Bath battle back to leave semi-final in the balance

Bath City 2 – 2 North Ferriby United

Pratt 61’ (pen), McCootie 85′;  Ball (og) 25′, St Juste 55′

Kick Off: Saturday 21 February 2015 15:00

Competition: FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st Leg

Attendance: 1730

Nick McCootie scored a stunning 85th minute equaliser as Bath came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with North Ferriby United in the first leg of their FA Trophy semi-final.  The striker’s late intervention in front of a bumper crowed of 1730 at Twerton Park means that the two sides will face a winner-takes-all encounter in Yorkshire next Saturday.

The opening 45 minutes were extremely cagey with both sides not wanting to the hand the other an early advantage in the tie.  The first shot of the contest didn’t come until the 13th minute when North Ferriby midfielder Adam Boulder blazed over from 25 yards.  The visitors’ Russell Fry then curled a free-kick wide from the edge of the D before the best chance of the half fell to Bath, but Dave Pratt could only head wide from 5 yards after a fantastic cross from Chas Hemmings.  With Bath starting to settle into the game, they were dealt the ultimate sucker-punch when Jason St Juste beat Sekani Simpson, and his cross deflected off Dan Ball and into the goal with goalkeeper Jason Mellor unable to scramble it away.

The breakthrough seemed to increase North Ferriby’s confidence and St Juste in particular began to look a threat with some more dangerous balls into the City area.  Ashley Kington dragged a shot wide from 25 yards, but the end of the half matched the start with no shots from either side in the final 12 minutes.

Bath City and North Ferriby United drew 2-2 in the first leg of their FA Trophy semi final
Bath City and North Ferriby United drew 2-2 in the first leg of their FA Trophy semi final

The second half started in a similar fashion, with North Ferriby striker Tom Denton heading over from successive corners but unable to trouble Mellor.  However, the first shot on target of the match brought a second goal, danger man St Juste getting in behind Dan Ball before coolly slotting past Mellor.  The goal and a short rain shower seemed to spark the home side into life though.  Half time substitute Nick McCootie’s heavy touch forced him too wide for a clear scoring opportunity before the home side were awarded a penalty in the 61st minute when the referee adjudged Mark Grey had fouled Dave Pratt. The award of the spot kick looked extremely soft but Pratt picked himself up off the deck to rifle home and reduce the arrears with Bath’s first shot on target on the game.

Tuesday’s four-goal hero McCootie was proving to be Bath’s best attacking outlet with a header comfortably saved by goalkeeper Adam Nicklin, before a much fiercer strike was straight at the keeper.  With time running out, the Yorkshiremen were happy to sit back and soak up Bath’s pressure, but with 5 minutes to go their back line was undone.  Andy Gallinagh played a hopeful long ball forward over the visitors’ defence which McCootie latched onto before unleashing an unstoppable effort from 20-25 yards in off the underside of the crossbar.

In the final five minutes it was Bath who were pressing for a winner with Nicklin saving well from Ben Adelsbury, and Ross Stearn’s shot being blocked by a North Ferriby defender.  A fifth goal wasn’t to arrive though, leaving the tie firmly in the balance ahead of the second leg next Saturday. The fixture is sure to be another nervy encounter in what will be one of the biggest games in both clubs history with the winner facing either Wrexham or Torquay in the final at Wembley on March 29.

Written by Michael Powell, Sports Editor

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