A scrappy City goal in which Jason Williams looked to have got the final touch set-up a frenetic ending to the first-half as Clarets’ Bradley Watkins recorded an own goal, helping his opposite number’s punt up-field over the line, as both sides cancelled each other out going into the break.
But Michael Cheek headed in at the far post with just less than a quarter of an hour remaining as the Clarets returned to winning ways in front of a 670-strong crowd.
The Clarets made four changes to the side that were defeated 2-0 by lowly Wealdstone last Monday, with Nicky Nicolau replacing Leon Redwood at left-back. John Sands, signed from Canvey Island recently, made his full home debut following his cameo appearance in that defeat, as Michael Cheek dropped to the bench. Southend United loanee Jason Williams returned from injury, and in good time too following Luke Callander’s departure, while Christian Smith came in for Rohdell Gordon as Lee Sawyer was shifted out to the left flank.
Mark Hawkes’ men looked to overturn the recent poor form that has seemed to have taken the stuffing out of the squad lately. A 5-1 hammering by Whitehawk followed a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Hayes & Yeading, while Monday’s match saw a frustrating performance from all involved, causing a degree of anger on the manager’s part.
The hosts could almost have found themselves one goal to the good within the first five minutes when Jason Williams’ quick thinking following a short free-kick caught Bath unaware. As the Southend loanee forced his way into the box and eventually pulled the trigger, a last-ditch block denied him an early goal.
Ashley Kington almost punished the Clarets for that wasted opportunity when he was fouled on the edge of the D but was denied by a strong City wall that did well to block the venomous shot.
Chelmsford were then penned back for a considerable amount of time as Bath controlled possession and looked a real threat from set-pieces – Mark Hughes did well to head away Frankie Artus’ in-swinger – and, had it not been for Nicky Nicolau’s heroic block, Nick McCootie’s half-volley may have crept in.
City almost raced into the lead though as John Sands raced through the defence after a perfect long ball set him free. The ball skipped off the wet surface – aiding Sands as he spotted Jason Mellor advance off his line – but the final effort, a lob from outside the box, dropped just wide of the far post as the striker held his head in his hands.
That missed opportunity wasn’t to prove too costly though as after 25 minutes the hosts had broken the deadlock. Joe Ward fizzed in a corner from the left as John Sands headed the ball on at the near post, watching as his effort flashed across goal. Bedlam followed. Multiple deflections caused mass confusion in the area – it was like watching a pinball machine at the arcades – but Mark Haines had his shot blocked at the back stick before Jason Williams wheeled away in celebration as the referee adjudged his close-range stab to have crossed the line. From the stands it looked dubious, but it looked to have marginally crossed the line. Just. It may have been scrappy but Chelmsford didn’t care – it was precisely the luck they needed.
Bath threatened only through a tame effort by substitute Dan Bowman – who replaced Romans’ skipper Andy Gallinagh shortly after the first goal – as they struggled to get going again following the goal.
But Bath did eventually equalise right on the half-time whistle as Jason Mellor, the Bath goalkeeper, punted the ball up-field, and it took an awkward bounce which Clarets’ keeper Bradley Watkins was unable to prevent from going in and instead guided it over the line.
Whatever was said at half-time by Mark Hawkes it looked to have worked. City looked to have a little more urgency in their play as they look to improve their home form, something which has been disappointing all season.
Chris Allen spared City’s blushes though when he blasted over at the back post shortly after the restart, ending an impressive move by the Romans.
City eventually took the lead after a somewhat uneventful second-half and, this time, it was clear who the goal scorer was. Joe Ward did well to beat his man on the by-line and loft a ball into the box which was challenged well by Mark Hughes. He nodded it on to substitute Michael Cheek who rose at the back post to steer in the header, his tenth goal of the season.
Christian Smith looked to make sure of the three points with a couple of well-taken strikes as City had to grind out the result in the end as Bath committed men forward in a desperate attempt to share the points.
City looked to counter on a couple of occasions through the lively substitute Rohdell Gordon, but were forced to settle with the narrow 2-1 win although, taking recent results into consideration, any win will do.
1. Bradley Watkins
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Nicky Nicolau
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Yado Mambo
7. Lee Sawyer
8. Joe Ward
9. John Sands
10. Jason Williams
11. Christian Smith
12. Michael Cheek (On for John Sands, 68)
14. Rohdell Gordon (On for Lee Sawyer, 68)
15. Evans Kouassi
16. James Love
17. Marvin Ekpiteta (On for Yado Mambo, 26)
1. Jason Mellor
2. Sekani Simpson
3. Andy Gallinagh (C)
4. Pat Keary
5. Dan Ball
6. Chas Hemmings
7. Andy Watkins
8. Chris Allen
9. Nick McCootie
10. Frankie Artus
11. Ashley Kington
12. Phil Walsh
14. Ross Stearn (On for Chris Allen, 78)
15. Dan Bowman (On for Andy Gallinagh, 36)
16. Ben Adelsbury
17. Jim Rollo
Referee: Mr Alan Young (Ely)
Assistant Referees: Mr Jonathan Block and Mr Thomas Hancock
Bookings: Chelmsford City: Rob Girdlestone (78, foul), Mark Haines (89, persistent fouling)
Bath City: Dan Bowman (45, unsportsmanlike conduct), Pat Keary (69, foul), Chas Hemmings (83, foul)
Scorers: Chelmsford City: Jason Williams (25), Michael Cheek (76)
Bath City: Bradley Watkins OG (45)
HT score: 1-1
City Man of the Match: Christian Smith