After an early finish to the original scheduled meeting between Flackwell Heath and Farnham Town, a return to Wilks Park on a Wednesday evening would be the setting to decide who would advance to the Second Round Qualifying of the Emirates FA Cup.
Four days prior, the two teams squared off on a sunny Saturday afternoon and were embroiled in a feisty and competitive Cup tie which was curtailed 20 minutes into the second half with The Town 2-1 up when a Flackwell Heath player suffered a panic attack related to their asthma condition which required medical attention and was taken to hospital, resulting in the hosts requesting the game be abandoned as they weren’t in a fit state of mind to continue playing.
Thankfully, the player in question received excellent medical attention both on the field and at hospital and was later discharged the same evening and is recovering well. Both Clubs agreed to donate all the gate receipts from the rearranged game to Asthma & Lung UK charity in wake of Saturday’s events.
Farnham Town had been dealing with several injuries coming into this tie. Striker Lewis Flatman remains sidelined with a calf injury. Midfielder Ricky Wellard has a hamstring strain. Attacking midfielder Darryl Sanders is nursing a groin problem and defender Guy Hollis remains a long-term absentee. New signing Adam Liddle has a two-game suspension carrying over from his time at Hayes & Yeading and was unavailable for selection.
The rearranged game on short notice also presented problems regarding availability for some players, namely Max Meaton who had been a regular at the heart of the defence was unable to play, seeing Michael Kinsella step into the back four in his place. Harry Cooksley was the only other player who had started on Saturday to drop out of the side and onto the bench, with Charlie Postance coming into the attack.
In the early exchanges, Farnham definitely were sluggish out of the blocks and Flackwell Heath enjoyed the best of the chances to open the game, with Pat Nash being tested early low at his near post making an excellent save to deny the hosts.
Paul Johnson’s side then found their feet and grew into the game, and were left scratching their heads at how they hadn’t taken the lead when Shamal Edwards found some space in the left channel, drilling his shot towards the opposite corner. The ‘keeper made an excellent low save but could only parry the ball into the path of Owen Dean six yards from goal, but a defender managed to just get an outstretched foot to the ball, forcing Dean to miss-time his finish which skewed wide with an open goal in front of him.
Somehow, that wouldn’t be the closest Farnham would come to scoring. Owen Dean, who was a threat all night, delivered a cross into Charlie Postance whose first-time shot was kept out initially. He reacted fasted to the rebound to swivel and shoot, it beat the ‘keeper but was cleared off the line by a retreating defender back into his path, letting fly on another shot this time beaten away by the ‘keeper.
As has become a trait of Farnham this season, Ryan Kinnane looked to drop a ball in over the top for Shamal Edwards on the left channel and did so successfully. Edwards span his man and drove into space before delivering a terrific cross into Postance running onto it to direct a first-time header in at the near post, but the ‘keeper’s outstretched right arm somehow kept it out, although I don’t think he knew much about it.
As is often the case in football, The Town would rue the chances they missed as Flackwell Heath would take the lead shortly after. A clipped ball round the corner was smothered at first by Nash in goal, who took the striker with him, leaving him on the floor behind him. Flackwell Heath picked up the loose ball in the right channel as Nash back-pedalled into his goal, however he tripped over the striker on the floor and the ball was squared into the box and finished into the bottom corner. For the first time this season, Farnham Town would trail in a game.
Johnson would be looking for a reaction from his side and he got one soon after the restart. With possession on the right wing, Jack Dean would play a simple pass inside to his brother, Owen, who would carry the ball 20 yards, weaving between three defenders before drilling the ball into the far left corner from the edge of the box, pulling Farnham back onto level terms.
Now into first half injury time, Farnham would take the lead, restoring the 2-1 advantage they had when the initial fixture was abandoned back on Saturday. Owen Dean again at the heart of the move, dribbling through the midfield before attempting a one-two with Postance, the ball would ricochet off a defender into the path of Shamal Edwards in acres of space whose first-time curling finish found the bottom corner, and that would be how the score would remain at the break.
Farnham would look to dominate possession and take the string out of the game in the second half while also prying for a third, and they came close when Lamar Koroma picked up the ball from just inside the Flackwell Heath half, dribbling around four challengers until he reached the edge of the box where he shifted the ball and looked to rifle a right-footed effort into the top corner which was fell just the wrong side of the post.
Flackwell Heath wouldn’t really trouble the Farnham goal in the second half, but nearly engineered an excellent opportunity when a clipped ball evaded the head of Tom Smith at left-back, presenting an opportunity to cross. It was squared into the box begging to be shot but a brilliant challenge from Michael Kinsella denied the opportunity to really test Nash in goal.
Introduced as a second half substitute, Kai Tanner looked dangerous going forward, picking up the ball in space and asking questions of the Flackwell Heath defence, and he came agonisingly close to sealing the win when he beat the offside trap to bring down a long pass from Jack Dean. He controlled it well and looked to lob the ‘keeper, and time seemed to stand still as the players and crowd waited with baited breath for the ball to come back down towards the goal. Unfortunately for Farnham, it would crash onto the bar and go behind.
The hosts were presented with one final opportunity to grab an equaliser and take the tie to a replay in the dying embers when they had a free kick just inside the right-hand touchline deep in the Farnham half, sending everyone forward including the goalkeeper. It was launched into the box and Nash rose excellent to claim the ball, and that would be the game.
Unfortunately, after being swept up in the fierceness of the game and with the knowledge that the game was now out of reach, the Flackwell Heath goalkeeper would trample over Pat Nash on the floor while he was protecting the ball before running back to his goal, punching Kai Tanner on the way, leaving the referee no option but to send him off for serious foul play.
The full-time whistle would sound shortly after as Farnham Town booked their place in the Second Round Qualifying of the FA Cup for only the second time in their history, much to the dismay of the Flackwell Heath players and management who launched a wave of verbal abuse towards the Farnham players, management, committee and our independent video team, making it a really bitter end to what was a thrilling Cup tie.
As a result of their win, Farnham Town are rewarded with a home tie against high-flying Chesham United of the Southern League Premier South on Saturday, September 16th.