One of the worst sporting decisions I ever made was, on a sunny summer Saturday in the mid-80s, opting not to go at the last minute to the County Ground in Taunton where, the legendary Viv Richards hit a record-breaking triple century as Somerset racked up 566 for five declared, in a single day.
The footballing equivalent occurred some fifteen years later on the last day of October 2000 when after a gruelling day at work, feeling a tad unwell and seeing a grim weather forecast, I thought I’d give Frome Town’s Tuesday night home encounter with Hallen a miss.
There were many like-minded others because the attendance figure given for that particular fixture was just 50, one of the smallest in the club’s history and look at what the stay-away brigade missed out on…
Ten goals, eight yellow cards, two reds in a fractious contest which reached boiling point and beyond with ramifications that went on for days afterwards.
The Frome team which went into battle that evening lined-up as follows: -
Sub KEIRON WHITE
Sub TONY POUNDER
Sub PAUL ANTELL
Hallen were new to the Western League, and it was apparent from the off that they were a tough, intimidating side but it was Frome who went ahead thanks to a stunning low volley from Neil Davies before the visitors soon levelled from a corner.
In heavy wet conditions, tempers began to rise in what was a physical full-on encounter as Mark Salter restored The Robins’ lead just before the interval and when the pacey Matt Fricker made it 3-1 early in the second half, they looked to be in the driving seat.
The Bristol side quickly pulled one back, however, just after Neil Smith, creator of two of the goals, was forced to hobble off but the busiest man on the pitch, beleaguered referee Mr Snartt, was doing his utmost to keep a lid on this simmering contest as the card count soon reached half a dozen.
When Hallen squared matters at 3-3 with fifteen minutes remaining, they reacted like they’d won the World Cup and Champions League combined but straight from the restart, a surging run from Tony Pounder fed Fricker who notched his second of the night.
It looked like game over in the 84th minute as Keiron White’s wicked cross was volleyed home by Salter, 5-3 to Frome, but the committed visitors were awarded a penalty which was converted to set up a white-hot finale.
As the rain turned to sleet and snow, Hallen threw everything forward and in a frantic goalmouth scramble, with bodies lying everywhere, Andy Doel desperately attempted to parry the ball away only for the linesman to flag for a goal which sparked the most unsavoury scenes of a wild night.
In a final fracas involving many who should have known better, Paul Thorpe was kicked while lying on the ground for which his attacker received a red card and after lengthy treatment, Thorpe himself was dismissed which more than a few considered harsh.
Final Score…..FROME TOWN…5 HALLEN…5
Manager Simon White was in a reflective mood in his programme notes a couple of weeks later…
“The match everyone talks about is the 5-5 draw with Hallen. The scoreline would suggest we attacked very well - which we did – and defended poorly, and it is the latter point that I would argue.
“When I analysed the goals we conceded I would say that two out of the five were from mistakes or were preventable from a defensive point of view. One was from a very dubious penalty decision and one from a referee’s assistant deciding that the ball had crossed the goal line.
“Even so it has to be said it was a remarkable match and one I am sure people will appreciate more as time goes by.”
So, if ever you are in two minds about going to a game on a cold, dank, drab Tuesday evening, don’t stay at home, you just might miss something extraordinary.