Frome Town showed resolve to draw 2-2 at Bishop’s Cleeve after conceding two early strikes. Toby Holland and Jay Malshanskyj’s staggering early strikes threatened to derail the Robins prior to goals from Jon Davies and George Rigg. Though the BA11 side missed the chance to go top of the table and will rue missed opportunities, Frome returned from a frigid evening in Gloucestershire with a valuable point to add to their tally in the Southern League.
Managing the aftermath of a famous win against Worthing in the FA Trophy’s Second Round last weekend was always going to be a difficult task for Danny Greaves and his staff. A Friday night fixture in the biting cold against a Mitres side in rude health made it even more of a test. The manager opted to continue with the starting line-up who had successfully ridden the emotional tsunami that was last Saturday ahead of what should be a thrilling albeit intense run-up to Christmas and New Year.
Though their accustomed fluency on the ball was missing, Frome did little wrong in the opening exchanges. It was, therefore, hard to believe that the visitors were faced with an uphill battle to overturn a two-goal deficit after just a quarter of an hour. Toby Holland gave the hosts the lead ten minutes in, producing the most breathtaking goal from an innocuous cut inside from the left, his shot lasering in past Phillip’s glove into the top right corner. Jay Malshanskyj was not to be outdone, his magical effort, bent in from the right, a symmetrical re-enactment of his teammate’s. The ball hung in the air before nicking in off the left post for Bishop’s Cleeve’s second.
The early scoreline was no hypothermic delusion and Davies was swiftest to react to the setback suffered by his side. As Drew hooked his cross in from the right, the ball fell kindly for the No.7 who duly sidefooted it in, his imperious form in and around the goal, rediscovered this season, on display once more. There was to be no celebration though - Davies merely beckoned his fellow red shirts back to work. But the rest of the half passed uneventfully, aside from a couple of penalty appeals, as Sam Meakes was barged in the box and Malshanskyj claimed he had been tripped after forcing an impressive save from Kyle Phillips low down to his right.
Frome supporters did not need a long memory to recall their last visit to the far edge of the Cotswolds, when the Robins had suffered a torrid first forty-five minutes and gone in on the wrong side of a deficit at half-time, before emerging from the break and scoring five in the FA Trophy. Just a couple would have been welcome, but the Mitres had remained unbeaten since that fixture at Kayte Lane in early October. The Gloucestershire side had made some canny signings and begun to creep their way higher up the table to within reach of the play-off position. Chasing the game is not yet this Frome side’s forte, and, up against a front three who are as lethal on the break as any in the division, overturning their hosts’ lead would not be straightforward.
Sam Teale injured himself early on, bringing down a Cleeve counterattack and receiving a booking for his troubles. Though the skipper was deemed fit enough to continue, whether he will be risked in the coming fixtures remains to be seen. A deserved equaliser came just before the hour mark when Davies spotted a resourceful run into the box by George Rigg. The midfielder readily retrieved his companion-in-barnet’s cute ball and fired in a shot past Lewis Clayton in goal to put Frome level. Kane Simpson’s arrival hinted at the manager’s determination to press for the win. Despite the returning striker forcing several saves and going close within a matter of minutes, he was unable to manoeuvre the angle to his favour as his shot from close range soared wide.
The Robins controlled possession, but cohesion and creativity deserted them as the clock ran down. There were moments of naivety at the back and Pierce Mitchell saved his side on a couple of occasions, his crucial interception to deny Ross Langworthy a clear route through on goal the pick of the bunch. Mixed feelings at full time summed up an evening where Frome had failed to secure three points and top spot, but demonstrated considerable spirit to restore parity and suggested that lessons had been learnt and progress made after last month’s league defeat at Bashley. With much to look forward to, a Somerset Premier Cup tie against the ‘Auld Enemy’, Bath City, crucial ties in the league and, of course, the mouth-watering prospect ahead of Torquay United’s visit to Badgers Hill, a tenacious showing over ninety minutes like tonight can only stand the Robins in good stead for future festivities.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith
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