Bath City defeated Woking 5-0 on Tuesday night. This was amazing, but to explain it properly I am going to have to delve into the art of metaphor.
Football is often referred to as a 'cruel mistress.' Any City supporters who were unsure why this term is used were given a good example three days previously. City were eliminated from the FA Cup by Forest Green Rovers, despite being by far the better side. In fact, 'cruel mistress' doesn't seem like a strong enough term. Football, on this occasion, was more like a evil, sadistic girlfriend who dumps you by text and moves in with your best friend.
After such an emotional bruising most people tend to buy a tub of ice-cream and sit on the sofa for a week watching reruns of Dad's Army. City did not. Three days later they came out fighting against the third best team in the league, a team who had only conceded six away goals all season, and crushed them with a five goal shellacking. After the upset of the FA Cup match, it was the equivalent of smartening yourself up, going clubbing with your mates, and pulling a supermodel. It was that amazing. Take that cruel mistress!
I arrived early enough at Twerton Park to watch almost all of City's pre-match warm-up. Although they were about to dismember one of the league's best teams, there was nothing obvious about their behaviour to show this. There had been some exciting news earlier in the day, however. Bath City had signed its third foreign player of the season: former Latvian international Andrejs Štolcers. Although he is not a household name, his arrival is a real coupe for City manager Adie Britton. Fulham paid a reported £2 million transfer fee to get Štolcers from Spartak Moscow in 2000. Although he is now thirty-five, he has won league titles in four countries (Latvia, Russia, Azerbaijan and England) and made eighty-one appearances for his country. Not your typical non-league signing to say the least!
Despite Štolcers arrival, and a strong performance from Florin Pelecaci the previous Saturday, Adie Britton fielded the same exact same linup he has every week since the Grimsby Town match. This surprised a lot of fans in the terraces, including myself. We had expected to see key players rested and opportunities given to some of the bench warmers. Surely the City team that took the pitch would show signs of fatigue and dejection after the FGR loss?
Actually, no. A mere eight minutes into the match Kaid Mohamed beat the Woking defence to a ball in the air and launched a strike past Rob Worner into the netting. It was an emphatic goal. Obviously, Britton's plan to field the same lineup for the sixth match in a row was pure genius. Anyone still doubting this was genius got another dose of humble pie two minutes later. Sekani Simpson managed to elude four Woking tackles on the right of the goal and launched a neat cross to Darren Edwards on the left who headed the ball down and into the net. In a mere two minutes Woking's tally of goals conceded away from home increased by 33%.
Despite the early commanding lead, City did not sit back. In fact, if they had played with any more fire in their bellies they would have been showing singe marks on their shirts. It was as if all the pent up anger and frustration from the FA Cup ejection had been released in an enormous goal frenzy. Woking may have shown up hoping to gain some ground on league leaders Newport County, but instead they had walked into an open can of whoop-ass called Bath City.
Although the first ten minutes of the match had provided me with an important lesson on not second-guessing Adie Britton, the next thirty-five minutes provided me with plenty of reasons to second-guess Woking manager Graham Baker. After the first goal the Woking defence started playing dangerously far forward. There were several instances when the entire Woking team, except for the keeper, were in the City half. This would have made sense if City's front line was slow. In actual fact, City's strikers are pacey and very hard working. Kaid Mohamed and Darren Edwards are most dangerous on the break. They use their speed to get behind the opposition regularly, whereas they struggle more against a settled defence. Baker's tactics were like an engraved invitation to Mohamed and Edwards to fill their boots. It was as if Baker had read some other team's scouting report.
The third goal came soon enough. Yet another City attack on the break resulted in a corner taken by Lewis Hogg. Chris Holland's potent forehead found the ball and appeared to have succeeded again. Worner did manage to block it, although he did not manage to deflect the ball beyond Chris Holland's feet. A neat shot to the near post later, and Holland had a rare goal from below the waistline.
For me, halftime meant a delicious cup of tea and a bit of revelling in the party atmosphere of the Popular Side terrace. For the Woking players, though, halftime meant a serious bollocking and, for three of them, and end to their evening's service. Three halftime substitutions is a pretty good indicator the manager is not happy, but it was his tactics that were as much to blame as any of his players. He would have been better off substituting himself.
Woking did managed a little bit of pressure in the early minutes of the second half. It did not last long, however, and soon City were pressing them hard again. Sido Jombati was unlucky to not get his first goal in a City shirt with a blistering strike from fifteen yards. He may not have scored, but he did manage to take several layers of paint off of the right-hand goalpost. Perhaps sensing the game was in control, Adie Britton brought on his latest international acquisition for Mohamed with about thirty minutes to go. I was not the ony City fan eager to see how Štolcers would fare in his first venture into non-league football.
Pretty darn well, it turns out, but not how we were expecting. Because of the forward position of the Woking defence, their keeper, Rob Worner, was forced to play very far forward himself. This had almost landed him in trouble a few times, but it was Štolcers who capitalised (although in fairly bizarre circumstances). Worner had come a good twenty-five yards forward to clear a back-pass when Štolcers charged him. Leaping into the air, Štolcers turned in mid-flight so as not to be hit with the oncoming ball in the face (or worse). The charge was successful despite Worner's powerful kick. The ball ricocheted off of Štolcers' backside over Worner's head. It kept going. It was on target. Slowly it dawned on the fans and Worner that the ball might just have enough momentum to score. He made a mad dash back to his position, but it was too late. He reached the ball just as it had crossed the goal line. The legend of Andrejs 'Goldenbuns' Štolcers was born!
Obviously when your new international signing scores the fourth goal of the evening with his buttocks, things are going well. Woking did managed to force City keeper Ryan Robinson to do some work soon afterwards, but it was not long before Darren Edwards scored his second goal of the evening. Another Lewis Hogg free kick, another short range kick into goal, yadda, yadda, yadda. It seemed so routine by this point.
But it wasn't. Woking are the only full-time team in the Blue Square South. They have an excellent defence. They had scored fourteen goals in their previous nine away matches. They should not have lost 5-0 to mid-table opposition. Unfortunately for them, they happened upon some a team that was mad, angry, and ready to pounce, and actually a lot better than their table position shows. And they have a new player who can score with his bottom.
The ref's whistle ended the torture for Woking for the night. I don't believe they will be the last side in this league to suffer the same fate this season.
Blue Square South, you have been warned!