ONLY luck and the heroics of Frome keeper Darren Chitty prevented Bideford from having this match done and dusted by half time.
A more even second half could have seen the match go either way, with Bideford pinching the only goal of the match and taking the three points that their overall performance merited.
With the peculiar geography of the Southern Premier League, even though there are 105 miles between the two towns, Frome is still the nearest club to Bideford, so the Boxing Day 'local derby' kicked off on a pitch that had been passed fit at 10am, but looked a little suspect after a heavy shower before kick off.
Despite their long journey, Bideford were much the sharper of the two sides at the start and the fourth minute saw a simple through ball find Sean Downing in acres of space.
He controlled the ball, made 10 yards, only to see his left foot shot clip the outside of the far post as he shot across Chitty.
One minute later, Frome were again lucky as a Bideford free kick found Kevin Squire totally unmarked in the box and his powerful downward header missed the post by a yard.
Frome did recover from this early wayward period, and they started to take the game to the visitors, even applying periods of pressure, but never carving out golden chances or meaningful shots on target.
The 25th minute saw Alex Lapham make good progress into the Bideford box, but the chance was cleared and immediately the dangerous Downing picked up the ball, ran at the Frome defence and brought an excellent save from Chitty that rebounded to Matt Andrew who put the ball over the bar from 15 yards.
Lapham went close for Frome just after as he was set up by Dave Gilroy, but the shot just cleared the top corner.
Immediately afterwards, Downing again had the chance to open the scoring for Bideford as he rose above everyone to head a corner just over the bar.
Downing was again instrumental in Frome’s problems as the 37th minute saw him pick the ball up in midfiled and run hard at the defence until a last ditch, desperate slide tackle from Matt Smith was adjudged to have been a foul in the box and the referee awarded a penalty.
Matt Hockley took the spot kick, but Chitty dived to his right and pushed the ball over the bar.
The resulting corner saw another amazing save as Chitty just managed to push the ball over the bar from another unmarked header, and the two or three corners that followed created mayhem in the Frome box with the ball pinging around as if in a pinball machine.
Somehow Frome survived, and with Lewis Powell being replaced by Ryan Bennett just before half time, Smith was able to revert to his midfield role and Frome looked to have a much better shape as the second half started.
Frome’s best chance of the match came in the 50th minute as a good Smith run set up a shooting chance for Dean Evans, only to be denied by a good save from Paul Hider.
Chitty saved well a minute later from Squire and Dave Thompson headed a Frome corner over the bar as the match turned into an end to end affair.
A Frome corner in the 56th led to a massive scramble in the Bideford box that ended as a header from Dean Evans lobbed over everyone only to thump against the crossbar and go to safety.
But thenBideofrd grabbed the only goal of the match as a short period of pressure led to Jack Furzer turning and shooting cleanly into the far corner from a position just inside the box.
To their credit, Frome went looking for the equaliser and only a great save from Hider denied Smith in the 67th minute as he pulled the ball into on his left foot and hit and hit a screamer that looked destined for the net.
Bideford’s right back Ian Sampson waited nervously to see the colour of the card that the referee was going to produce as he appeared to jump into a tackle that left Thompson on the ground, but it was just a yellow and kept the sides at 11 a side in a match that had never been bad tempered.
Though they carried on right to the final whistle, Frome never really carved out another scoring chance and with the pitch sapping energy, Bideford looked comfortable right to the final whistle and deserved the points on the day.
The H&B Tyres Man of the Match award was awarded to Dean Evans by the Cornish Contingent (Frome’s supporters in Cornwall) who had sponsored both the match and the match ball and had travelled a few hundred miles to see the match.
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