Updated: Apr 15
Frome Town stormed to their biggest win of the year against division strugglers Cinderford Town and continued their impressive late-season form. Despite an at times uneasy first-half performance in which their early lead was cut, the Robins resisted the Foresters and their potency in attack and new-found ability to score goals brought joy to an excitable crowd of 425 fans who had taken advantage of the kind offer of free attendance.
There had been barely time to catch one’s breath after Jono Davies’ injury-time antics vanquishing Melksham on Easter Monday. Cinderford Town posed the next challenge in a week that could prove the critical point in this curious season. Anticipation was positively tangible on entry to the ground, the crowd flocking and the hurly-burly of Frome Town United youngsters, mascots for the evening and excited to watch their local heroes as Danny Greaves’ squad went through their pre-match motions. With the season wrapping up and the resulting pile-up of games, there was an understandable need to change the line-up, Tyson Pollard and dual-registration defender Matt Wood starting in place of the injured James Ollis and Jack Witcombe who took a spot on the bench.
As soon as the spirited bass-line of ‘Town Called Malice’ rose up the buzz in the ground was palpable, as Joe O’Loughlin, playing a more advanced position, rocketed down the left and struck the side-netting with his shot before the whistle was blown for offside. The full-back’s subsequent exchange with Tyson Pollard led to a throw-in on six minutes, the quick-thinking midfielder nipping in between the shell-shocked defenders and scoring his first goal for the club in front of the clubhouse. It had been quite the finish on Monday and quite the start three days later.
What followed in the first half felt mightily familiar, Frome having the better of the chances and not taking their opportunities. Neither defence looked at all comfortable. A couple of mis-passes and ongoing communication issues between Frome’s back three should have alerted the hosts to their own vulnerability. Just after twenty minutes, the warning signs had not been heeded and the Forester’s Felix Miles entered Kyle Phillip’s area with a slippery dribble in from the right before he sidefooted it in to draw his side level.
The Frome players did not fold but instead gritted their teeth. An artful attacking goal saw them regain the lead, Pollard playing the ball inside to Humphries whose pass to Davies. The playmaker expected to retrive the ball after an intended one-two with Zak Drew, but the winger went himself, the long way round, and squeezed a shot under Ellis Parker’s left glove for his maiden strike in a Frome shirt.
The home side had wrestled back control of the tie, but no doubt there were goals to come. Cinderford have struggled to stay with the pack this season. The Gloucestershire-based side sit second-bottom, two points adrift of Manor Farm having taken 34 points from 35 games before today and in need of points if they were to reach the relegation play-off positions. Though the side from the Forest of Dean fell victim to a 3-1 defeat against Frome in October, the visitors had reignited their hopes of staying in this division. Two recent victories, 5-0 and 3-1 over Hamworthy and Evesham respectively would have made Danny Greaves mindful of tonight’s opposition.
A flat start to the half after an open first forty-five minutes did not favour either side then. Passes missed their intended recipients as sections of the crowd attempted to inject some energy with their makeshift percussion. It felt like a surprise when the passes came off, Mitch McCann combing with his midfield partner, Conrad Essilfie-Conduah, who steered the ball left to Jono Davies. Frome’s attacking lynchpin strutted in to the box like a bullfighter, his step-overs dazzling all and sundry, and effortlessly cracked his strike between the defender’s legs and in at the near post.
The Robins now had leeway to play with but the aerial threat from Cinderford did not abate. Frome were forced to concentrate and make crucial headers to clear. As a watchful drone flew in the smoke overhead, their committed defending was typified by Sam Teale who used his body to shepherd the ball away from the guileful Miles who looked the most likely to get his side back in it.
A frenetic final ten minutes began with Frome’s fourth. Rookie defender Wood timed an early run to beat his man and meet Humphries’ set-piece, glancing a header over the keeper, a goal on just his second appearance. Replacement Sam Meakes escaped his defender and went through one-on-one before he was felled and awarded a penalty. Forward Lewis Graham, also off the bench and unflustered, stepped up to the spot and slotted in the first goal of his Frome career to cap off another memorable evening at Badgers Hill.
Rarely does a football fan at any level experience quite so euphoric a week as this, three consecutive league wins for the first time this season and the news that the manager and his staff have committed to another season at the club. If Monday was drama, this evening was delight, a result to accompany the enthusiasm and generosity of the local sponsors who funded the supporters’ entry for the match. Likewise, this side has been reinvigorated by fresh legs, a remarkable four of the five Frome names on the scoresheet pitching in with their first goal for the club. The prospects of a play-off position are by no means extinguished as they leap to seventh spot in the table, a point ahead of Evesham who have a game in hand, one behind Bashley and two behind Tavistock who are currently in possession. The margins are fine but it will be a tough clash against Paulton on Saturday, a final home game of the 2022-23 season, when it will next be determined whether this run of form can turn into a famed procession.
Live updates and match report written by Zeb Baker-Smith