Updated: Mar 23
Frome Town fell short in a narrow defeat against Bath City in the semi-final of the Somerset Premier Cup. Goals either side of half-time ended up being just enough for the Romans who fended off a late rally from the Robins after Sam Jones scored with minutes to go. The hopes and enthusiasm of a partisan BA11 crowd buoyed the ten-man Robins who put in a performance which to be proud after a serious injury to replacement Tyler Ashmead.
After a narrow 2-3 defeat to league leaders Sholing on Saturday, in which captain Sam Teale and in-form winger Reece Rusher both limped off with hamstring injuries, assembling a squad to compete against a side from the National League South, two divisions above Frome, was always going to be challenge. This is a competition in which Frome had taken solace this season, seeing off Wellington, Radstock and Bishop’s Sutton en route to the last four and providing opportunities for fringe players to stake their claim for a starting berth.
Not so today, Danny Greaves drafting in two new faces, Matt Wood starting at the back and midfielder Sam Jones on the bench, to bolster what has become a paper-thin squad. Striker James Ollis and stand-in captain George Rigg reclaimed their spots, but concerns of fielding a full side were well-founded.
In a repeat of the semi-final draw last season, Bath were making a second March visit to Badgers Hill in less than a year. The crowd of 497 were, by their attendance, optimistic that the Robins could go one better and avenge the 2-1 defeat last term. And their sanguineness was not misplaced as Frome did their best to grasp the initiative from Bath. A half-fit Ollis led the line, his devilry in holding the ball up still there despite an issue with his ankle. An untethered Owen Humphries appeared hungry in attack, his fizzing runs and Ben Starr’s incursions down the left looking the most likely combination to breach the Romans’ defensive rank. Aside from a couple of swerving corners, ones that failed to cause much concern among the blue shirts of Bath, there were little in the way of clear chances on goal for either side.
Half an hour in and the Robins had had the better of it, but it was Bath City who edged ahead, a rapier-like delivery by Opi Edwards on the right which Cody Cooke, scorer of a brace in the last meeting between the sides, read well and nicked past Seth Locke to score. The forward blasted over minutes later and his cry for a penalty was dismissed by the referee before halftime.
It had been a determined display from Frome who were unfortunate find themselves behind. But Bath City have been in decent form in the league, still with a sniff of play-off football in tenth spot. Prior to their defeat by St Albans on Saturday, the Romans had won three on the trot and were unbeaten in their last five. Last year’s runners-up had won 24 of these Somerset Premier Cup titles just one behind Yeovil’s haul, but none since 2007-08. After a dispiriting league season, Frome, meanwhile, were hoping to add to their own tally of four victories in the competition and a win against the odds would have seen them reach a first final since 2014.
A halftime replacement for Frome, coming on for Pierce Mitchell, Tyler Ashmead’s evening and his return from injury lasted seconds. The young wing-back, who had missed nearly six weeks after a hamstring injury away at Hamworthy, went down following a collision and was stretchered off to the supporters’ applause and well-wishes with a suspected dislocated knee. With midfielder Rigg slipping back into the right, a makeshift back three in the absence of Mitchell’s organisational skillset were put under increasing pressure by Bath’s attack. Wood, a dual registration from Shepton Mallet for the evening, was soon dispossessed and Scott Wilson calmly took a touch and fired his shot low to the left of a diving Locke to add a second.
A battling Frome were further constrained by the departure of topscorer James Ollis, who was deemed unfit to continue after tracking back to defend in his own box. Danny Greaves’ inability to replace the striker from a depleted bench allowed City a man advantage for the remaining fifteen minutes of the tie. Pinned in though they were and in light of the unfavourable circumstances, Frome can content themselves with the dogged and tenacious manner in which they contained the Romans. Instead, as the rain grew heavier, the perseverance of those in red shirts was suddenly requited as Frome halved the lead courtesy of the finish of Sam Jones, a midfielder of unknown origin who had come on in place of Ashmead.
The Bath side named by coach Jerry Gill was considered a strong one, but, in the frantic fallout and clamour that followed Jones’ goal, heads were lost, not least that of Tom Smith, whose lunatic lash-out at Owen Humphries with his boot resulted in him receiving a straight red card. What passions Somerset’s pre-eminent knockout competition doth kindle! Amid havoc in the box from a corner, any glorious prospect of a Frome equaliser in front of the clubhouse was dashed, the final whistle blowing after Ben Starr’s volley was deflected away from goal.
Bath will be favourites when they face Paulton Rovers in the final at Huish Park after the Southern League side saw off Bridgewater by a goal in the competition’s other tie. As for Frome, with seven players unavailable before tonight and four players taken off injured, the character, mentality and attitude demonstrated by a cobbled-together side tonight was the culmination of the grit and bravery that has bloomed over the last few weeks. As much as Danny Greaves might worry about how he will patch up a side that will go again on Friday night for a derby away at Westbury, his wry smile belied a pride in his team’s performance, one that will live long in the memories of those associated with the club.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith