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Hungerford Town 1-1 Frome Town – Southern Premier League, Sat. 18th Oct.

Despite playing with 10 men for 55 minutes and nine men for the last 10, Frome Town dug deep to win a point at sixth placed Hungerford Town thanks to resolute defending and some phenomenal saves from goalkeeper Darren Chitty which at times defied belief.

A quiet start to the match saw Frome kicking down the slope and having a free kick from Jon Vance just clearing the bar in the 7th minute, but with both sides seemingly content to sound each other out, chances were slow coming.

Ben Thomson used his strength in the 15th minute to power past several challenges on the deadball line, but his final shot was easily dealt with by Paul Strudley, and Jack Vallis managed to get his head to a Vance free kick in the 18th but couldn’t direct the header on target.

The match flared up in the 27th as Frome’s Mark Cooper was deservedly shown a straight red for a two footed challenge on a lunging Ian Herring that provoked a minor scuffle, though even home supporters admitted that they thought that Herring was lucky to get away with no card at all.  After Thomson had again gone close as he flicked the ball over a defender than blasted over from a tight angle, Chitty made his first save of the match with a routine save from Jon Boardman’s header, but he was powerless to prevent Hungerford taking the lead as they exploited the space left by Cooper’s departure, and Lee Smith raced in and shot firmly into the far corner with Matt Smith and Kris Miller forlornly trying to catch him.

The 10 men of Frome looked comfortable enough for the remainder of the half as Brandon Mundy dropped back into the left back slot, but with Thomson ploughing a lone furrow up front and normally surrounded by three defenders, it seemed doubtful that they could get back on level terms.

But, five minutes into the second half, they did equalise as, against the run of play, Aaron Rodriguez went on a mazy run through the centre, beat three payers and slipped the ball through to substitute Mark Ford who slotted the ball past Paul Strudley with ease from 15 yards.

A period of pin ball in the Frome penalty area in the 56th led to Mark Draycott hitting the base of the post from 10 yards and only a superb Chitty save and an excellent last ditch challenge from Vallis allowed Frome to clear their lines, then Chitty made a brave punched clearance in the 62nd and Hungerford’s Charles Mpi was a half an inch from scoring as he dived to head towards an open goal, only for the ball to graze his forehead and miss the far post.

Frome seemed to decide at this point that attack was the best form of defence and started playing more in the Hungerford half, and they went close in the 73rd as substitute Cameron Brown found fellow sub Mark Francis with a great little ball only for the shot to just miss the far top corner.

Life got tougher in the 83rd minute as Frome went down to nine men with Brandon Mundy being shown a bizarre second yellow. After Chitty had produced a sliced clearance to the left, Mundy just failed to control the ball before it went out for a throw in, and as the ball was thrown back onto the pitch by a member of the crowd, as it passed him he showed his annoyance with himself by palming the ball and helping it on it’s way.

Presumably the referee thought that was time wasting and after consulting a linesman, Mundy was shown a second yellow and Frome were then really up against it.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going and there’s no better keeper in the league than Darren Chitty when the odds are against him, and with Hungerford throwing the kitchen sink at Frome for the last seven minutes of normal time and five minutes of injury time, the saves came so quickly and were so numerous that it was impossible to record them all. Some of them just defied belief.

With the visitor’s goal under almost constant siege, Frome could have come away with all three points as in the third minute of injury time, Mark Francis latched onto a through ball, advanced on goal, and shot across Strudley, the ball striking the base of the far post and rebounding harmlessly back across the face of the goal.

Darren Chitty  was chosen for the “H&B Tyres Man of the Match Award”  for an unbelievable performance.