Updated: Apr 11
Frome Town left it late to clinch victory in their Easter Monday derby with mid-table rivals Melksham. After a first-half goal from Joe O’Loughlin put the Robins ahead in the tie, Frome took control of the match and had the better chances including a missed penalty. When the Wiltshire club levelled with minutes to go of normal time, all seemed lost until Jono Davies’ injury-time winner recouped three points and provoked delirium among those in the ground.
Having been starved of games over the winter, the last few weeks of the season have seen a glut of home games, but it was this bank holiday derby with Melksham that stood out on the calendar for many fans and ensured excitement levels would be going up a notch at Badgers Hill. Frome had shown fight in recent weeks and worked hard for their 0-1 victory at Slimbridge on Good Friday. After struggles in front of goal, the Robins’ attacking play appeared to have found purpose and confidence, the inclusion of James Ollis who returned to the starting line-up alongside Davies bolstering the likelihood of goals.
Frome started where they had left off prior to the weekend. After ten minutes, captain Teale arched the ball to a Owen Humphries on the left wing, the revived forward cutting in and powering a low shot over which Mac Boyd did well to clamp his glove. The home side won corner after corner, Davies’ delivery inciting panic amid the yellow-shirted ranks, and it was from such a set-piece that defender Joe O’Loughlin showed his awareness and tidied away the ball into the net.
Though not pretty, the lead had been established and the Robins appeared invigorated for the remainder of the first half, their chests pumped and their tails up. Goalkeeper Boyd, who incidentally played for Frome earlier this season in a Somerset Premier Cup game, was equal to their efforts, quick off his line to block Ollis’ shot when on-on-one and punching away Witcombe’s threatening deliveries. Melksham were grateful for his instinctive save after Conrad Essilfie-Conduah’s charge down the right and the visitors were aided by the post after Jono Davies drifted into the box unmarked and lashed a shot goalwards.
Melksham offered little going forward, Hopper and Hopkins appearing mostly ineffective against the back three of Frome. The clinical quality to Frome’s attack was missing, but the invention on display made for an encouraging half, the only dampeners being that the lead was not more and a suspected injury to Ollis, who ran the ball out from a corner and pulled up clutching his hamstring
Melksham had looked set to match or improve their eight-placed finish from last season, but the black-and-yellow gang’s form has dipped in the last month. Mark Collier’s side had gone winless in five and a play-off spot looked unlikely with a late 3-3 draw with Manor Farm on Friday and just a handful of games left. This fixture has been a fiercely-contested one in recent history. Melksham travelled down with the intention of completing the double over Frome after a pulsating 3-2 win at Oakfield Stadium on Boxing Day of this season. That day Jay Malshanskyj’s brace off the bench pipped the wasteful Robins to the post on a chilly afternoon despite their second-half lead through Ollis and Hopper.
One could be assured that the second forty-five minutes would not be short on incident. It was a disjointed beginning to the half, Laurent Davis-Wilson replacing Ollis and, gripping his knee, Davies looked likely to be substituted. Both players urged their side forward, working hard to create opportunities. Davis-Wilson, his first appearance for Frome since last year, won a penalty just after the hour mark after being felled by Boyd in a one-on-one situation. Davies ran in to take the spot-kick, but his attempt was to the left and at a comfortable height for the keeper who saved well.
Melksham had their deliverance and it gained them a foothold. With twenty minutes to go, wing-back Jack Carter won a free-kick and caught the defence snoozing, passing to Alex Henshall who barrelled in a shot from the edge of the box. After engaging the fans in conversation during a quiet first half, keeper Kyle Phillips was wide awake to it in the second, diving to his right and palming at full stretch to prevent the ball going in.
As the game drew to a close, the old songs of victory began to be sung in front of the clubhouse but it was too soon. Sam Teale was on the brink of doubling the lead from a corner, but the ball instead spilt to Ralph Graham whose in-field pass for Albert Hopkins cut out the scrambling defence. The forward ran through and despatched his finish past Phillips. It seemed the same old devastating conclusion for Frome who have so often been deprived of a result after sloppy defending in the dying minutes this year.
With just injury time to go, Pollard curved a deep free-kick into the box, one blown off course by the wind, but within reach for Sam Teale who angled his header into the fray. Joe O’Loughlin attempted to meet the ball with a spectacular bicycle kick, one which deflected off a defender into the path of Jono Davies. Redemption in sight, the top-knotted man of the hour hopped in at the back-post and scored in front of a frenzied clubhouse, securing the most feted of wins.
It was the gasp-inducing, ‘I was there’ moment of an up-and-down year, one to rival Alex Hallett’s equaliser against the same opposition last season. As Davies clambered over the fencing to glory in the affection of the BA11 faithful, the Frome fans could be forgiven for thinking that all was right with world. The injuries remain, the late season pile-up of fixtures ensues and falling short of the play-off spots is more or less a given. A spark has been kindled though. Whatever happens against Cinderford and Paulton, Danny Greaves’ side have learnt how to overcome setbacks and blows on the pitch, to pick themselves up and go again and for that the Robins must be lauded.
Live updates and match report written by Zeb Baker-Smith