Having started the season with three successive 4-0 victories, there was an undeniable feel-good factor around the team heading into their Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round tie with Crowborough Athletic.
The visitors were not to be underestimated. Like Farnham, Crowborough arrive at The Memorial Ground riding a four-game unbeaten run of their own, scoring 11 goals in the process.
After already losing club captain Guy Hollis to a knee injury, manager Paul Johnson also saw his next most experienced player sidelined for a couple of weeks on Tuesday evening as Ricky Wellard sustained a hamstring injury in the win over Sandhurst Town.
Lamin Ceesay also departed the Club to join local rivals Badshot Lea, but The Town have welcomed back Kai Tanner in his place. Tanner, son of Director Paul, came through the youth system at Farnham Town before moving on to Sutton United’s academy.
With a buoyant and expectant crowd at The Memorial Ground, it was the visitors who started brightest, and after nine minutes they had worked an opening through the previously impenetrable Farnham defence, only for Max Meaton, filling in at left-back for Tom Smith who was nursing a calf strain, to bring down the striker as the last man as he was bearing down on goal, leaving the referee with no option but to send Meaton for an early shower and Farnham were down to 10 men.
From this point on, however, the game was a relative non-contest. The Town rallied well despite their man disadvantage in numbers, and 10 minutes after the sending off they took the lead when Lewis Flatman playing in Dean Rule who took a touch to compose himself on the edge of the box and bent his shot into the far corner, handing Farnham a 1-0 lead.
Farnham would repeatedly test the Crowborough goalkeeper in search of a second, and came the width of the bar away from doubling their advantage when Darryl Sanders’ curling long-range effort rattled the woodwork.
Searching for that second goal, The Town thought they had made the breakthrough when a low cross was fizzed across the face of goal and bundled into their own net but a Crowborough defender, but the linesman on the far side had judged that Flatman interfered with play from an offside position in the lead up to the own goal, striking it from the scoreboard, and that’s how it would remain going into half time.
Johnson made a number of changes for this tie from the previous two games where he named an unchanged side for the wins over Balham and Sandhurst Town, including handing first starts of the season to Michael Kinsella, Lamar Koroma and Charlie Postance, however the latter was unfortunately withdrawn in the first half following the red card, with Tom Smith coming on to slot in at left-back, and it was great to see the full depth of the squad on show in a tough situation.
A quiet second half was handed a scare just after the hour mark when The Town were handed a free kick roughly 30 yards from goal. Harry Cooksley, introduced earlier in the half, took aim and his shot rebounded back off the post into the danger area. Dean Rule was first on the scene and after his initial volleyed effort was cleared off the line, he reacted fastest to the rebound to strike the ball into the roof of the net, handing Farnham the two-goal cushion they were so desperate for.
Looking to now run down the clock, Farnham dictated the tempo of the game from there on out, but were handed a scare with 12 minutes to go when Cooksley’s under hit back pass was latched onto by the Crowborough striker. They evaded the challenge of Pat Nash in goal and with the empty net at their mercy, the striker’s rash finish cleared the bar and Cooksley was spared his blushes.
That was as close as either team would come to a third goal of the game as The Town booked their place in the hat for the Emirates FA Cup First Round Qualifying for the first time in eight seasons.
The resulting draw which took place on the following Monday saw Farnham handed an away draw at Flackwell Heath, a fellow Step 5 side in the Combined Counties Premier Division North. The tie is due to take place at 3PM on Saturday, September 2nd 2023.