Match Report: Saturday, 8 August 2015: National League South: Bath City 2 Wealdstone 1
Well documented problems for Wealdstone’s management team with a chronic lack of player availability in the lead up to this game could have led many to think that this game was probably lost well before kick-off at a hot and sunny Twerton Park on Saturday. Those negative thoughts were compounded when frustrating traffic delays on the M25 and M4 meant the team arrived late and kick off was put back to 3.25pm
In the event they would have been totally wrong in those assumptions, and Gordon Bartlett’s patched up and makeshift side did an excellent and battling job but, in the final analysis, shot themselves in the foot when two or three clear cut opportunities to score were somehow frittered disappointingly away by their lively forwards. Connor Calcutt, Josh Hutchison and Johnny Wright all spurned great chances to find the back of the net after they had worked so hard to create them.
Nonetheless Nick McCootie’s late winner for the Romans was a sickening blow to Stones who had fought back from an early goal against the run of play and had levelled through the hard working Johnny Wright on 36 minutes.
Wealdstone were forced to play a riskier but more positive 4-4-2 formation with the lack of midfield defensive cover and with the tenacious Micky Corcoran having to be moved into a centre half role after Josh Urquhart was placed on the sick list in midweek. The list of unavailable players (including suspensions) could have filled almost a completely different starting eleven, but the new signings that came in – notably Matt Bevans and Ryan Case did well in the full back positions albeit after a shaky start, not helped by the delayed kick off. Jon North had recovered from injury sufficiently to retain the No 1 spot after Alex Lynch had been signed on loan from Wycombe Wanderers during the week.
A very bright start from Stones culminated in some countering attacks and strikes from the busy Elliot Godfrey and then Wright who should have done better when he skewed wide on 6 minutes and when agonisingly close again 3 minutes later. City were on the back foot but a poorly given away free kick on the edge of the area gave the home side an opportunity which they took.
City’s Dave Pratt stole in from a deflection and Wealdstone were behind on 14 minutes totally against the run of play.
Bath’s tails were now up as Stones defenders had their work cut out and wobbled for the first time. A great save by North prevented the Romans from taking a greater foothold as they piled forward with their familiar direct approach, hoofing the ball around at every opportunity.
But Stones came back with Shaun Lucien providing good width and his trickery was now really worrying the home defenders
On 36 minutes Stones won a corner and turmoil in the City penalty created a game of head tennis butWright seized on the chance to bury his header into the roof the net for a deserved equaliser.
Stones again started brighter of the two sides in the second period – Calcutt broke through but his firm strike that was held by the experienced Steve Phillips was offside
The former Stevenage striker was then booked for an innocuous looking challenge on Luke Matthews that riled the vociferous away following of 150. Matthews had to eventually give way as he hobbled off.
But with their big striker Nick McCootie now on the pitch Bath’s long balls from the back now had a far more effective outlet and the pacy frontman was causing ominous problems.
The game changing moment came on 58 minutes. The home defence was completely split and Josh Hutchinson raced towards goal in a classic one on one with the keeper. Sadly for the away striker Phillips saved his relatively early strike well, but Hutch will know he should have buried the chance and with it possibly a result.
Stones still came forward and a teasing cross from Lucien was header over by Calcutt. But Bartlett’s thrown in and makeshift side was showing signs of wilting in the sun as their energy levels dropped off – particularly in midfield were alarming gaps were appearing.
Ashley Kington blasted over North’s goal as Stones dropped deeper. Stones rung the changes and brought on all their subs but McCootie good run and 81st minute goal proved too much in the end for a gallant Stones effort – effort that should have surely produced at least a point.
This was no more evident when Calcutt missed a great chance to immediately equalise but somehow hit the ball down rather than straight, and the ball flashed wide.
Stones get straight back into action on Monday night when they face Concord Rangers at The Vale. Bartlett will be hoping that a couple of players will be available after injury and this match also signals the last of two suspensions – Wes Parker and Matt Ball.
Wealdstone: North, Bevans, Case, Corcoran, Hamblin ©, Godfrey, Wright, Brown, Calcutt, Hutchinson, Lucien. Subs used: Davies, Hudson-Odoi, Hope. N/u: Bonnet-Johnson, Lynch (GK)