Updated: Mar 15
Frome Town battled to an arduous draw at Willand Rovers. On a sodden pitch amid spells of rain and chilling fog, the Robins took the lead through an Alex Monks effort from outside the box. A goal either side of half-time for Douglas Camilo and Jack Rice spelt trouble for the travel-shy Robins, but an outlandish moment in injury time saw defender Pierce Mitchell score a first goal for the club and take a point for Frome.
The footballing gods were against Frome on Tuesday when they suffered an undeserved defeat at the hands of Bashley. After seeing out a draw last weekend at Lymington to end a seven-match losing run away from home, the Robins arrived in Devon requiring a change of narrative and a win against relegation-threatened Willand. The unavailability of a concussed James Ollis, so often the protagonist at the attacking end of the pitch for Frome this season, was a severe blow, the casualty list now consisting of seven players. Despite these absences, Frome were in desperate need of their shooting boots, having been held goalless in their last three games.
The attacking trio of Jono Davies, Reece Rusher and Owen Humphries began positively enough though, the latter’s pinpoint free-kick locating an unmarked Sam Teale in space at the back post. The ball got clamped between the captain’s boots and a sodden pitch to roll harmlessly away into the WIlland keeper’s gloves. Poor conditions overhead and underfoot ensured that this was a messy encounter in all aspects. An error in possession by Willand when up for a corner allowed Humphries and Davies to weave the ball around the last defenders before Frome’s playmaker fired a shot past the keeper. Turning in celebration as the ball nestled against the side netting, the whistle was blown for offside. That same call was shortly afterwards given to Joe O’Loughlin as he was making strides down the right flank.
Frome were dominant in the first half an hour and Willand were struggling to cope, inviting pressure and breaking up attacks with fouls for mere respite. From an innocuous position just inside the half, Davies was pulled down and a free-kick was awarded. Instead of looping the ball into the area, the midfield exchanged a couple of passes before a sudden effort from distance by Alex Monks flew unexpectedly over the keeper and gave the visitors the lead.
Frome showed naivety when ahead and were saved on two occasions by goalscorer Monks who marshalled the front post well from the corners. Far from shrinking away from the challenge, Willand showed some genuine attacking ambition at last. The Robins failed to take their advantage past the break, when a loss of defensive focus allowed Douglas Camilo to slalom down the right of the goalmouth and side foot the ball past Kyle Phillips.
The side from Devon are a wiley outfit, one in search of points having slipped into the bottom two,and Frome had never found the going easy down in the Devon countryside. By no means are the hosts adrift in the relegation zone, sitting just a point behind Cinderford and Bristol Manor Farm, but with games in hand on their rivals. Despite being winless in the league since Christmas Eve, Willand started the second half demonstrating the same desire and energy that had seen them level before the break. By contrast, Frome looked lethargic, their sluggish defending exacerbated by the spongy conditions of the pitch when a clearance from the corner failed to be dealt with. Ash Hewitt’s shot bobbled between the swarm of bodies in the box and Jack Rice ended up sneaking in the lead from close quarters.
With a raft of changes after sixty minutes, the sleepwalking that led to the two goals conceded was remedied. The entry of substitute striker, Sam Meakes, provided a central focus for the Robins’ incursions on goal. Reece Rusher looked reinvigorated when presented with a target at which he could could deliver his penetrating crosses and, for the second time in a matter of days, the winger clipped the bar with a feral shot as momentum swung Frome’s way and the seconds ticked on.
Any notion of Frome having had the rub-of-the-green this season is an entirely ridiculous one. Last-gasp goals and cruel finishes have dogged Danny Greave’s side game after game. Since that August evening when Willand sneaked a late equaliser at Badgers Hill, the BA11 fans have had plenty of opportunity to curse their luck. But today, it turned out to be the home side who had to face the ignominy of injury-time drama going against them as Monks retrieved the ball from a defence penned in by white shirts and threaded it to Rusher who found the unlikely striker, Pierce Mitchell. His defender’s instinct was better than to panic and shoot at the sight of a shambolic defensive line and a goalkeeper inexplicably out of the box. Unflustered, the new recruit drove forward and improved his angle before sending his shot skidding into the net. Aside from being a supremely bizarre conclusion, it proved to be just reward for an unflinching show of grit from Danny Greaves’s squad ahead of another busy week of Southern League action away against Wimborne in midweek and at home to Sholing next weekend.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith