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Chippenham Town 3-3 Frome Town – Calor League Southern Premier Division, Thursday 26th December 2013

Miracles do happen at Christmas, and a sterling second half fightback from Frome saw them overhaul a 3-1 deficit to take a share of the points at Chippenham with an injury time equaliser from Ben Wood.

A week is a long time in football, and with former Gillingham manager Adrian Foster having taken over as Frome’s third manager of the season only a few days before, it was always going to be interesting to see the effect on the squad, and the travelling faithful were pleased to spot “man mountain” and Frome legend Paul Thorpe taking the training as he took his place as assistant coach.

Jon Vance, the new manager’s first signing, started on the bench, and Matt Groves kept his place in the starting line up.

Frome started the match kicking up the slope, looked lively from the start and converted the first real chance of the match into an 11th minute goal as Matt Smith set up Ricky Hulbert  to cross from the right, Rhys Baggridge won the ball at the far post and headed it back across goal for Matt Groves to nod home from close range to open his scoring account for Frome.

The rest of the first half hour was fairly even, but then Chippenham started to show their knowledge of the pitch as they started to regularly find striker Alan Griffin with long balls allowing him to use his height and strength to good effect.

The 28th minute saw him win and header and then pick up the ball again and produce a perfect, in-swinging, right foot curler into the top far corner from 25 yards and Darren Chitty’s first real touch of the match came as he picked the ball out of the net.

Frome were grateful to the linesman three minutes later as Baggridge advanced forward but lost the ball allowing Joe McLennan to run into acres of space on the right and as he approached the dead ball line, he hit a perfect low cross that was powerfully headed home by the diving Griffin, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

Josh Ford hammered a volley just over the home bar three minutes later, but then Griffin and McLennan combined well again with the winger just shooting over the Frome bar, and as the match moved towards half time, Chippenham looked to be moving into the driving seat and they took the lead in the 43rd minute as McLennan again found acres of space on the right to allow him to hit a long accurate cross that Rob Dean headed home with a stooping header.

Frome looked a bit tentative after half time, and the Griffin McLennan partnership was threatening more goals every time they received possession. McLennan won a right wing corner in the 54th minute and only a great Chitty save denied Griffin another goal with a header from the corner, and Chitty repeated the feat a few moments later as Chippenham controlled the game.

The home side made it 3-1 in the 59th minute as, just for a change, McLennan burst through on the left wing and pulled the ball back perfectly for Griffin to shoot home from close range. At this point it looked as if Frome might be starting to cave in and head for another big defeat, their sixth in a row.

But it didn’t happen, new signing Jon Vance replaced Aaron Ledgister in the 62nd minute and the midfield started to have a bit more bite and control, leading to a big chance in the 70th minute as Hulbert burst in from the right wing and found Smith with a low cross only for the midfielder to hit an “air shot” and the chance went begging.

After a  double substitution in the 73rd minute, Frome brought the deficit back to a single goal as Jon Vance received the ball 15 yards out from the Chippenham area, took one touch to get it onto his right foot and hit a screamer that flew past the startled Ben John and into the net to give the travelling fans hope.

The last quarter saw Frome take almost total control, and although Chippenham always looked like they could score on the break, most of the play involved Frome passing the ball in midfield looking for an opening. Just as it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, a cross from the left was chested down by a falling Chippenham defender, and with the crowd screaming for handball, Ben Wood was the first to react and his left shot nestled low in the far corner of the Chippenham net for a 92nd minute equaliser.

The whistle blew a few minutes later, and there were enough good things on show to suggest that Frome may be close to turning the corner and moving on under the stewardship of Adrian Foster.

Matt Groves was awarded the “H&B Tyres Man of the Man Award” on an afternoon where he never stopped working and was continuously commanding the close attentions of at least two Chippenham defenders.

Crowd: 400. Entertainment Value: 4