Bath Pull Plug on the Sports
Two scores for Dawes, but costly errors condemn Borough to a third league defeat
A third National South defeat on the spin for the Sports: smart finishing earned Bath City all three points in a lively and pretty even contest at blustery Priory Lane on Saturday.
In a nutshell: City edged the first half, and were looking to turn around with a 1-0 lead through Nat Jarvis’s opener, but Lloyd Dawes equalised right on half-time, and Eastbourne dominated much of the second half. But Bath pounced twice in the final quarter, and a second Dawes goal came too late to save the Sports.
After Borough’s collapse at Weston the previous week, this performance was actually a few notches better and more encouraging. A very even game swayed back and forth as unpredictably as the buffeting winds, and in the end it was decided only by a couple of lapses at the back.
The patience of home supporters is being stretched at present, and this is one of those phases of a season when nothing except the scoreline seems to matter. Yet this lively encounter had much to entertain the crowd – not least a storming finish which almost saw the Sports reclaim a late point. If the match had been ten minutes longer, Borough would have won it.
Mark Smith, freshly arrived from Aldershot Town, took the keeper’s jersey and impressed with his physical presence and almost all of his decision-making, catching confidently and a couple of times punching cleanly. None of the three goals conceded could really be chalked against him. Across the back, the Gaffer still has a number of permutations – all of them offering something but none of them offering everything. Ian Simpemba and Kiran Khinda-John did what they do well, while Will Hendon and Gavin McCallum got forward excitingly; but Bath’s goals came from those areas. Sergio Torres once again led by example, Kane Wills never stopped searching for the killer pass, and Matt Drage’s contributions included a superb free-kick to set up the first equaliser.
Up top, Lloyd Dawes chased his socks off, but this time with much more success. Two beautifully taken goals, and a lot of selfless running, earned him MoM. Jamie Taylor is an unsung part of that success, with great touch and canny movement, while Charlie Harris tried hard in a slightly different wide right position. The feeling persists that Howell is not far from getting this team to click.
Early chances were fairly few, although Bath were often using the wind to power forward, and even the giant figure of Mark Smith saw his kicks rising and then holding up freakishly in the wind like a tennis player’s backspin. Welcome to the Lane, Mark… The closest to an opener, in fact, came in front of the Mick Green Stand. Two successive right wing crosses, from Taylor and then from Harris, caused some City jitters. Then McCallum and Wills combined fluently to find Harris on the right but his dangerous ball in was stopped – fractionally outside the box – by Straker’s handball. Yellow cards have been given for less…
Minutes later Harris was again involved, cutting through on the right. City keeper Luke Southwood spilled his shot and Taylor’s follow-up was frantically blocked. It was promising, at least: there was a pattern of play and an eagerness to make it work.
But Bath had not come for a charabanc ride to the seaside. Fresh from a 4-0 victory the previous weekend, Jerry Gill’s team fancied their chances here. At their hub, the experienced Matt Richards was directing operations like one of those old-fashioned traffic policemen on points duty: he took every dead-ball kick and swung passes left, right and centre. The zippy young pairing of Edwards and Welch-Hayes were a threat down the right, and striker Nat Jarvis was an aggressive presence all afternoon.
City’s best chance came with a cut-back from the left to Tom Smith, who fluffed his shot under pressure from Ian Simpemba. But there were, or should have been, warning signs for Borough, and another move in behind the home defence earned the corner from which Bath finally snatched the lead on 33 minutes. It was headed powerfully goalwards and Jarvis reacted quickest to pop in a simple shot on the turn from barely six yards out.
The Sports responded well and the play swung back and forth. With a gale-blown second half to come, a 0-1 scoreline would have been no disaster, but Borough bettered it. From 30 yards Matt Drage delivered a perfectly flighted free-kick, and Dawes met it bravely with an emphatic header to level the scores.
After the break, the game always looked open, but Borough were steadily turning the screw. A well measured Harris ball sent Dawes racing clear on the right and his cut-back was rifled just wide of the front post by Taylor.
But the Romans had weapons of their own, and a swift right-wing manoeuvre outflanked the Borough defence for Edwards to produce a low, lethal cross, met at the front post by Jarvis for 2-1. Within minutes it had got worse. McCootie popped one over the top for Jarvis, whose shot drew a fine save from Smith – and from the corner, Miles Welch-Hayes pounced to lash the loose ball in from ten yards. And suddenly the Romans were 3-1 up. Alea iacta est, as Caesar might have said. Or in Anglo-Saxon, we’ve chucked this one away…
The towel, however, was certainly not chucked in. Cue a storming Borough response, and Dawes reduced the deficit with a fine strike, swivelling and picking his spot from Kane’s clever supply. A week before at Weston, the final minutes had been a write-off. Here, the Sports still had spirit and energy, as the two teams went toe-to-toe. But from a corner on the right, Simpemba’s late goalbound header was cleared from right under the crossbar by Tom Smith, and City had snaffled the points.
Borough MoM: Lloyd Dawes – two fine goals and a bustling leader of the line.