For many Frome followers aged 35 plus, the 2001-02 campaign ranks as an all-time favourite with the Western League Division One title, TV appearances in the FA Cup and seemingly endless joy in the league knock-out cup.
The run began in ROUND ONE at promotion rivals Exmouth where Kieron White headed The Robins in front only for the home side to equalise before Mark Salter quickly restored the lead.
Once again, Exmouth got back on terms and just as extra time was looming, Jon Miller swept home what was a deserved winner. Final score….
EXMOUTH TOWN…2 FROME TOWN…3
ROUND TWO brought another away tie at the seaside, a little closer to home this time at the always welcoming Weston St John where Frome put on a scintillating performance best described as Harlem Globetrotters football.
One player in particular stood out, young striker Giuseppe Sorbara who bagged a wonderful hat-trick which prompted one supporter to present him with his raffle prize of a bottle of wine.
Vintage ‘Beppe’ had put free-flowing Frome two-up before the Weston side reduced the arrears shortly before half time which was the cue for The Robins to turn on the after burners with a sizzling second half display.
Neil Smith struck with a 25-yard curler, then the hat-trick moment which inspired match reporter Kerry Miller to write, “The ball was worked from deep in defence to Lewis on the halfway line and his deft flick set the young Italian away and at full pelt, his chip shot from way out had all the accuracy of a Jack Nicklaus eight-iron.”
The Robins could easily have notched eight themselves, but their enthralled followers settled for a fifth from Nick Bunyard and a place in the last eight. Final score…
WESTON ST JOHN…1 FROME TOWN…5
The QUARTER FINAL draw gave Simon White’s side a home tie at last, against Premier Division Elmore who didn’t endear themselves to the Badgers Hill faithful by refusing to travel midweek before taking an early lead on the first Saturday in March.
Bradley Peters spurned an immediate chance to restore parity, seeing his penalty saved as the dominating Robins had a remarkable THREE first half ‘goals’ disallowed but what followed after the break will live long in the memory.
With the team in full flow and the Club House End in full voice, wave after wave of attacks battered the Elmore rear-guard who, having been reduced to ten men, finally capitulated on the hour when Salter converted a Peters cross.
The roof came off twelve minutes later when Peters centred again for Paul Thorpe to head powerfully home and in the frenzied celebrations, he whipped his shirt off only to struggle for some time to get it back on again.
Gary Lewis added number three in a carnival atmosphere before suffering the personal misfortune of a hat-trick of disallowed goals, but it mattered not on a special afternoon. Final score….
FROME TOWN…3 ELMORE…1
Lady Luck favoured Frome in the SEMI FINAL pairings, avoiding Premier Division big guns Bideford and Taunton but a trip to Bitton’s Recreation Ground was never going to be easy and so it proved in yet another absolute classic.
Robins fans, hoping to see their side extend their impressive unbeaten run of 21 games, made up roughly half of the 400 plus crowd assembled in on a still Monday evening but there was some apprehension as Bitton had been able to rest their squad two days previously unlike Frome who had important league business to attend to.
All that was forgotten in an impressive first half showing where they should have led by more than a solitary Lewis strike, but the home side came to the party after the break, equalising on 50 minutes before going 2-1 up late on as an engrossing contest swung from end to end.
Frome needed a quick response and Thorpe provided it with a bullet header to take the tie into extra time where they regained the initiative and looked to have won it when White crossed for Salter to head home at full stretch but in a dramatic last gasp twist, Bitton struck for a third time to force a penalty shoot-out.
In unbearable tension, on loan keeper Dave Dyson took centre stage, saving twice to send them through, sparking a pile of bodies and celebrations not seen for years. Final score…
BITTON…3 FROME TOWN…3 AET
(won 3-2 on pens)
Having clinched the league title with three games to spare, there was further good news with the announcement that the FINAL, against Premier Division champions Bideford, would be played at nearby Twerton Park.
There was quite an exodus from Dodge, accounting for the majority of the 726 crowd for this Sunday afternoon showpiece and they commandeered the away end, decking it out with countless flags and balloons but it turned out to be a game too far for their side.
Bide struck early in a heated encounter where the yellow card saw much action and when the Devon outfit broke away in the second half to double their lead right after Mark Salter had struck an upright, the writing was on the wall.
Undeterred and still in party mood, the Frome faithful sang their team all the way to the final whistle and beyond and were rewarded when, right at the death, their star striker bagged his 38th goal of a truly memorable campaign. Final score…
FROME TOWN…1 BIDEFORD…2
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