Frome Town conceded two second-half goals as they fell to a frustrating defeat in the league at Bideford. For most of the ninety-minute battle, the two sides strove to get the upper hand, sapping the other of any momentum and defending staunchly. But Ben Gerring’s header and Lewis Brooks’ close-range finish late on sealed victory for the home side and condemned Frome to seven consecutive away defeats in the Southern League, a run that stretches back to mid-October.
Many of the supporters were disappointed to hear that Jamie Adams, a stalwart in the midfield this season, had left the club and, with the Robins’ squad already looking slimline, a medium-term injury to Warren Maidment has only exacerbated their manpower issues. Frome had rediscovered some mettle and pluck over February in two comfortable wins at home and a spirited defeat away at Hamworthy. Last week’s 3-0 victory at home against Wimborne last Saturday was a statement but the staff and squad knew that the result was one that needs backing up with a win in games against team around them in the table.
Frome edged the game on chances in a tightly-contested opening forty-five minutes. Jack Witcombe and James Ollis both found joy on their forays down the right and the Bideford defenders appeared to be rattled as the pair made inroads with menacing passes in and around the box. One delivery that darted before the goalmouth was too quick for the oncoming Ben Starr and a well-aimed Davies corner evaded all in the box. Ultimately though, the first half stand-off saw no clear-cut shots on goal and both sides struggled to get a grip of the other.
Coming into the match, Bideford were the only team in the division that Frome had yet to play this season. Of course, there was that chilly Tuesday night a few weeks ago when the hosts, having made the journey to BA11, were cruelly deprived a game because of the referee’s concerns with a frozen pitch. Pints, jägerbombs and the famed clubhouse hospitality on offer at Badgers Hill that evening appears to have ignited some form for the ‘other’ Robins. The Devon side have since gritted their teeth, stringing together three 1-0 impressive late wins in a row to claw themselves five points clear of the relegation zone prior to today.
But Bideford’s good form and knack of seeing out games failed to deter Frome after the break. Starr and Davies’ neat exchange down the left allowed the latter an approach into the box. The playmaker’s well-placed pass in front of the goalmouth slipped past the boot of Witcombe, the pick of Frome’s chances during the game. An injury to Ben Withey minutes later and the absence of a recognised defender on the bench forced a change of formation and the visitor’s impetus faded away.
The structural breakdown suited Bideford and Frome blinked first. Their first goal, came with just fifteen minutes to play, as Gerring headed in from a precise free-kick just outside the box. With no fresh legs to restore a sense of order in midfield and do-or-die long balls being sprayed up to the forwards, the home side took the advantage, running the ball up in the dying moments. A block was made but it was not enough to prevent Brooks from poking in at close range
Having been down-and-out of the running around the festive period, there had been a renewed sense of optimism around this squad, who, despite the injury setbacks, were lining themselves up well for a spring rally and a late entry into the play-off positions. Though Frome remain in thirteenth, this result is a deflating setback and the side have now lost as many games as they have won this season. With a significant number of matches still to play in March and April, starting with a trip to Lymington next Saturday, and very few midweeks in which to train, the irresistible early attacks and committed defending on display in previous weeks could be the key to putting these results to bed and finishing as high in the division as possible.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith