Boss focuses on positives after opening night defeat
Jerry Gill remained upbeat despite City’s opening league day defeat at Oxford on Tuesday night.
Having overcome Winchester City at the weekend in the FA Cup, City’s latest start to a league campaign since 1939 didn’t get off to the ideal start against a side who made life difficult for the Romans.
A second half improvement nearly earned a point for Bath but Josh Ashby’s second in added time killed the contest off.
“I don’t think we were at our best in the first half but the second half was a really pleasing performance.” said Gill.
“There was a lot more speed to the way we moved the ball.
“Oxford pressed like no team I’ve ever come up against. They really get after you. It’s a really strong weapon they’ve got with their press.
“They probably had the better of the first half without creating much but we had the better of the second. We showed a great strength mentally and confidence to try and beat that press second half.
“I don’t want to be too over-thetop upbeat because we’ve lost the game 2-0, but it’s two free-kicks.”
The City chief couldn’t knock the quality of Josh Ashby’s finishing from the set-pieces but wasn’t impressed with the awarding of either.
“The first one is very soft,” he said. “He’s been clever against Jack Batten. Whether it’s a foul is debatable, and for the second Tom Richards is saying he took the ball.
“They were two very good executions, difficult for Ryan to do anything about, but we have to learn whether they were being clever or we’re attaching our bodies on the edge of the box. We don’t seem to get those decisions.”
Tom Leak signed on loan from Walsall just prior to the game and met his teammates for the first time on arrival to Marsh Lane, where Jack Batten also made his first start since April 2019 after long-term injury.
“We felt as if we needed to freshen the defence up,” said Gill.
“The three centre-backs were excellent, and Jason (Pope) when he came on did well, showed great character after being left out.
“It was in our mindset to pick Jack Batten. He’s only going to get better by starting games. We were always going to give him around 60 minutes, it didn’t matter about the circumstances of the game.
“He will benefit from tonight. I’m so pleased for him, I thought the back three were excellent.”
As well as adding to his defence, Gill wants to reinforce the squad further in attack.
“We’re asking Tom Smith to play in a higher role because we’re struggling for numbers a bit up top,” he said. “I’m talking to a few clubs in trying to bring an extra body in so we can address that.
“When you want to tweak it and go for a bit more pace up top we haven’t really got it at the moment.
“Whether we’ll get a deal done in time for Saturday I don’t know.”
City get their home league campaign under way at the weekend with the visit of Billericay Town, who have made a stuttering start to 2020/21.
Jamie O’hara’s men blew a 2-0 lead at Brackley Town in the FA Cup at the weekend and went out on penalties, before losing at home to 10-man Tonbridge Angels on Tuesday night.
The Essex outfit underachieved last season and had the division’s worst away record, collecting just two wins and 12 points on their travels.
One of their nine defeats was at Twerton Park, losing 2-1 thanks to Ross Stearn’s late winner.
Bath only lost two home league games at Twerton in 2019/20 with promoted duo Wealdstone and Weymouth the only teams to pick up more points at home.
“I’ve told our players to come back in for training Thursday with a bit of confidence,” said Gill. “We’ll win a lot of games playing the way we did tonight. No season will be won or lost on the first night.
“We’re generally strong at home so we have Billericay to look forward to. My mindset is thinking about that good stuff we have done tonight.
“We will have to think about the line-up again with Saturday and then a tough FA Cup one at Slough on Tuesday. They won again tonight so will be full of confidence.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be either.”
Gill is hopeful that Frankie Artus will be fit in time for Saturday’s match having limped off with 13 minutes remaining at Oxford.
Striker Donovan Wilson remains sidelined for a couple more weeks with a groin strain sustained in preseason.