FA Cup: Rocks are Weymouth-bound after Frome are framed
Four goals, four different scorers, a clean sheet and a place in the next round of the FA Cup. This couldn't have gone much better for the Rocks.
Not only can they now look forward to a visit to Southern League Weymouth in the second qualifying round on Saturday week, they can return to league action this weekend in confident mood and with Ben Johnson having got an impressive first start under his belt after a year out injured.
Johnson was back in the starting line-up for the first time since the fateful day a year and a week ago when he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament - that also in an FA Cup tie, against Epsom and Ewell.
Another returnee was Scott Chamberlain, on the bench for the first time since returning to the club earlier in the season.
Johnson didn’t take long to get in the action, almost threading James Crane into the left side of the area with a delicate pass.
Mark Zawadski made a superb point-blank stop from Frome full-back Mark Cooper, who then fired the rebound across the six-yard box.
Johnson took the first corner of the evening and Stuart Axten met it with a firm downward header but it was blocked a couple of yards from the goal-line.
It was a very open game from the start and Frome, who are struggling at the wrong end of the Southern League premier division, looked sharper than they had in the first game, when the Rocks were dominant throughout but couldn’t kill them off.
Harvey Whyte, playing in a central midfield role, had the Rocks’ first shot at goal on ten minutes but his long-range effort was a little too high.
Conner Waldon tried his luck from way out but his shot was always curling away from the goal and Zawadski got down to it easily.
Ollie Pearce was fouled near the by-line as he latched on to a long pass by Alex Malins and when the free-kick came in, there were vain shouts for a handball when Ben Godfrey’s drive hit a defender. Soon Johnson’s cross from the right was only inches too high for Godfrey to convert.
Johnson, like he’d never even been out injured, was at the centre of everything and a free-kick he floated into the box caused further scares for the Frome defence before Pearce hooked the ball out of the ground from a tight angle.
Pearce sent a fierce 30-yard free-kick whistling a couple of feet past Darren Chitty’s left-hand post as the Rocks continued to take the game to the Somerset side. Craig Robson was next to hbe trusted with a free-kick from a similar distance. He hit it cleanly enough but it was a comfortable save for Chitty.
Crane was having a busy game getting forward from left-back and on one foray, he cut inside and sent a decent shot over the angle of post and bar.
A quick break down the right led by Arron Hopkinson on 34 minutes ended with a left-footed cross that Godfrey rose well to meet, but his header went wide of the post with the keeper stranded.
Matt Smith had space for a shot at Zawadski’s goal but cleared not only the bar but Seasons clubhouse too.
Immediately at the other end, Johnson trickled a low shot along the ground that Chitty got down to.
The Rocks deserved a goal for their enterprising play and they got it eight minutes before the break. Inevitably Johnson was involved, chipping a cross from the angle of the area to the far post. Chitty palmed it out but it hit a defender’s heel. Another defender half-cleared it but only to Whyte, who sidefooted a precise shot into the far bottom corner.
Five minutes later the Rocks doubled the lead - though not before Godfrey had struck a post when connecting with a Hopkinson cross.
The second came with another precise low finish, this time from Pearce, after Tuck and Godfrey combined to create the opening.
There was a hold-up while Frome’s Josh Ford was treated after a fair but hard challenge by Crane.
Pearce had his eye in now and twisted and turned outside the box in first-half stoppage time before forcing a diving save from Chitty.
There was a more serene start to the second half after the frantic final ten minutes of the first as the Rocks looked to hold what they had.
A couple of corners and high balls into the box were the best they could manage early in the half for the crowd of 310.
The Rocks virtually assured themselves of a second qualifying round trip to Weymouth with a third goal on 56 minutes - and it was a sixth goal in seven appearances for Godfrey.
A neat move down the inside left channel led to Hopkinson passing short to Godfrey, who took a touch and then stroked a right-footed shot beyond Chitty’s dive and into the corner of the net.
The Rocks made their first substitution soon after the goal, Terry Dodd coming on for Whyte.
Shouts for a foul on Pearce went unanswered by the referee after sub Dodd’s weaving run had set up an opening, and then Hopkinson’s cross was just in front of Dodd with only the keeper to beat.
A second Rocks change saw Johnson come off to a warm reception after an impressive first start after his long-term injury. Dan Kempson made his own return from injury in his place.
Dodd almost converted Hopkinson’s low near-post cross on 70 minutes.
There was another great reception for a Rocks substitution on 78 minutes as Chamberlain made his first appearance since rejoining the club and no sooner had he come on that another midfielder, Doug Tuck, played in Dodd, whose low shot somehow beat the diving Chitty and went in for No4.
Tuck was named man of the match for an industrious display.
Rocks: Zawadski, Malins, Crane, Tuck, Axten, Robson, Hopkinson, Pearce, Godfrey, Johnson. Subs: Dodd, Marzetti, Kempson, Sackman, Chamberlain, Wollers, Boyle.
Next up it’s back-to-back home league games - against Hampton and Richmond on Saturday and Cray on Tuesday.