By Gerry PrewettIf there was ever a ‘dream tie’ in the FA Trophy for Bristol Rovers or Bath City it would surely have been the game that is due to be played this Saturday at the Mem between those two clubs. It took two extra-time goals from substitute Ross Stearn to get Bath City past Gloucester City in the previous round.
The Twerton Park game was a replay after a dour goalless draw in Gloucester. The Romans took the lead after 19 minutes through Andy Watkins who collected a throw from Simpson and was given time to turn before picking his spot superbly from the edge of the box.
Just before halftime Bath keeper Jason Mellor let a weak Matt Groves shot go through him to equalise. Five minutes into extra time Stearn’s angled drive the right took a massive deflection and looped up before dropping in at the back post. The game was made safe for the Somerset team when Stearn hammered the ball into the top corner.
Bath City was founded as Bath AFC just six years after Rovers in 1889 and began to play at the Belvoir ground. In 1908 they commenced playing competitive league format football, joining the Western League Division Two. They changed their name to Bath Railway in 1902 before settling on the name Bath City F.C.
After many years playing in the upper echelons of non-league football they spent a decade in the Southern Football League after being relegated from the 1996–97 Football Conference. They were promoted to the Conference South by winning the Southern League in the 2006–07 season.
At the close of the 2010–11 season, the club secured a top 10 placing in the Conference National, their highest league finish since 1993, but were relegated back to the Conference South after two seasons.
The last time the clubs met in competitive football was on 12 November 1994. The line-ups for the teams were;
BATH CITY; David Mogg, Jeremy Gill, Vaughan Jones, Craig Taylor, Steve Birks, Nick Brooks, Ian Hedges, Gary Smart, Paul Adcock, Adrian Mings, Grantly Dicks.
BRISTOL ROVERS; Brian Parkin, Dave Pritchard, Andy Gurney, Justin Channing, Billy Clark, Andy Tillson, Worrell Stirling, Paul Miller, Marcus Stewart, Justin Skinner, Marcus Browning.
Rovers ran out convincing 5-0 winners against their hosts. With Paul Miller notching 4 goals and Marcus Stewart netting the other.
Adie Britton Bath’s director of football Britton reflected on the potential crowd on the day, “I would be disappointed if the crowd at the game isn’t at least 4,000. We really ought to be taking 700-800 there on the day – if not then you really do have to question the enthusiasm of people in Bath for their football club.”
City’s Ross Stearn has lots of mates who are GasHeads but supports the other team in Bristol, commenting about Rovers he said, “They are a league and a half above us, they are full-time and they are flying at the moment. It’s a massive game for us. In my ten years at Bath City, I can’t think of anything more exciting.
“Bath City have played Bristol Rovers and Bristol City a few times over the years but not beaten either in a competitive fixture, the County Cup apart. If we go there and put in our best performance and Rovers have a real off-day then maybe we can become the first team to do it – that is the challenge. If not then maybe we can squeeze a replay and get them back to Twerton Park.
“They are favourites, though. Darrell Clarke has done a fantastic job of stabilising them and defensively they are so strong.”
“I’m a Bristol lad and I am really looking forward to it,” he said. “Hopefully I will be on the right side of the line. Most of my mates are Rovers fans because I come from that side of the city. Rovers are really the closest club to Bath and hopefully there will be a big crowd there.
Another link between the team is Bath City central defender Phil Walsh son of Rovers youth team coach Alan Walsh. He commented, “Bristol Rovers are a big club, it’s going to be a great game and we’ve got a lot to play for. Hopefully we can make it one of those days that you look back on.”
“I think this is the first time we have played them in a match that wasn’t a pre-season friendly for 20 years, since Bath City lost to them in the FA Cup.”
“I hope my dad can be there, but he might be away with the under-18 side. I have played at the Memorial Stadium once before for Dagenham and Redbridge. That day we got beat [2-0 in 2011] but it’s a great place to play.”