Updated: Jan 29
Frome Town fell to a nightmarish defeat away at Exmouth Town to prolong a miserable sequence of results in this disjointed season. Twenty-six days after their draw with Larkhall, the Robins suffered from the several postponements in recent weeks, capitulating to the Devon side’s incisive forays in attack and pinpoint finishing. Their second fixture in a January that has been wrecked by wet and cold failed to reignite any of the early-season optimism as Jordan Harris’ hat trick put a stricken Frome side to the sword.
The BA11 side have struggled to match their opponents for energy since November and the home side started on the front foot, a swerving free kick forcing Kyle Phillips into an early dive down to his left post. Exmouth came into the match having had only a handful of games postponed. The division’s surprise package sit sixth, a handful of points outside the play-off positions on their first foray into the Southern League. Sam Teale’s miscued lunge to clear in the sixteenth minute allowed winger Ace High, him with the best name in the division, to run free and score Exmouth’s opener. A penalty decision was awarded when Kyle Phillips came out and brought down a blue shirt, Jordan Harris slamming in the spot kick.
Goals aside, wide forwards, James Ollis and new signing Reece Rusher, did find some joy on the flanks during the first half, manoeuvring themselves into space aplenty and threatening with the ball at their feet. The aptly-named debutant, whose bagful of goals for Bemerton Heath Harlequins had turned heads, did his best to live up to his name, frequently dribbling down the right, cutting in and delivering a fine cross to Ollis, whose run was timed a fraction early. His efforts from the corner triggered the few instances of panic to which Exmouth were subjected, their keeper Powell showing his willingness to catch and his assurance under curling crosses. Quality around the box at the decisive moment and shots on target were lacking, the defensive wall of blue proving effective in cutting out any clear-cut sights on goal for red shirts.
For long periods in the opening half then, there was attacking initiative on display for both sides and the visiting fans could remark that Exmouth were only ahead by an error and a debatable penalty decision. The second half, however, dispelled the narrative that Frome were being hard done by. Though Exmouth appeared content to sit back on their lead and did little to harry the visitors, defensive naivety, so often the scourge of Frome’s backline this season, struck once again. Alex Monks went close with his shot before seconds later, to the disbelief of all in attendance, the resulting goal kick found Jordan Harris who ran between stunned defenders and threaded his shot past Phillips in goal. When Mike Baker inexplicably allowed a harmless pass from the right to fly by minute later, Harris could not believe his luck, lashing his shot in from a couple of yards to complete a hat-trick. The fact that the ever-exposed Kyle Phillips, so often a colossus between the posts for Frome this season, was unable to keep out the majority of Exmouth’s efforts is testament to the home’s sides clinical attacking display.
The changes made by Frome’s backroom staff did little to stem the flow, when Aaron Denny, free to roam, tapped past an unshielded Phillips to make it five. Danny Greaves can only be left wondering what can be done with a squad that appear so incapable of implementing any structure or plans that he might set for them. The thought going into the match was that a mid-season break could have done this team a favour, but any hopes of restoring the confidence have been dashed in what was their worst competitive defeat this season. The long wait for a win in the league will extend into February and Bishop Cleeve’s visit to Badgers Hill under the lights on Friday night, but the Robins have a chance to put this low-point to bed at the earliest when they travel to Bishop Sutton in the Somerset Premier Cup on Tuesday evening.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith