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Hemel Hempstead 0-1 Frome Town – Southern Premier League, Sat. 18th Jan.

WHAT  a week it’s been for Frome Town!

A dire performance the previous week against Bashley, followed by their first home league win for 10 months against Banbury the following Wednesday, and on 18th January they win 1-0 at runaway league leaders Hemel Hempstead.

This make them the only team with a “12 out of 12”, 100% home record, thanks to a goal from Mark Francis and a stunning display from goalkeeper Darren Chitty. With the pitch very heavy and just about playable following a pre-match inspection, not surprisingly, Frome started with the same line up that they had done so well against Banbury, and Jon Vance returned to the subs bench following a couple of weeks layoff due to injury.

Hemel started the match kicking up the slope and looked very dangerous in the 4th minute as Lewis Toomey broke clean through, only to be denied by a superbly timed tackle from Rhys Baggridge.

Shane Blackett shot over the cross bar for the hosts and then Frome looked dangerous as Mark Francis produced a perfect ball to Ben Wood that resulted in a dangerous cross that forced a corner.

Darren Chitty made his first save on 19 minutes to save a stooping header from David Pearce, then Baggridge just managed to get his head to an inswinging Wood free kick, but at full stretch, the effort went wide. Frome looked like they were really relishing the challenge now,  and on the half hour, a Francis shot clipped the outside of the post after good work from Wood, but then all the good work threatened to evaporate as  a Hemel attack saw Mark Cooper head off his own line, Matt Cowler fouled in the area but then Darren Chitty produced a stunning save to deny Ben Mackey from the penalty spot, with the rebound header hitting the bar.

Francis shot agonisingly wide of the far post in the 37th minute after being set up by Miller, then, on the stroke of half time, Chitty produced a point blank save to deny Mackey, though the home striker looked suspiciously offside. With the scoreline 0-0 at half time, it was all to play for, and Frome took the lead in the 49th minute as Matt Smith set Mark Francis free in the corner. The striker stepped inside, beat a defender and coolly shot home at the near post for the loan striker’s second goal in two games.

Matt Smith went close with a shot in the 56th after Josh Ford and  Ricky Hulbert had combined to set up the shooting chance, but then Hemel’s Tom Berwick should have done better as he volleyed wide across the face of the goal.

As the match progressed, it became a lesson on defending in depth as Hemel pressed for the equaliser and the pitch started to cut up badly. Jack Vallis was unlucky as an outstanding block span to Berwick who again missed the target, and Chitty really showed his class in the 88th minute as he produced an outstanding save to tip David King’s header over the bar, and after Kris Miller had headed the corner off the line, Chitty produced another top class save to push the ball away while at full stretch.

As the clock ticked down, Frome must have been mindful of the equaliser that Hemel had scored in the 93rd minute in the game at Frome, but today was different, and Chitty made the save of the match in the 94th minute to deny Berwick and produce the Southern League result of the day, and  a week to remember for new management  team Adrian Foster and Paul Thorpe.

Darren Chitty was awarded the “H&B Tyres Man of the Man Award”  for a goalkeeping performance that, at times, almost defied belief.

 

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