Despite Defensive Solidity, Farnham Lose 2-1 To Table Topping Walton & Hersham
This wasn’t pretty, but, against high flying opposition, it was so nearly a tactical masterclass.
Farnham manager Colin Millard had set up his side with five across the back, supported by a midfield three and two wide players that looked to play on the break, but were equally willing to track back and work hard in what was, effectively, two blocks of five.
It was a formation designed to frustrate Walton & Hersham, and, for almost all of the first half, it worked splendidly.
Although the home side were able to enjoy the majority of possession, they were unable to do anything effective with it, reduced to playing the ball from side to side in front of a well-organised Farnham, probing for opportunities that refused to present themselves.
There are, however, two key issues with the Town’s tactics.
First, on the rare occasion that you do create an opportunity, it must be converted.
So it proved in the 28th minute when a Steve Lee overlap led to a quality cross missed by all three Farnham players in the penalty area.
Second, and far more importantly, you cannot afford to switch off at any point.
At a previous match, it was pointed out to me that Farnham Town have a slight issue from set pieces.
Not their opponent’s. Their own.
And, like a poker player’s ‘tell’, once you’ve noticed it, you’re always looking for it.
Whether they’re over-committed in attack or under-prepared in defence, the Town are all too frequently caught on the break from their own corners or free kicks, with opponents able to over-run the players hanging back to set up a three on two, or four on three, break.
And so it proved in the 43rd minute, when Walton & Hersham broke from a Farnham corner, and, with the Town defence at ‘sixes and sevens’, fashioned a chance that Town ‘skipper Ashley Lloyd was forced to curtail with a scything challenge for a stonewall penalty.
Apparently, the home side had missed their last six spot kicks, but this would be their lucky seventh.
With the penalty well converted by Palace Francis, Walton & Hersham could look forward to their half time team talk, probably feeling that Farnham would have to be more adventurous in the second half and that space would open up and offer up further goals.
Or perhaps they forgot that the first half hadn’t actually ended?
Either way, the fact is that the home side fell asleep at the restart.
Farnham kicked off and passed the ball out to full back Steve Lee overlapping on the right. No one challenged him, so he went on towards the area. No one went with him, so, as he reached the edge of the area, there were no options other than to shoot.
And what a shot!
Curled with the outside of his foot, around the ‘keeper, and into the far corner.
All square, and everything to play for in what would be an almost identical second half.
Once again, the Town defended stoutly, but despite another fine performance by Parish Muirhead, always available and always looking to start something in midfield, the formation and tactics deployed were always inviting pressure and required intense concentration.
It’s a huge testament to the way Farnham played, that the home fans grew increasingly frustrated with the way the game was going, howling with rage at every misplaced pass, every Town tackle, and any decision that went against them, no matter how correct it was.
However, it’s hard to keep up this level of defensive concentration at any level, and, as the match entered its final quarter, Farnham were hanging on, with successive substitutions made to run down the clock adversely affecting the shape of the side.
The goal was coming, and on 77 minutes it was finally scored.
The Town failed to clear a corner and Dom Ogun was able to turn in a Palace Francis cross at the back stick.
For Town manager Colin Millard, it was a case of ‘close but no cigar’.
“99% of our game plan worked perfectly and I’m immensely proud of how the lads took onboard and applied our tactical plans.
To a man, for 99% of the game, they were fantastic.
Sometimes you have to respect the opponent more than you would normally. Coming to the league leaders on a 4G pitch, and having to make changes again due to unavailability, we had to move away from our normal front foot style.
However, 99% wasn’t good enough and we are all extremely frustrated with the outcome.
I don’t think we deserved to lose the game as we had the clearer chances in the first half.
But, when you play the way we did today, you must take those chances.
I do not recall Harry having to make a save all game, so it’s annoying that we’ve still managed to concede two.
I don’t want this team to be the “nearly men”.
With the exception of Beckenham, we’ve run all the leaders very close, but lost.
We need to be able turn strong performances into wins and, if we do so, we’ll be up there with those teams.
However, to do so, we have to be far more consistent with our play and team availability.
Once again, we appreciate the effort all the travelling supporters made to get to the game on an horrendous weather day”.
The final score will have been a tough pill to swallow for a Town side that more than matched their high flying opponents for the majority of the match, but they can take heart from the fact that, despite their continued injury issues robbing them of several key players, this was a performance that saw them unlucky not to take at least a point back to Farnham.
MOTM : Steve Lee
After Aldershot Senior Cup action against Camberley Town at home on Tuesday night, the Town then face another team near the top of the Combined Counties League when they take on Raynes Park Vale at The Memorial Ground next Saturday.