City survive early scares to edge through
Perhaps after Saturday's eight-goal thriller at Leatherhead, Tuesday's replay match always had the potential to be an anti-climax.
At least the visitors looked like they had patched up some of their defensive frailties but not so Bath City who, for the opening period of the game, played at the back with all the abandon of millionaires in a penny arcade.
Within the first ten minutes, they somehow twice failed to clear the simplest of balls into the box and then nearly went a goal down when Gethin Jones tried to play a suicidal back pass to Jason Mellor.
The young keeper had galloped forwards to clear the ball and was fortunate to see it bounce off his chest as he nearly collided with his defender.
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Clearly Mellor – restored to the side for the first time since City's defeat at Truro – had decided he should control his goal area, although sometimes doing so with the same impact as the late, lamented Corporal Jones. Rushing hither and thither with a cry of 'don't panic', City threatened to turn defensive errors into farce.
As Mark Preece, only recently restored to the defence himself, commented: "Jason has been out of the side for a bit and he needs to get his confidence up.
"For the keeper, if you come and claim the first ball you can do it all night. If you have a shaky start you have to get your confidence back. It was tough for him coming straight into an important game."
However, it was no more of a positive opening for Preece, who had slipped early on when clearing a ball into the box, only for Elliot Thompson's shot to rebound off another player.
"I think we were all a bit nervous," Preece said. "They might be a couple of leagues below us but we had to win. Following the FA Cup defeat, this was a must-win game.
"We were all over the place for the first 20 minutes. Our passing was going astray and it could have been all over against better opposition.
"We do tend to cause ourselves problems. I don't think other teams break us down so much as we give the ball away in silly areas and then they come on to us.
"But as the match went on, I thought we looked better."
Preece's analysis was spot on as, after the initial panic, the home team began to find their rhythm and Leatherhead, unlike Saturday, failed to exploit the openings that had been presented to them.
With 36 minutes gone, City won their first corner. Aaron Brown whipped the ball into the goal area and Charlie Griffin charged in to head home.
"We have worked on that a few times," said Preece. "My role is to try and keep the keeper out of the way. Aaron's delivery was superb and Griff came in at the near post to head home.
"We have conceded from corners and we have not scored enough from our own. Scoring those set-piece goals is the difference between being in mid-table and at the top."
From then on it was pretty much all one-way traffic as Leatherhead were reduced to a neat passing game in midfield but increasingly looked impotent in front of goal.
In the end, the decisive strike came midway through the second half. Noah Keats flicked the ball on to Allen, who made a darting run between two defenders before shooting across goal and into the net. It was a move which Preece fully appreciated.
"Chris' movement is excellent," he raved. "He can spin defenders and, with all respect, Leatherhead are not likely to come up against that too often.
"It was a great goal and when he gets through like that he always looks likely to score."
The first 20 minutes might have been a defensive horror show but, with City scoring 23 goals in their last eight games, not many amongst the sparse Mayday Trust Park crowd looked too worried at the final whistle.