Full time: Chelmsford City 3-1 Bath City.

Chelmsford City earned a convincing victory over fellow playoff challengers Bath City on Saturday afternoon at Melbourne Community Stadium.

Josh Castiglione’s impressively taken strike gave the Clarets the lead heading into half time and proved to be the highlight of what was an otherwise uneventful first half in Essex.

Scott Wilson’s early second half effort levelled the scoreline, but substitute Jermaine Francis quickly put the Clarets ahead again after Bath failed to clear a Chelmsford City corner. Freddie Hockey was the next City man to make an impact from the bench, when he added a third goal for his side in the 83rd minute.

Following Tuesday night’s defeat against Maidstone United, Simpson made three changes to his starting eleven by introducing Luke Jenkins, Callum Watts, and Charlie Ruff, at the expense of Anthony Wordsworth, Henry Ochieng, and Jermaine Francis.

Jerry Gill’s side experienced a better midweek result than City after recording their first win in four full league games when they beat Hemel Hempstead on Tuesday. However, the Romans were unable to build on this win, creating few goalscoring opportunities for themselves throughout their trip to Chelmsford.

City also struggled to carve out openings in the opening forty-five minutes though, but somehow didn’t take an early lead when Charlie Ruff had the best opportunity of the half. Josh Castiglione’s cutback found Ruff in space on the edge of the six-yard box, but Romans defender Jordan Dyer impressively got a decisive touch on the no.16’s shot to divert it behind for a corner.

The Clarets made a breakthrough in the 43rd minute when Ben Brookes’ free kick was punched clear of the penalty area by Bath goalkeeper Will Buse. Unfortunately for Buse, who ventured off his goal-line to make the clearance, his punch fell into the path of Josh Castiglione who was situated outside the box. Castiglione’s quick thinking saw him strike a chipped effort into the empty Bath City net, with Buse unable to find his way out of no man’s land in enough time to make a save.

Simpson’s men went in ahead at the break but lost their lead less than a minute into the second half, when Scott Wilson scored for his side in a second successive National League South game. Wilson pounced on the Clarets’ indecision at the back, with the forward getting a decisive touch from close range to divert the ball past Henry Gray, after the City backline failed to clear a Romans cross.

The Clarets were ahead again less than ten minutes later though, when half time substitute Jermaine Francis restored his side’s lead in the 53rd minute. Ben Brookes delivered another set piece into a dangerous area, this time a corner, which Bath defender Jack Batten initially connected with. Batten’s headed clearance fell into the path of Francis though, who headed the ball back towards goal and into the back of the Romans’ net.

Freddie Hockey capped off a good afternoon for the Claret Army when he scored his first home goal of the season in the 83rd minute. Hockey, introduced as a substitute thirteen minutes earlier, controlled a loose ball in the Romans’ penalty area after Jordan Dyer had tackled Charlie Ruff. Hockey then smartly turned away from the incoming Romans defenders surrounding him before producing a clinical finish into the bottom corner, giving Buse no chance of making a stop.

Hockey’s goal capped off a productive afternoon for City, which also marked Louis Dunne’s first National League South appearance in a Clarets shirt since 2022, with the midfielder being introduced as a late second half substitute.

Simpson’s side remain 2nd in the National League South and return to league action next week with an away trip against Taunton Town. Before then, City will make the journey across Essex on Tuesday night to face Heybridge Swifts in the Tolleshunt D’Arcy Memorial Cup semi-final.

Chelmsford City XI: Gray (GK); Barnum-Bobb ©, Jenkins, James, Brookes; Watts, Barbrook; Alfa (Francis 46’), Ruff (Dunne 86’), Castiglione; Alexander (Hockey 68’).

Unused substitutes: Marsden (GK), Ochieng.

Yellow cards: None.

Bath City XI: Buse (GK); Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle © (Batten 19’), Clark, Hayfield, Smith, Frear, Wilson, Alab (Vassell 76’).

Unused substitutes: Casa-Grande (GK), Yeboah.

Yellow cards: None.

Match Officials: Steven Hughes, (Referee), Ryan Dix, (1st Assistant), Joshua Langley-Fineing (2nd Assistant).

Attendance: 1042

Report by Jake Dixon

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