Updated: Mar 29
Frome Town played out a goalless draw at Badgers Hill against a relegation-threatened Bristol Manor Farm. Though the Robins had plenty of chances in a lively second-half and found themselves playing against ten man after a red card was shown to Manor Farm’s Frankie Artus, the home side failed to find their killer instinct in front of goal and paid for it by dropping points.
After a miserable week in which Frome had been defeated in three consecutive games, Danny Greaves had stuck with the same side that had started the drab 1-0 loss at Westbury. With a backlog of fixtures to be played at Badgers Hill and in an effort to bounce back in the league, forward Zak Drew made his home debut. The No.11 slotted into the attacking pack alongside Owen Humphries and Jono Davies, as injury continues to rule out a return for Frome’s goalscorer-in-chief, James Ollis.
At times, the new recruit looked electric, combining effectively with Humphries to allow Jono Davies an early glimpse of goal, his shot hit well but too close to the keeper diving to his right. Minutes later, Drew collected a ball that was arched over his head before skipping along the edge of the box and unleashing a shot just wide of the post.
Fans talk about a fierce and long-standing rivalry between the two clubs. Manor Farm appeared limited in the first-half and Frome held the impetus despite a lack of end-product. After the traumatic occasion that was last April’s play-off semi-final, this was a tie between two sides who have both had seasons to forget. It appears almost predictable that Frome’s casualty list will grow with every game. A clash of heads in the Frome box saw Pierce Mitchell and Manor Farm’s Lloyd Mills tumble onto the turf. The BA11 centre-back had only signed earlier this month, but his season appeared over when he limped off the pitch unable to put weight on his right foot, having suffered a suspected injury to his anterior cruciate ligament.
The untimely departure of Mitchell and the addition of Ben Starr in his place did not rattle Frome nerves. The Robins continued to press, confusion in the box forcing two or three saves in quick succession and at close range from the Farmers’ goalkeeper Ben John. Manor Farm did go close before the break when Kyle Phillips rode his luck, his clearance ricocheting goalwards off the oncoming attacker and eventually bobbling past the post.
Frome needed to complement their sparky, positive plays in attack with some clinical finishing in the second half, but Manor Farm were not prepared to roll over. Though the Bristol-based side came into this fixture fighting to stay afloat in the division with thirty-one points from their thirty-two matches, Manor Farm had been on an upwards run with a couple of key wins in March, one of them a 3-2 victory against rivals Cinderford, of whom they moved a point clear this evening.
The second half began with Frome on the front foot, Owen Humphries denied a penalty, his legs swept by the defender as he cut into the box. He was involved in a turning point that saw Frome take a one-man advantage when Frankie Artus, having received a booking in the first half, thudded in on the playmaker wlate and was dismissed. The Robins had thirty-five minutes to topple the ten men of Manor Farm, but the breakdown in formation appeared to give the visitors a second wind, Jayden Nielsen rocketing a shot over the bar from the left.
Conrad Essilfie-Conduah has been an ever-present in this side since February, getting through an inordinate amount of work in midfield. He had the chance to put his side ahead as a cross looped down to him when free in the box. His mistimed headed effort was, perhaps, a sign of the fatigue that is seeping through this squad as the demands of two games a week are felt.
Zak Drew looked the likeliest candidate to break the deadlock, materialising at the end of Ben Withey’s long ball into the box, but could not quite direct his volley on target. The forward rounded the keeper soon after and flashed a shot past the post, Davies trying desperately to tap the effort in. The Farmers were not out of the contest though and Frome had to proceed with caution when confusion in attack led to a break for Nielsen. The midfielder had time to set himself for a powerful left-footed shot, one that Jack Witcombe anticipated and blocked with his toe, allowing Phillips to fend out the deflection.
This was by no means the result that Frome would have envisioned, a game at home to a side in the midst of a relegation battle. How often this season we have talked about twelfth-placed Frome having the momentum in games and finding themselves in the ascendancy! But, equally, the lack of clinical finishing has frequently cost them, their confidence in front of goal appears shot and the absence of Ollis is evidently impacting the forwards’ ability to drive and penetrate a robust backline. Friday evening’s visit of Cinderford, a side on the brink like tonight’s opposition, will no doubt pose similar questions and focus the minds of Danny Greaves and his squad who need to put a line under a tough season, embrace the remaining games and finish as high in the division as possible.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith
Please note that the club car park will be unavailable to fans who wish to attend Friday’s nights fixture with Cinderford. If you could use alternate locations such as Selwood School, this would be hugely appreciated.