A brace from striker Dave Pratt helped Bath City to a 2-1 victory over big-spending Ebbsfleet United at Twerton Park. The home side took a 16th minute lead when Pratt converted from the penalty spot after Frankie Artus was brought down before Ebbsfleet levelled 45 seconds later when captain Stuart Lewis prodded in from close range. Pratt had the final say though as his second of the game moved Bath up a place to 12th in the Vanarama Conference South table with two games to go.
The match got off to tense start with most of the play happening in the middle third of the pitch and both teams struggling to create any clear cut chances. It finally sparked to life in the 15th minute when the onrushing Artus was pulled back by Kenny Clark and referee Marvyn Amphlett pointed to the spot. Pratt stepped up and fired past keeper Preston Edwards for his first goal in five games. However, the home side’s joy was short lived as Matt Godden found himself in space at the back post and fired a first time volley which Bath goalkeeper Jason Mellor did well to keep out. The keeper’s save only rebounded to Stuart Lewis though and he calmly stroked the ball home to level the scores.
The flurry of action set the precedent for the rest of the half as both teams continued to attack and create opportunities. Ashley Kington shot straight at Edwards from 20 yards for the hosts before Ebbsfleet striker Tyrone Marsh fed winger Luke Rooney who cut inside onto his right foot before unleashing a fierce drive which came back off the upright.
Dave Pratt was looking lively for Bath but missed arguably the best chance of the half as he latched onto a loose backpass but was denied by a good save from Edwards. All of Ebbsfleet’s attacks were coming down their left hand side and Rooney again cut inside onto his stronger right foot but his 20-yard shot was straight at Mellor. The final 10 minutes of the half were dominated by the home side and more careless defending by Ebbsfleet presented Pratt with a further opportunity but his 25 yard deflected effort came back of the post with Edwards stranded. A quick break by Naby Diallo then presented Ashley Kington with a good opening but he was thwarted by Edwards before an ambitious 30 yard effort from Chas Hemmings sailed harmlessly wide as the first half came to a close.
It was Ebbsfleet who came out quicker in the second half, spending lengthy periods in the Bath half and forcing a succession of corners. However, a cutting edge was missing from their game and keeper Jason Mellor was rarely troubled. Bath’s attack was also struggling to force any saves from Preston Edwards but in the 72nd minute they changed all of that. Good pressure from striker Nick McCootie saw him steal the ball from Tom Bonner deep in Ebbsfleet territory before crossing for man of the match Pratt to tap in at the far post and restore City’s lead.
This time the host’s managed to avoid being caught cold again and the expected late push from the Kent outfit never arrived as the end of the match followed a similar pattern to the start of the first as Bath comfortably saw out the game. The lack of cohesion in the Ebbsfleet attack showed that their new recruitments are still trying to gel with 6 players in the starting line up being brought to the club since December as their new Kuwait based owners look to push the club up the league pyramid.
The result ends the visitor’s faint hopes of securing the final play-off spot and means both sides can start to concentrate on next season with both hoping for improved fortunes in the league to make a promotion push.