A Late Rally Only Just Fails To Gain A Point For 10 Man Farnham Town.
A strange game in what is turning out to be a very strange season indeed.
For a Farnham Town side still coming to terms with losing their manager this week, there was additional drama prior to kick off when goalkeeper James Ferguson popped his shoulder in the warm up, requiring Harvey Keogh to step in and make his debut.
In front of the debutant Keogh, the Town lined up in what appeared to be a, safety first, 4-5-1 formation with Ange Djadja coming in at right back and Jack French retaining his place in central midfield, despite the red card he received against Alton on Tuesday.
One of the pre-season favourites for promotion, Raynes Park Vale have also suffered a recent dip in form and, with neither side willing to commit players forward, the match was slow to come to life, with nothing of note happening in the opening 15 minutes.
However, slowly but surely, the home side began to take control of the match, pressing Farnham higher and higher up the pitch, denying the Town’s midfield trio any time or space on the ball and leaving forward Seb Karczewski an isolated figure up front.
It was inevitable that the pressure would tell and so it proved on 30 minutes when, having lost the ball near the centre circle, Farnham were forced onto the back foot, with Chris Ellis hurried into an unnecessary challenge that drew a foul for a stonewall penalty.
Coolly despatched by Dan Moody, it gave the hosts a deserved lead, which would be doubled in spectacular fashion two minutes later.
There seemed to be little to be worried about when Liam Pestle looked to play the ball out of defence and, even as his misplaced pass was intercepted by Moody pretty much in his own half, most spectators remained unconcerned by what might happen next.
Moody, however, had other ideas.
Looking up, he spotted Farnham ‘keeper Keogh slightly off his line. Taking aim, he chipped the ball forward, and, with Keogh frantically back pedalling, watched his shot arc perfectly under the crossbar to give him his second goal of the game.
Farnham finally created a chance of their own after 37 minutes, and, even if against the run of play, it should have been converted.
Some neat combination passing by Sean Swift and Owen Dean down the right hand side eventually led to an accurate cross that picked out Karczewski unmarked at the far post. On another day he would have buried it, but here he unfortunately got his angles all wrong and his misplaced header failed to even trouble the ‘keeper.
Hoping to regain the initiative, the Town made half time substitutions that saw French and Karczewski replaced by George Mulonda and Jamie Hoppitt, but, whatever their instructions were, the tactical changes were made completely irrelevant when Hoppitt was shown a straight red for what was, in fact, a second bad foul within eight minutes of coming on.
For the second successive match, the Town were down to ten men.
And, bizarrely, for the second successive match, they seemed to play better as a result!
It helped that Raynes Park Vale couldn’t decide whether to ‘stick or twist’.
With the Town seemingly there for the taking, the home side appeared reluctant to press home their advantage and, despite having the extra man, would fail to force the Farnham keeper into making a save for the rest of the match.
In fact, after Chris Ellis had halved the deficit by nodding home a Tom Smith corner with five minutes remaining, the home side would end this strange encounter hanging on and playing for time, picking up a last minute red card of their own for timewasting.
The Town now face three consecutive games on the road, with next Saturday’s league fixture at high-flying Knaphill ‘bookended’ by Tuesday night cup ties at Camberley Town and Ashford Town. Here’s hoping for a change in Farnham’s fortunes!
MOTM : Chris Ellis