Updated: Oct 11
Frome Town dispatched local rivals Paulton Rovers to seal one of their most impressive and unthinkable wins of the league campaign so far. Kane Simpson and Zak Drew appeared to have established the foundations for victory in the first half before the Rovers got back level after the break. But, having scored five goals in a half for the second time in a matter of days, the Robins left nobody in doubt of their superiority and clinical finishing as Reece Rusher’s brace turned the game and secured three points.
The talk before the game was the unique challenge posed by Rovers. The chance to claim county bragging rights under the lights in a Somerset derby gave Frome an opportunity to convert their imposing recent form from the cup competitions to the league. Danny Greaves’ side came into the game having recorded nine wins in their previous eleven games across all competitions, but the Robins had only triumphed in four of their eighteen previous visits to Winterfield Road.
An intriguing test then for this talented group. Pierce Mitchell returned from his ban to start in place of Matt Wood and Ross Staley was selected ahead of Reece Rusher at wing-back. A busy start was marked by half-chances, mere glimpses rather than clear-cut opportunities, as neither team appeared able to get the measure of the other. There had been little between the sides when Kane Simpson continued his scoring streak. A brace on Saturday was followed by the opening goal tonight, when the swift-footed striker stayed strong, running the ball between the defenders and firing an irrepressible shot past Brown in goal.
It could be argued that it was a goal against the run of play in what had been an attritional contest and Frome had been far from their effervescent best. Their mature showing in the first forty-five minutes, however, had set the tone for a poised display and, when Zak Drew cooly capitalised on a lapse of concentration by the Rovers’ defence for a second just before half-time, a Frome fan could have hoped for a quiet second half and an early night.
Instead, pandemonium ensued. The scars of encounters past seemed to harrow the Robins in the early minutes of the half. This tie is one of Frome's oldest fixtures, a 119-year rivalry, and a huge test early on in the season. The Robins, victims of their own success in the cups, had played just one league fixture in September. It was near enough this time last year when a timid first-half performance had put the side on the back-foot in a 3-2 defeat, a result from which the side had reeled for much of the rest of the 22/23 season. The home side had been boosted by this week’s re-signing of Kyle Tooze, tyrant-in-chief in that previous skirmish, and Larkhall’s Wayne Nderemani.
A dozy start to the half saw Fin Haines equalise, bundling the ball in after Phillips failed to get enough on his punch and could merely tip it into the Paulton player’s path. The midfielder also found himself in space behind the blue wall after a perceptive incursion into the box and waited patiently before lashing in his shot at the near-post. Frome regained some presence of mind, but, as substitutions were made and Paulton players received treatment, the question of where a stroke of luck would arrive from remained unclear. This squad is constructed of a different kind of fabric, one which pays no heed to narrative or convention.
Substitute Reece Rusher made a near-immediate impact, running through and slotting it under the keeper to restore a lead with six minutes on the clock. The forward then hurtled down the right before putting in a pinpoint cross that was met by Kane Simpson at the back post a couple of minutes later. Questions were put to the Paulton fans by their Frome counterparts who revelled in the sudden absence of chants as 12 minutes of injury time was announced. But even the most devoted ‘ultra’ was stunned into silence it when Jono Davies’ in-swinging corner nestled in the back of the net, whether Kane Simpson had got a touch or not. Rusher found himself again striding in one-on-one and marking his cameo with a brace.
Warren Maidment added insult to injury with a headed finish, more damage inflicted from a set-piece and his third goal in four games to cap the most bizarre culmination to a game that anybody in attendance had ever witnessed. To score five goals in a second-half against Bishops Cleeve seemed remarkable just days ago, but to outdo that feat and score as many in less than twenty minutes of play made the weekend look positively sedate. For this side to come out of a potential stumbling block having scored seven times and, it must be said, having not performed at their best, is a staggering, if not quite conceivable, reality. Frome enter the play-off places tonight with three games in hand and eight points separating them from Willand in top spot. An afternoon tie with third-placed Mousehole AFC at Badgers Hill will shed further light on possibilities for the season ahead, but it is difficult to look away as goal tallies mount and the fixtures come thick and fast.
Match report and live updates by Ryan Atkins and Zeb Baker-Smith.
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