Updated: Oct 2
Frome Town were outplayed in their 2-1 defeat away at Ramsgate in the FA Cup. For a fifth time in since 1984, the Robins will rue their inability to progress past the Third Qualifying Round, as the BA11 side found their attacking routines curbed and restricted by a dominant Rams side. A tight first-half performance unravelled after goals from Benni Bioletti and Jack Parter, and, despite the glimmer of hope provided by Warren Maidment’s second goal in five days, the damage was already done.
Frome were looking to progress past the Third Qualifying Round for the first time in many Robins’ fans' lifetimes after four failed attempts over 39 years, the challenge before them another away draw in the cup for a third time in four rounds. There was a crackle in the air as the BA11 support, who had travelled in their droves, made their presence known by rallying calls and flags. The promise of a Dodge takeover was well and truly a reality as the WW Martin Community Stadium filled up with familiar faces. Danny Greaves and his team had given themselves the best chance possible by bussing over on Friday evening and staying overnight on the Kentish coast. The manager opted for an unchanged side, prioritising constancy over experience by leaving his returning skipper Sam Teale on the bench.
Over the course of their nine-game unbeaten run, Frome had honed the notion of a fast start. Reece Rusher picked up where he left off in mid-week, striding into the box flippantly in the first minute, his shot requiring the keeper to dive before Joe Ellul could toe it out for a corner. Ramsgate soon regathered from that early lapse of focus but blue shirts continued to hound them, buoyed by their support’s pounding of the hoardings.
The driving seat was Frome’s, their press proving fruitful, and the performance had everything but reward. After twenty minutes, however, the impetus disappeared. The home side had grown accustomed to Frome’s incursions into the final third and began to prevail in midfield, suffocating the Robins of possession and presence of mind. Phillips was tested by several awkward shots from set-piece. As Jadama and Elito began to stitch passes on the edge of the box, Frome resorted to speculative attempts from distance. Lee Martin had several chances, charging in for blocks and rebounds and blasting over ffrom distance.
The efforts to neutralise Ramsgate were taking their toll and, just before halftime, striker Joe Taylor necessitated a smart save by Kyle Phillips, his legs deflecting the ball only as far as Jack Parter who inexplicably failed to slot in the rebound. It was a very near-miss to cap what had been a battling forty-five minutes where the visitors had for the most part neutralised their hosts.
Ramsgate had been in similarly sparkling form to Frome. The Kentish side, who are in Step 4 of the non-league pyramid, were pipped to the Isthmian South East Division title last season and knew how to win at home. Southwood Stadium and its 3G turf had a reputation as a fortress so a knife-edge contest was anticipated. Both sides had played out riveting replays in the previous rounds and eventually succeeded in toppling sides from tiers above. The side from the Isle of Thanet had been scoring for fun, averaging three goals a game this season and their marksman up top, Joe Taylor, top scorer in the competition coming into the game, had been in Ollis-esque form with 12 goals already this season.
Was it to be a battle of prolific strikers? It seemed cruel that an uncharacteristic miss from Frome’s top scorer allowed Ramsgate to run the ball up. Paxman’s cross found replacement winger Bioletti who duly clambered over Humphries to head in and send the ground into frenzy early in the second half. Frome failed to regain any real foothold in the game after that and Biolletti, a first-half replacement for Jadama, caused significant agitation for the visitors’ defensive unit as the game began to break up. Frome lived dangerously, Joe Budd doing well to manage a two-vs.-one situation as Taylor’s miss gave a reprieve.
Frome’s substitutions failed to turn the tide and, when Jack Parter cut in and hammered in a cracker from outside the box, the travelling fans could be forgiven for thinking that the tie was done and dusted. Maidment’s bundled-in header from a corner a minute or two into added time inspired the slightest flicker of life in the Robins’ FA Cup campaign, but Ramsgate failed to blink.
Though this weekend and the efforts, contributions and off-field performances of players, staff and supporters can be considered a genuine feather in the cap, the showing over ninety minutes left something to be desired. No doubt this was a display of bravery - despite being outmuscled, Danny Greaves’ side stuck at it when all seemed lost. The unbeaten run showed the best of this side, but a quality still to be mastered is the art of absorbing pressure without conceding. Savviness and a knack for digging in will be necessary for upcoming winnable campaigns like the Somerset Premier Cup and, foremost in the mind, at next Saturday’s game at Bishop’s Cleeve in the FA Trophy.
Match report and live updates by Ryan Atkins and Zeb Baker-Smith.
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