Bath City 1 Hungerford Town 1
HUNGERFORD Town stretched their unbeaten run in Vanarama National League South to four games with a hard-fought Boxing Day draw at Twerton Park.
The result brought to an end an incredible 2016, which has seen Bobby Wilkinson’s side promoted to National League football for the first time ever.
And they go into Sunday’s return clash with Bath at Bulpit Lane in eighth place.
The Crusaders weren’t at their best against 13th-placed Bath, but it shows just how far they have come that they were disappointed not to go home with all three points.
For a while, it looked as though they would, after Jon Boardman fired them ahead in the 69th minute.
But just seven minutes later Andy Watkins slotted home the Bath equaliser.
The first half was a dour affair, bogged down in midfield, although Hungerford did have the best chance to take the lead when Nat Jarvis’ header from a James Clark free-kick was turned round the post by home keeper Max O’Leary.
At the other end, Watkins fired wide with two long-range efforts, while Frankie Artus hit a dipping shot just over,
Impressive Crusaders keeper George Legg had to be quick off his line to deny the home side, and then watched Nick McCootie’s shot sail well over the bar.
Wilkinson brought on all three subs midway through the half, and the gamble paid off almost immediately.
Ian Herring launched a long throw into the box, and Boardman rose above Chas Hemmings to head home.
Alan O’Brien’s dangerous cross caused problems in the home defence, but Bath equalised in the 76th minute when McCootie’s cross was slotted home by Watkins.
Suddenly the game burst into life, and Stefan Brown headed narrowly wide for Crusaders before Watkins forced a fine save from Legg.
In the dying seconds, Herring brought down Watkins to spark a mass melee, in which the Hungerford midfielder and Bath’s Artus were lucky to escape with only a yellow card.
Hungerford: Legg, Tyler, Jones, Boardman, Day, L Williams, Clark, Herring, Jarvis (Williams), Goodger (Brown), Soares (O’Brien) Subs: Bignall, Rees.