Frome Town put in a brave performance but conceded a late winner away at Hamworthy United. After a winter of discontent, the Robins found some much-needed grit, but, ultimately, despite goals from Sam Teale and Jack Witcombe, the side failed to prolong their recent winning run.
The South Coast has been an unhappy hunting ground for Frome in recent months, their previous visit being a traumatic defeat to Exmouth a few weeks ago. Unlike that game, the Robins began the game in impressive fashion, as Teale headed in an early corner at the back post to provide an unexpected early lead. But Hamworthy have shone in their first season in the Southern League. The Poole-based side who finished top of the Wessex Premier League last season sit in a heady fourth place before this fixture having recorded just four defeats this term. The Hammers’ home record has become the stuff of legends, and the local papers have continually lauded the fact they have not lost a league game at home for three years.
Fabled runs such as these have to come to an end at some point, but the question remained whether Frome had scored too early. Constancy has been key to the recent turn in form. But, with suspected hamstring injuries suffered by Tyler Ashmead and George Rigg, Danny Greaves was forced into two substitutions after just twenty minutes and it seemed the odds were against. Despite going behind, Hamworthy flexed their considerable muscle in attack as the half went on. The Frome’s defence soon began to find the going tough, faced with the hosts’ threat from the set-piece and their fluid attacks on the break dissecting the centre-backs, one of which resulted in Rhys Taylor’s well-worked leveller.
Frome responded immediately as Ben Withey’s launched the ball up to Ollis. So often Frome’s finisher, the striker’s held-up and turned with the ball before directing a perfect squared pass to Witcombe. Approaching in full stride at the back post, the wing-back on his return from injury took a composed touch and calmly shot past the keeper to restore the lead before half-time.
Not only was this a game played end-to-end, but it was often ill-tempered. A brawl erupted as Alex Monks challenged for the ball before the break, receiving a booking, and the physical nature of this feisty contest continued after the interval. It was minutes into the half when, in an effort to win the ball back having lost it in possession, Jamie Adams rashly nibbled at the Hamworthy attacker in the box. A penalty was awarded and the equaliser duly scored by Tony Rolls.
This setback and the return of the talismanic Jono Davies prompted a number of chances for the Robins, who can justifiably lay claim to having the better of the second half. So many times the ball was delivered into the box only to evade the early run of James Ollis or to roll beyond replacement Luke Hopper’s boot. Where heads might have dropped this season, there was intent to score, not least in the build-up to a suspected handball in the Hamworthy box in the dying minutes. As the referee waved to play on, the Hammers broke on the counter-attack, Withey’s dogged chase not enough to prevent the cross. The ball deceived the outstretched fingertips of Phillips and fell kindly before substitute Maxy Wilcock whose finish damned Frome to another league defeat.
Whereas the support this season have often been frustrated by lacklustre showings, the side’s performance need not be questioned today, the players applying themselves with focus on their role and commitment to the cause. As Frome slip to thirteenth spot, the hope is that performances of late will translate into form, as the squad look upwards towards the play-off spots and pivotal games-in-hand begin come thick and fast.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith