A resurgent Frome Town returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Exmouth at a sun-drenched Badgers Hill. Skipper Sam Teale headed the home side ahead to bring joy and relief to a concerned fanbase. Setting up in a new formation, the captain’s long-awaited return to the starting line-up restored a sense of calm and steadiness that had been sorely lacking from the BA11 side’s performances of late and was instrumental to the victory.
Like fellow Devonians, Tavistock, who had routed Frome last weekend, Exmouth Town are new to the division this year, but have started life in the Southern League with poise and self-belief, recording seven victories in their twelve games before today’s loss. After consecutive defeats in November and a performance which Danny Greaves had labelled ‘far from acceptable’ and ‘one of the worst’ in his tenure, this was not going to be an easy fixture for Frome to buck recent trends and vanquish bad habits.
Though the first half was uneventful and attritional, it was the home side who edged it, if only on possession and their regular sojourns into the Exmouth half. One incident of note was the substitution of Exmouth’s keeper, Robert Powell, which left visiting captain, David Rowe, in goal. Frome continued to test the makeshift keeper with set-piece deliveries and caused Exmouth discomfort with curving crosses. Just before halftime, Sam Teale, on his comeback from injury, met George Rigg’s corner and headed the home side in front. The goal and the ecstatic yell that followed was just reward for a side buoyed by the return of their captain.
Playing on the left side of Frome’s defensive four, Teale often led his side by example, winning first contacts aplenty, showcasing the talent he possesses in aerial contests and displaying creative flair as he sent in crosses to the forwards. His cool-headedness appeared to put the centre-backs at ease and the experience that he and Jonathan Davies bring can only help the Robins in their quest to find consistency.
Whether or not setting up in a 4-2-3-1 formation will be a long-term solution for Danny Greaves and his coaching staff, the cementing of the defence gave Frome the security they had been lacking in games previously. That is not to say the side were fully comfortable throughout the ninety minutes. In much the same way that the Premier League is running out of words to describe the goal-scoring exploits of Erling Haaland, the superlatives are running dry when commenting on Kyle Phillips and his abilities between the posts. With twenty minutes to go, in a moment of danger, Warren Maidment can count himself fortunate to have received a yellow for his challenge on Benjamin Steer just outside the box. The resulting free-kick had no right to be saved, perfectly struck and headed straight for the top-right corner, but, impossibly, Phillips tipped on to the post, yet another a Herculean effort from Frome’s No.1 to seal the three points.
It was at times an ill-tempered tie, decisions from the officials baffling both sides and unsavoury challenges resulting in lengthy stoppages, but, ultimately, Frome prevailed in this test in front of 399 supporters who had kept the faith. The win sees them overtake Exmouth and move into second place, though the Robins will hope that results go their way as the other promotion hopefuls play their games in hand. Good fortune might have fallen Frome’s way, but it is the improved work-rate, shape and desire in a must-win game that needs to be capitalised on for the rescheduled visit to Radstock in the Somerset Premier Cup on Tuesday evening and in the weeks ahead.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith