EVO-STIK LEAGUE SOUTHERN PREMIER DIVISION: Chippenham Town 2 Frome Town 2
DEAN Evans' sumptuous volley in injury time snatched visitors Frome Town a point as they fought back from two goals down at Hardenhuish Park today.
Skipper Evans latched on to a loose ball some 35 yards out and sent a stunning strike beyond helpless home keeper Ben John as Darren Perrin's visitors eked out a potentially crucial Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division draw.
Chippenham meanwhile, were left cursing their inability to hang on to a lead for the second home game in succession as two points in their quest to reach the play-offs went begging.
In truth, the home side could have had the game wrapped up before the interval, their all-action start catching the sluggish Robins off guard as they forced a seemingly endless succession of corners and piled on the pressure.
But despite them cruising into a comfortable two-goal advantage at the interval, the heroic performance of Frome goalkeeper Darren Chitty, coupled with notable second-period efforts from striker Mike Perrott and substitute Darren Jefferies offered the away side a route back into the match.
The Bluebirds, making four changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Chesham on Boxing Day, gave Jim Rollo - signed from Bath City yesterday - a debut at left-back, with striker Tom Knighton, wing James Guthrie and player-boss Nathan Rudge restored to the starting line-up.
Former Chippenham players Perrott, Aaron Ledgister and Dave Gilroy featured for Frome, but former Hardenhuish Park goal machine Lewis Powell was restricted to a nominal bench place by injury.
The home side immediately warmed to their task down the slope on a heavy pitch and were ahead on seven minutes.
Former Frome man Luke Ballinger swung over a deep corner and defender Ryan Bennett powerfully headed home - unfortunately for him into his own net.
With Alan Griffin and Knighton looking a handful up front and Adie Harris pulling the strings in midfield, it was one-way traffic and almost 2-0 on the quarter-hour mark.
Ballinger's piledriving free kick was brilliantly parried by Chitty, who then denied Griffin, Iain Harvey firing home, only to see his celebrations cut short by the linesman's flag for offside.
Frome were really struggling, their frustrations laid bare by Gilroy's booking for a crude late challenge on Ashley Williams and a deserved second arrive for the home side on 26 minutes.
Again, it came from a corner, this time swung over by Guthrie and Griffin beating his player-manager to reach the front of the queue to head home his 11th of the season at the far post.
Chitty excelled again eight minutes before the interval as Chippenham threatened to disappear over the horizon. Knighton connected powerfully with Williams' cross from the right but the Frome custodian virtually clawed the ball out of the net, then reacted quickly to get down and block Ballinger's forceful follow-up drive.
Visiting midfielder Matt Smith then followed Gilroy and Evans into the book, adjudged to have dived as he chased a loose ball in the area, although there was some contact.
A forgettable half for the Robins ended with Alex Lapham limping off with a suspected knee ligament injury although ironically, Jefferies proved an effective second-half replacement.
Upon the restart, it was Chippenham who suddenly looked hurried and ineffectual, getting bogged down in petty squabbles as Frome rediscovered a spring in their step.
A Smith cross-shot required John's intervention to push clear before Jefferies also drew a save from the home goalkeeper 10 minutes in.
Home substitute Dean Griffiths delivered one of the few positive moments for the Bluebirds, skiping past three defenders and exchanging passes with Griffin before firing weakly towards Chitty.
But Frome's growing threat was underlined by substitute Martin Johnson's run and shot and Jefferies' solo effort ending with Evans' shot being deflected wide.
It proved a temporary reprieve. When the resulting corner was over-hit, Johnson retrieved possession and guided a cross towards the far post, Perrott got in behind Rollo and volleyed high into the net past John on 75 minutes.
Chippenham could have netted a third when Guthrie's scuffed corner was turned goalwards by Griffin, but Johnson hacked clear while at the other end, Williams got back to clear from under the noses of two Frome attackers after another Jefferies cross.
The home side appeared to be seeing out time but it proved their undoing as a Frome throw-in down the touch line was headed aimlessly infield and fell perfectly into the path of the advancing Evans, who unleashed a venomous effort that gave John no chance.
Chippenham Town: Ben John, Adie Harris, Jim Rollo, Ashley Williams, Steve Casey (c), Nathan Rudge, Luke Ballinger (Osman 80), Iain Harvey, Alan Griffin (Lee Phillips 90), Tom Knighton (Griffiths 63), James Guthrie.
Sub not used: Brandon Barnes.
Frome Town: Darren Chitty, Dave Thompson, Michael Reaney, Ryan Bennett, Tom Evans (Rob Hobbs 86), Alex Lapham (Darren Jefferies 45), Matt Smith, Dean Evans (c), Dave Gilroy, Mike Perrott, Aaron Ledgister (Martin Johnson 64).
Subs not used: Dean Flockton, Lewis Powell.
Referee: Adam Bayliss (Oxford)
Yellow cards - Chippenham: Williams, 52, foul; Phillips, 90, dissent; Frome: Gilroy, 21, foul; D Evans, 35, foul; Smith, 46, simulation.
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