On August Bank Holiday Monday, fresh off of a grueling FA Vase encounter with AFC Stoneham less than 48 hours prior, Farnham Town were back in action again. This time, making the small trip down the A31 to local rivals Alton in league action.
As you would expect with such a short turnaround between games, manager Paul Johnson made a number of changes from the team that progressed in the FA Vase the previous Saturday.
Max Meaton returned to the defence in place of Michael Kinsella after serving his one-match suspension. The forward line was rotated in full with Owen Dean and Lewis Flatman replacing Shamal Edwards and Charlie Postance, and Lamar Koroma came into the side for Dean Rule, with Joe Jackson moving into an advanced role.
Alton have had a poor start to the season themselves, picking up one point from their first two league games, being knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup by league rivals Tadley Calleva, but a comprehensive win in the FA Vase on the weekend offered the hosts a renewed sense of confidence going into this derby game.
In what has become second nature so far this season, Farnham would dominate the ball early and often, looking to carve out goalscoring opportunities, but in the first half they were few and far between. Koroma’s early effort dragged wide of the post the best of the opening exchanges.
As the half drew on, Darryl Sanders began to grow into the game and would have The Town’s best chances of the first half. First, after evading several challenges on the edge of the Alton box sent a curling effort goalwards which was well held.
Sanders then found himself on the end of an excellent Farnham move, but sent the shot narrowly over the bar. Finally, he rose highest at the back post to head Harry Cooksley’s cross but it fell narrowly wide of the back post.
In the second half, Farnham came out with a lot more urgency and purpose in their attacks, just like they did on Saturday against AFC Stoneham. And just like they did two days prior, they took the lead just 10 minutes into the second half.
Sanders picked up the ball on the left channel, jinked past a few challenges and squared across the face of the box for Cooksley who let fly a first-time driven shot from 25 yards which simply had too much pace and power for the Alton ‘keeper who couldn’t cover his ground quick enough, and The Town were into the lead. That would be Cooksley’s third goal in the space of six days having scored from the spot in each of our last two games.
Now chasing the game, Alton opened themselves up a little bit more as they went searching for an equaliser, and that only left more space for the likes of Sanders. His driving runs at the back four became a theme of the second half, and Farnham nearly doubled their lead when he slid in Flatman, but his prodded shot was well saved.
The woodwork would then come between Johnson’s side and a two goal cushion as Flatman’s low cross from the left-wing was deflected by the outstretched leg of an Alton defender and onto the post, but thankfully for the hosts, no one was alive to the rebound.
At 1-0, the lead always remained fragile and it could be wiped away with just one clinical finish. Farnham probably feared the worst when Meaton was sucked in touch-tight with an Alton forward only to be beaten by an unlucky rebound which saw the attacker through on goal. Fortunately for Farnham, they dithered over the ball as they entered the box, and Ryan Kinnane was able to step across and make the block.
Introduced as a second half sub, Shamal Edwards could have put the result beyond doubt when Sanders slid the pacey striker through in the right channel. Edwards’ first touch probably took him too far wide of the goal, narrowing the angle, and his shot was well saved.
Sanders again would turn creator for Edwards in search for a second. His clipped cross found Edwards in the box who rose above the ‘keeper to send a looping header towards the goal. He somehow got onto the end of his own header, but the finish went into the side netting.
As we edged into stoppage time, the second goal did finally come for Farnham as two more second half substitutes made an impact off the bench. Tom Smith knocked the ball down the line for Dean Rule who isolated his defender one-on-one. His trickery proved two much as he left the defender in his wake, squaring for Charlie Postance who couldn’t miss from two yards out, sealing the win.
That would make it four successive substitute appearances in the league for Postance, scoring in every single one. Talk about making an impact from the bench.
It would finish 2-0 to Farnham at The Exclusive Networks Stadium in the A31 Derby, but it came at a cost. Lewis Flatman suffered what could be a long term calf injury. Darryl Sanders was withdrawn late in the second half with a groin niggle, and Ricky Wellard couldn’t make it off the bench after aggravating a hamstring issue during the half-time warm up.
Next up for Farnham is a trip to Flackwell Heath of the Premier Division North in the Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round the coming Saturday.