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Wednesday 25th April Frome Town 0 Banbury Utd 2

Despite matching Banbury for almost all of this match, a controversial incident late in the match led to Banbury scoring two late goals and eventually taking all three points.

Following on from the player crisis that had resulted in Frome only being able to field ten men in the 7-0 mauling at Gosport at the weekend, a full eleven started this match with 3 substitutes, and though nobody was really expecting a result against 9th placed Banbury, the match was more about pride and attitude  than anything else.

The match kicked off on a chilly late April evening and it was clear from the start that there was nothing wrong with the attitude of the Frome players. As the half progressed, there was little to choose between the two sides, with the Frome youngsters Ben Griffiths, Lewis Graham and Josh Brace all standing up to be counted and starting to show signs of their ability as confidence started to flow.

Having said that, very little of note happened during the first half, though with Ryan Bath and Sam Teale both bringing regulation saves from Jack Harding, a goalkeeper who seemed to like adventurous forays outside his area as he first blocked an attempted lob from Bath before carrying on further outside his area to block another from Joe Raynes.

Most of Banbury’s efforts in the first half seemed to come from corners, but in all cases the Frome defence and Carl Crabtree had little problems dealing with them and apart from Banbury having a disallowed goal for offside just before the break, there was little to choose between the sides at half time.

The half time interval was extended as one of the linesman presumably reported sick, and there was an urgent appeal for anyone in the crowd with refereeing qualifications to come forward. Just as it looked like the match stood a chance of being abandoned, luckily Paul Whitley stepped forward from the crowd and the second half could start, though a fair bit later than would be normal.

The second half was much better than the first, and Frome really should have taken the lead in the 50th as Ben Withey produced a surging overlapping run on the right, then cut in and pulled the ball back perfectly, only for Ryan Bath to lean back and hammer the ball over the bar from ten yards with the goal gaping.

Banbury then countered with several attacks that tested the Frome defence and brought a couple of sharp saves from Carl Crabtree, but then Frome carved out another golden opportunity as Josh Brace (who was really growing into the game) produced a superb ball out to Withey who again cut in and pulled the ball back to Joe Raynes who managed to then hit the post. With Frome starting to dominate possession in the final third, the crowd were starting get behind the side and hope for the unexpected.

Banbury had a headed goal immediately disallowed as the scorer climbed all over the back of Crabtree and at this stage, the match could have gone either way, but that all changed in the 82nd in a very controversial incident.

Banbury’s towering central defender Luke Carnell had already earned the home crowd’s displeasure by several times appearing to fall over due to the down draft from a passing gnat, and in each case had earned a free kick accordingly, and it happened again as he went up with Ryan Bath and predictably went to ground in  a heap, having appeared to have headed Bath’s outstretched arm.

Despite the protestations of the Frome players and captain Sam Teale in particular, the referee “bought into” the plot, showed Bath a second yellow and sent him off, with the smiling Carnell then making a miraculous recovery to continue playing. To rub salt into the wound, Banbury then scored immediately as the free kick was hit long to the far side and a low shot from Charlie Wise gave Crabtree no real chance.

Sam Teale was then so incensed by the entire incident that probably said something that he shouldn’t have,  and the referee then showed him a straight red. Frome were now down to nine men and to be honest, everyone in the crowd had a certain amount of sympathy with Sam Teale in this case.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Banbury then rubbed iodine into the wound in the 85th minute, as the “villain of the peace”  Carnell rose to head home a corner and generally leave the home fans more than a little displeased about the manner of the defeat, but I guess that’s football – entertaining even if you don’t agree with what’s happening in front of you.

Credit should be given to all the Frome players in this match, especially the already mentioned trio of youngsters who all had good games, and let’s hope that the player situation resolves itself soon, though without the increased support of the Frome public, that may be a tall order.

Ben Withey was chosen as the H&B Tyres Man of the Match Award by match sponsors Moss, Naylor and Young and it was a good choice, with Withey demonstrating how good he can be in both attack and defence. Crowd: 152. Entertainment Value: 4/5ff

Reports: Colin Carpenter

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