Updated: Mar 9
Frome Town tasted defeat in the league to play-off candidates Bashley at Badgers Hill. On a freezing night, the Robins can consider themselves unfortunate after they edged the contest in its entirety, but yielded to a first-half goal. This was the third occasion on which Bashley had beaten against Frome this season and their pragmatic and organised defensive display prevailed once again.
Frome’s form has been up-and-down since the autumn. Though the performances have been better in recent weeks, it’s been those key moments and flip-of-a-coin results that have gone against the Robins. Tonight’s fixture against a bona fide promotion hopeful and a game-in-hand offered an opportunity to peg back the chasing pack. Announced today, the return of Joe O’Loughlin, a favourite son of BA11, was a welcome boost too. His and Jack Witcombe’s inclusion as wing-backs in the team that drew away at Lymington last Saturday was a display of attacking intent from Danny Greaves.
What the manager willed, he got in spades. There was an enthusiasm to relish about the movement of his forwards in the opening exchanges of this tie. O’Loughlin launched a ball for Jono Davies to speed away with the ball at his feet, his shot glancing off the visiting keeper Ross Casey’s knee. The subsequent corner fell to Alex Monks whose curling shot, headed goalwards, was also blocked by Casey. Owen Humphries appeared to have been challenged in the area but no decision was forthcoming from the referee. As though he had never been away, O’Loughlin roamed the pitch, often finding himself in dangerous positions in and around the box, his stint in the league above with Tiverton appearing to have benefitted his game no end.
In an extraordinary few minutes, Pierce Mitchell’s volleyed clearance found Humphries down the left flank, the attacking midfielders’ flicked shot just about stifled away from goal. A corner then saw James Ollis go close with his header, but Bashley broke on the counter-attack and their striker bundled in a ricochet off the post before being called offside. It was a warning and a let-off for Frome, whose passing and pulsating attacks had been impressive though fruitless in the face of a hardworking outfit like Bashley. The visitors were extremely vocal throughout, howling and bellowing at each other to keep their shape. The Bash have been there and thereabouts in the play-off positions for the majority of the season. Last year’s runners-up in the Wessex League, the side from the New Forest sat a point outside the play-off spots in sixth going into this evening and were looking to enter the play-off positions with three points this evening.
Bashley had eroded Frome’s impetus, riding their luck without having too much of a sniff on goal themselves. Minutes before the half-time break though, a soft foul resulted in a free kick just outside Frome’s box. Floated into the defenders at the back, the question of offside being raised, the ball was headed across the goalface for Jack Lovell to walk it into the net, a gutting conclusion to an encouraging forty-five minutes.
For all their gusto in attack, Frome trailed, but they had no reward to show for it. Though the Robins had a quiet beginning to the second half, the momentum gradually shifted back their way and the introduction of Reece Rusher on the right wing appeared to be a turning point. His innovative deliveries appeared to give Ollis encouragement to run between the centre-back pairing. But it was his sniper-like shot with his left foot after cutting in that had the 247 fans in attendance aghast, his effort appearing to be about to bend in at the top corner, but instead rattled the joint between post and crossbar. Striker Sam Meakes, introduced on his home debut for the last ten minutes, did little wrong when sent through on goal. However, Bashley’s keeper Casey, who put in a commanding performance marshalling his defence all evening, charged the shot down.
It is the eleventh defeat of a strange and truncated season, but, nonetheless, this Frome side put in a valiant effort on the night despite a third consecutive game in which they were prevented from scoring. The opportunities the side had were sufficient to seal victory, but, for fear of being fatalistic, the footballing gods were undoubtedly against them. The Robins remain rooted to mid-table, their games-in-hand capital steadily diminishing, and will have to be at their best when they travel to Devon to face a Willand side who have slipped into a relegation scrap.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith