Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Frome Town continued their run of poor results on the road with as they slipped from a winning position and ended up on the wrong side of a Boxing Day classic away at rivals Melksham Town. There were to be no gifts for the Robins as Danny Greaves’ side slipped to a third consecutive defeat at the Oakfield Stadium. When strikers Luke Hopper and James Ollis scored in quick succession early in the second half, a festive comeback had seemed on the cards, but a brace from Jay Malshanskyj sealed victory for the home side.
It had been over three weeks since Frome’s last game, a damaging defeat at Evesham in which the captain, Sam Teale, had received a red card. The squad and coaching staff have had plenty of time over December to ponder the conundrums of injuries and the rising concern behind the side’s inconsistency. New faces have joined in the run-up to Christmas and there was a debut for full-back Tyler Ashmead, who slotted in on the right in what was a strong starting-lineup.
Like Frome and their aspirations, Melksham’s eighth-place finish last season has been proving difficult to emulate in recent months. Coming into the game, the Wiltshire side sat six points behind the Robins in thirteenth having played an extra game and it has been been an up-and-down start to the season for those in black and yellow. However, the home side applied themselves well in the opening fifteen minutes, failing to capitalise on a handful of half-chances.
After twenty minutes, James Ollis was sent through on goal by a well-worked Hopper lay-off with nobody but the keeper to beat, but pushed his shot uncharacteristically wide of the left post. This clear-cut opportunity having gone begging, Melksham immediately took advantage. Their new-signing, Henshall, met a dangerous ball delivered in from the left with a firm shot, one to which the Frome defence were unable to react in time. Otherwise, it proved to be a stodgy first half performance, notable for the lack of real inroads made by the either side. With Melksham content to sit back on their lead, Frome made the decision to bolster their midfield when Alex Monks came on in place of wing-back Ben Withey ten minutes before the whistle for half-time, a sign of the bench’s frustrations.
The early phases of the second half saw a welcome turnaround, in performance levels as some much-need spark returned to the Frome’s attacking designs. The new signing, Ashmead, provided impetus, putting in some fine deliveries in from the right and linking up the midfield with the forward line effectively. Luke Hopper found himself on the end of a perfect through-ball between the centre-backs, his pace too much for the chasing defender. Shooting from the edge of the box and into the bottom right of the goal, the striker bagged the equaliser to the cheers of a strong away following. Whatever the message at half-time had been, the Robins had wind in their sails. Ashmead’s low cross was met by an acrobatic dive and header from Ollis, who edged a yard ahead of the keeper to paddle the ball between glove and post for the lead to choruses of Ollis in a Winter Wonderland.
Last year’s festive clash between the sides had been a memorable 3-3 draw, with goal-scorer Alex Hallett the hero on that occasion. Today was the turn of forward Jay Malshanskyj, whose late brace off the bench, saw Melksham regain their lead, drifting away unmarked at the back post for both the equaliser and the winner. Though there were sufficient opportunities for levelling in the dying minutes, notably Ollis’ miscue in front of goal after a Hail-Mary free-kick from Alex Monks, Melksham looked good for their win and pulled through in front of a riotous home crowd.
A close away defeat in a Boxing Day clash sadly sums up what has been a taxing year for Frome, one in which the dream of promotion slipped away in last season’s play-off, and the ruthless realities of the division this season have dampened the hopes of those associated with the club. The margins in and around the play-off positions remain fine and, if the Robins are to keep pace with their rivals, Danny Greaves and his squad will not need to look any further than next week’s league fixture at home to Larkhall on the 2nd January, the first game of the New Year at Badgers Hill.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith