Kick Off: Saturday January 24, 2014 15:00
Competition: FA Trophy
Bath City’s dreams of a first ever trip to Wembley continued with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Conference Premier side Altrincham at Twerton Park. In a game of two halves, the solitary goal came in the 78th when centre-back Phil Walsh rose highest to head home from Ross Stearn’s dangerous free-kick.
In a tight first half of few chances there was little to choose between the two sides despite Altrincham sitting 21 places above the Romans in the league pyramid. The first chance fell to Andy Watkins after just 3 minutes when, following an Altrincham corner, the home side constructed a quick counter attack, but the forward failed to trouble keeper Stuart Coburn. The visitors replied with Jake Moult volleying wide from 20 yards, before Watkins once again beat the Altrincham defence but his attempted lob drifted wide of Coburn’s goal.
Altrincham captain Shaun Densmore saw a central free-kick from 25 years drift just over the bar on the half hour mark as the conference premier side started to take control of the game in the latter stages of the first half. Further chances fell to striker Damian Reeves who headed over from 6 yards and James Lawrie who forced a fingertip save from City keeper Jason Mellor with the last action of the half.
With both teams facing heavy fixture schedules, neither manager wanted a reply and this showed as the second half was a much livelier affair. Man of the match Chris Allen set the tempo by making a driving run to the edge of the area before his shot was stopped by an outstretched hand from Coburn. Altrincham responded with left back Adam Griffin beating his man before crossing for striker Reeves, but his header was straight at Mellor. The visitors then created two further opportunities with Ryan Crowther having a shot blocked by the City defence before Lawrie could only shoot tamely at Mellor when well placed.
From that point on though it was Bath who were the stronger team and the home side created a hat-trick of good chances. First Ben Adelsbury headed over after good work from Dave Pratt before a Chas Hemmings strike from the edge of the area appeared to be heading into the far corner but was denied by an incredible block from centre-back Tom Marshall. Andy Watkins was then played through again, but was thwarted by a great one-handed save from Coburn. With Bath in the ascendency, manager Lee Howells used all three substitutes in an attacking manner and it was the final of these that reaped the rewards. After Dave Pratt won a free-kick on the left hand side, substitute Ross Stearn whipped in a fantastic delivery which centre back Dan Walsh headed home.
With just 12 minutes remaining the home fans expected a nervy finish, but the onslaught from Altrincham never arrived and it was Bath who went nearest to scoring when another wicked ball from Stearn found Dan Ball unmarked at the back post, but his effort only found the side netting.
Bath’s second victory over a conference side in the competition sees them qualify for the quarter finals of the FA trophy for the first time in 25 years. The last eight tie will take place on Saturday 7th February and the Roman’s will find out their opponent in Monday’s draw.
Written by Michael Powell, Sports Editor