Updated: Sep 27
Frome Town sneaked their way to a fraught win over Evesham United at Badgers Hill to prolong their unbeaten run. It was a scrappy contest in which both sides were reduced to ten men, but Frome were in the ascendancy for long swathes, Warren Maidment’s early goal putting them ahead before Levi Steele’s equaliser. Evesham proved tough to break down and, despite late goals from Reece Rusher and James Ollis, the Robins made life hard for themselves by conceding a second Steele goal just before the end of normal time. The final whistle heralded relief and excitement across the ground as the squad and support’s attention shifted to the Kentish coast and the prospect of glory in the FA Cup.
Memories of the Robin’s most recent league outing, a 2-0 victory over Larkhall on the August Bank Holiday Monday, had grown dim in the minds of the Frome faithful. After four cup ties and a replay to boot, the BA11 side had thrived in the meantime, reaching the Third Qualifying Round in both the FA Cup and Trophy. Danny Greaves opted to persist with more or less the same side that had seen off Bemerton Heath Harlequins on Saturday, restoring to the line-up Owen Humphries, fresh from winning his accolade for the Southern League’s Goal of the Week after an exquisite curled finish away at Plymouth Parkway, and live wire forward Reece Rusher.
Intent was evident from the get-go, as Rusher and Zak Drew hounded both sides of the other Robins’ defence. It was the latter who rushed down the right and found Ollis ready to shoot just after ten minutes. Shot blocked and corner won, Evesham failed to clear and Warren Maidment was eager to prey on the scraps, putting that long frame to use and steering the ball goalwards for his first score in Robins' red on the very night when he celebrated a century of appearances for Frome.
Lead secured, Frome rather fell into the trap set while their visitors set about causing mischief. Innocuous challenges were met with writhing and calls for ‘treatment’ and a particularly lamentable low-point saw the Evesham keeper, Thomas Way, receive a booking for time-wasting at a goal-kick in the first half. Not that Frome sat back, but the descent to scrappiness had got to them by the time that the Worcestershire side levelled with their first attempt, the winger getting the better of Humphries and Wood and sending in a appetising cross for Levi Steele to direct past Kyle Phillips.
An untidy half was coming to a close when Rusher swept deep into Evesham territory and Jordan Lymn lashed out at the winger only to receive a straight red and give Frome the possibility of playing out the remainder of the match with an extra body. Evesham have started the season winless in the league and had stuttered after reaching the play-off semi-finals on the final day of last season where they lost to Hamworthy. Mike Ford’s side had drawn three and lost two coming into the game and had found themselves on the wrong end of some tough cup ties.
With backs against the wall, a man down, eleven bodies behind the ball might have been expected, but Frome still needed to remain patient. Rusher, often the engine against Parkway a week ago, propelled his side towards the clubhouse end. The dynamo sent in delivery after delivery from the right, each cross more voluptuous than the last. Ollis headed one into the side-netting to the eruption of cheers before the supporters realised their mistake.
Their frustration morphed into disgust as keeper Way collapsed prior to a goal-kick in order to receive treatment, those behind the goal claiming on good authority he had been egged on during a pep-talk with his defender so that precious seconds might be shaved off the ninety. A miraculous recovery was completed when, salmon-like, he left off the same injured leg and caught a swerving cross in. Danny Greaves’ substitutions threw caution to the wind, his additions of Kane Simpson, Thomas Duffin and Sam Meakes into the attack indicating his desire to finish Evesham off.
With fifteen minutes left, the lack of a winner needed to be urgently addressed. Cue James Ollis, so often the finisher, whose pick-up and run down the left channel caught out the defence. As Meakes was shoved out of the way of the striker’s ball in, Rusher stood lurking ominously at the back post to smash the ball into the net and make it 2-1. Minutes later, a near mirror image saw the aptly-named winger bend a cross in for Meakes his header forcing a sharp parry from the goalkeeper, but one that only went as far as the predatory top scorer, who devoured the chance for his eleventh in as many games.
Steele had other ideas about how the game was to conclude, heading in a dinked cross to the exasperation of Phillips, his 150th appearance failing to turn out to be the quiet night for which he had hoped. Pierce Mitchell’s second booking and dismissal took 315 in the ground by surprise and an uncomfortable series of set-pieces were caused by Frome’s loss of composure. However, once again, their seeing-out of a second climactic injury time in a week stands the side in good stead for what will be colossal meeting in the FA Cup at Ramsgate on Saturday. Who knows when the next league fixture will be!? One hopes not for several weeks yet, but this was a slip avoided against a side who came with a plan. For now, Frome find themselves not only in sixth, just outside the play-off spots as the early-season table becomes gradually more distinct, but finding a way and winning when they were not at their best.
MOTM: Reece Rusher.
Match report and live updates by Ryan Atkins and Zeb Baker-Smith.