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Frome Town 2 - 2 Melksham Town

Updated: Dec 29, 2023



Frome came back to draw 2-2 with Melksham Town in a fraught Boxing Day encounter that lived up to its derby billing. The Robins were reduced to nine men after a frenzied first half in which Jon Davies scored a majestic free-kick and Sam Hendy replied with a thumping penalty. A goal squeezed in by Ralph Graham looked to have put Melksham in the driving seat, but skipper Sam Teale’s header brought Frome level and meant points were shared in the clash of the counties. 



It was the turn of the Wiltshire side to visit Badgers Hill on Boxing Day, the Robins’ final fixture of an memorable 2023. The Faresaver Derby had always provided a cracker of a fixture, one worthy of the festive period, arresting for the late goals and injury-time drama that often decides the fates of two sides who appear to enjoy the challenge that the other poses. 


December had already been a tough ask for the Robins and that had been demonstrated by the results, that challenging cup defeat against Torquay, sluggish midweek games on heavy pitches. Frome had taken just a point from the two games against the sides above them in the division and needed to make amends today. Danny Greaves was forced into a smattering of changes. In came George Rigg to shore up the defence in Pierce Mitchell’s absence and Zak Drew made a timely return from injury to play on the right flank after Marcus Day’s return to parent club, Taunton Town. There was a start for striker James Ollis, whose selection was hoped by many to signal an end to his autumn injury troubles.


The BA11 side made as good a start to the match as they had  in any game all season. Striker Kane Simpson and wing-back Drew both had opportunities to take the lead in the opening fifteen minutes, crucial touches and composure deserting the forwards just as the goal beckoned. Ollis looked up for it, skewing his shot just wide before being rugby-tackled on the edge of the box by David Thompson. This was the point that the derby passion boiled over, a scrap ensuing between the pair, one that looked innocuous enough but for the referee displaying a red card to Frome’s marksman before showing the same to his Melksham counterpart as an afterthought having consulted with the linesman. 


It was the flashpoint that a baying crowd craved, but their outrage soon turned to awe as Davies whistled in a free-kick from the edge of the box into the top-right corner after Simpson was fouled. Joy was short-lived for Frome after Teale and Kyle Phillips miscommunicated at the back. The former’s recovery header was instead retrieved by Otis Lewis who was felled in the box on half an hour. Hendy’s thunderous penalty gave Phillips, who dived the right way, no chance. The last action of the half saw midfielder Alex Monks lunge in for a tackle and receive his second yellow. He had been mistakenly booked for booting the ball away after Davies’ strike, when, in fact, the culprit had been Warren Maidment. From the ridiculous to the sublime and back again, Frome had lost their heads and Danny Greaves’ side had found themselves reduced to nine bodies with the second half still to play. 


Melksham had taken it steady in the league this season, their 5-0 win over Paulton on Saturday seeing a young side leap up to 12th place after four successive draws before that. The Wiltshire side do not lose many on the road and had been unfortunate on previous visits to Badgers Hill. Images of Alex Hallett’s last-gasp equaliser and the subsequent celebratory pile-on had marked the encounter in BA11 almost two years ago the day and Jon Davies’ late winner last Easter Monday loomed as large in the memory of the BA11 faithful as those draped in black and yellow. The visiting support might have hoped for the best when, two minutes after the break, Ralph Graham squeezed the rebound in from an angle after Phillips had made a decent save.


Setting up in a ragtag but necessary 3-2-3 formation, Frome applied themselves well despite trailing. Everything of promise seemed to come through Zak Drew whose dazzling run from his own half had all the makings of a stunning goal, weaving through the yellow shirts, but his finish was overcooked. The wing-back, whom Frome have missed in recent weeks, was the fulcrum of the attack as he, Davies and Simpson manoeuvred their side back into the game despite Melksham’s advantage in numbers and lifted the 696 supporters in attendance, a record for the club in the league this season. Buoyed by choruses behind the goal and the jeers directed at the officials and pantomime villain Albie Hopkins, the Frome set-piece was dangerous and Melskham were forced to make several goal-line clearances as the centre-backs leapt with aplomb. It was the skipper Teale, leading from the front, and eager to regain parity for his side, who directed in his header in splendid fashion. Both teams pushed for a third and Graham’s straight-red dismissal for putting his boot into Phillips as he smothered the ball initiated another fracas, yet another incident for which this fixture will be remembered.


It is a fixture that just does not disappoint, filled as ever with spectacle. These last couple of weeks can be considered a hiccup or setback in Frome’s quest for promotion and Danny Greaves might also rue the distraction by which his side seemed were overcome in that first half when the Robins appeared to be leagues ahead of their rivals in terms of quality. However, the savviness, grit and ‘cojones’ that the nine remaining players displayed in that second half will more than make up for a fifteen minutes of poor decision-making. That Frome are yet to be beaten in the league at Badgers Hill is a badge of honour and it is an accepted fact that making one's home ground a fortress is the mark of any good side. A calendar year that began with a painful 2-2 draw at home to Larkhall ends with the same result against Melksham, yet Frome’s trajectory is worlds apart from last January. A visit  to the Larks in the league on New Year’s Day now awaits the Robins and plucky showings like this one mean prospects for 2024 remain bright.


Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith.

 

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Gerry Urch
Gerry Urch
Dec 27, 2023

Well... where to start? The easy bit, Zak Drew was ‘Mom’ , although, without doubt there were eight other Ramboesque heroes for Frome today. Unfortunately, two of our Rambos didn’t make it. This must be a point gained and it feels even better as Cribbs also failed to win– so, not too much damage done.

Whilst it was almost Hollywoodesque entertainment at ‘The Hill’ today, only lacking a John Wayne, last minute winner, a header, whilst still on his horse, and after seeing off several tribes of Comanche and also locking up Billy the Kid and Clint Eastwood, all in one afternoon, in front of a near 700 crowd at a wondrously vibrant ‘Hill’ this afternoon. The Entertainment value at…


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