Frome Town recorded a first league win on the road since October as they strode to a reinvigorating victory at playoff hopefuls Wimborne. The scoreline tells little of the drama as the momentum swung the the way of the home side after half-time, but goals for Reece Rusher, Joe O’Loughlin and James Ollis secured an invaluable three points for the Robins.
It had been little over three weeks since Danny Greaves’ side ran in 3-0 winners at home to the same opposition. That afternoon, the first half in particular showcased some swashbuckling attacking play from the likes of Ollis and Jono Davies, whose wonder strike will live long in the memory. The springboard that such a win promised never materialised and the going has been tough for Frome since that Saturday in February, not only in terms of departures and injuries, but their ability to convert their opportunities in front of goal and clinch results. Though Ollis returned to the starting lineup after a suspected concussion, his fellow fulcrum-in-attack, Davies, sat this one out, rested in anticipation of the countless games that beckon in the next few weeks.
Reece Rusher, however, is a player who can also be relied upon to create opportunities. The winger has been adapting to the Southern League and showed shades of quality, spanking the bar in consecutive games prior to this evening. His wait for a first goal in a Frome shirt was over within minutes as he lashed in from distance with a sweetly-struck shot past Wimborne’s keeper, Shane Murphy. From the off, Frome looked hungry in their press, cooping in the Magpies and harrying their defenders. It was this chokehold that prompted O’Loughlin’s tearing run and pass in from right. There was debate as to who had the last touch on the ball as it spilled in at the near post, but it was club top-scorer, James Ollis, who walked away in celebration, impudently wagging his finger as Frome’s lead was doubled within fifteen minutes of kick-off.
The perfect opening for Frome heralded the nightmare start for Wimborne. Throughout the first half, the turf was littered with black-and-white shirts, Whether the early kick-off or the bitter temperatures were to blame, all three of their substitutions had been made by the break. The interruptions and a worrying injury to Alex Monks appeared to unsettle the Robins and deprived them of their momentum. Wimborne appeared to recover their senses, midfielder Dan Bartlett, a player with an eye for the spectacular, letting his shot fly into the hoarding before defender Pierce Mitchell was forced into a goal-line clearance.
Wimborne went into the break still alive in the tie then. Though they sit in fourth, one of the suitors in the contest for promotion via the play-off positions, the Magpies have found themselves in a rough spell when it comes to their form, twice conceding five to Bashley in February. Their last three games have been goalless draws and in an effort to freshen up their squad, manager Tim Sills had acquired two Bournemouth trainees on work-experience loans, Lewis Brown in midfield and defender Max Kinsey-Wellings. The latter Cherry was quick to take advantage of another chaotic piece of set-piece defending by Frome when he bundled in from a corner, a score that saw Wimborne’s goalless run of over five hundred minutes come to an end.
Frome required appreciable concentration and calm once their lead was cut. The home fans were becoming rowdier by the minute, their improvised percussion on the corrugated shed walls ramping up with every cross. There was an inexplicable miss for Wimborne when the ball bobbled off a defender and sat up agreeably for Lewis Beale who could only drill over Kyle Phillips’ goal from just a few yards out.
Surviving such a clearcut chance was a turning point. Within seconds, as Wimborne pushed forward, their attack broke down. The blue vanguard of Frome’s front line darted down the pitch, Joe O’Loughlin running the ball past keeper Murphy, and side-footing it in to regain breathing space. The Wimborne players, exhausted from their efforts, the manager unable to make any changes, cannot be blamed for the deflation caused by the goal. Possession was all Frome’s once again and, minutes before the whistle blew, Ollis displayed his superb fitness, sprinting down the left to collect the ball. The striker’s first shot was saved, but the keeper could only fend the ball into his path once more and the second attempt was buried.
The weekend’s never-say-die heroics and Mitchell’s late equaliser at Willand would have given this Frome side a boost, but the will to see this game through, to problem-solve against a side with their noses up and a partisan crowd will be particularly pleasing. As Sam Teale continued to bark orders to his side in injury time, reminding them to keep their shape and get the basics right, Frome’s determination was unmistakeable. With the league leaders, Sholing, visiting on Saturday and the prospect of a Somerset Premier Cup semi-final on Tuesday next week, steely, determined showings such as this one will be the benchmark if this season is to be remembered for anything more than what-ifs.
Match report and live updates by Zeb Baker-Smith