FC, of the Vanarama National League South, to be my local team.
However, I have made an effort over the past decade to see The Romans in person when I can. I have attended a fair amount of games, most of them during the 2009/10 season, when City made their playoff run and beat Woking 1-0 in the playoff final to seal promotion to the Conference. I got to go on the pitch and everything, a great day out.
Since then my attendance has been increasingly sporadic, often years between appearances. Twerton Park, the 8,840 capacity home of Bath City, is a little rough around the edges. It has a certain charm to it but the ground has seen better days. Having said that, attending a match there is like travelling back in time. No video replays, no scoreboard, not even a clock in sight. In a city that boasts such wealth and history, it is incredible that Bath isn’t home to a more established football team. Then again, the city has always been taken with that other sport, the one with the weird-shaped ball no one cares about for most of the year.
So it was that I decided to visit Twerton Park once more, to see Bath City take on Eastbourne Borough, who had travelled a fair way from Sussex. The match was originally scheduled for a Saturday kickoff in early March but the adverse weather that decommissioned the UK recently pushed it to a Tuesday night instead.
My friend Caleb and his buddy Nick accompanied me for the evening under the lights. Prior to kickoff Bath City were comfortably mid table, with eyes on a potential playoff spot. A win over Eastbourne would definitely put them in contention. The visitors were a few places below Bath, treading water above the relegation zone.
What we witnessed on the pitch was… well, it was ugly.
This was football for the dark ages.
Perhaps the highlight of the match was a stray ball punted into the stands, and Nick, with a deft touch, volleyed it back onto the pitch. A small round of applause from the fans around us broke out. It might have been the best piece of skill witnessed all night.
In fairness, Bath created just enough that they probably deserved to win. In the early stages City got some joy down the flanks, and were unlucky not to connect properly on a couple of vicious crosses into the box, midfielder Opi Edwards blazing over City’s best chance.
After that initial flurry of activity, the match descended into the worst kind of non-league football you could imagine. Scrappy is a nice word to describe it. It was low quality stuff across the board.
A goal finally came around the hour mark, when Bath defender Jack Batten misread a long ball over his head. Goalie Luke Southwood came rushing out, a collision of bodies occured, and Eastbourne striker Yemi Odubade emerged unscathed to poke the ball free and slotted home to make it 1-0 to the visitors. It was a really poor goal to concede, and entirely fitting with the nature of the game up to that point.
City going behind seemed to spark them into life, and they pushed for an equaliser right up to the end. The goal eluded them however, and it finished 1-0 to Eastbourne.
Overall, it was a disheartening evening for the Bath City faithful. The fans around us regularly lost their patience throughout the second half and their frustration boiled over with every heavy touch, and each long ball hit in hope and desperation.
It wasn’t to be their night.