Coming off less than 72 hours rest after Wednesday night’ Emirates FA Cup First Round Qualifying win over Flackwell Heath, The Town were back in action on a sweltering Saturday afternoon at the Eastwood Leisure Centre, taking on Sheerwater.
This fixture last season was the first away game for Paul Johnson and Jimmy Hibburt after stepping into the dugout at Farnham Town, securing an injury-time 3-2 win over their hosts which would start a run of 14 successive away league games without defeat entering this game.
With there being such a short turnaround time, Johnson was forced to make a number of changes to the side from the win over Flackwell Heath. Left-back Tom Smith was away so Max Meaton moved over to left-back, with Michael Kinsella dropping out of the side and Joe Jackson dropping into the back four from his regular midfield role. Harry Cooksley would come into the midfield in his place.
Both Ricky Wellard and Darryl Sanders had recovered from their respective injuries enough to make the bench, but their playing time would be monitored. Adam Liddle was serving the last match of his suspension which carried over from his time at Hayes and Yeading.
Sheerwater narrowly avoided relegation last season but put together a nice run towards the end of the campaign to beat the drop but came into the game with just four points from 15 available.
As you would expect and as has been the case throughout the season so far, Farnham would dominate possession early and often as they looked to manoeuvre openings and create opportunities to score, and it was after 12 minutes when Owen Dean was driving into the box before being taken down from behind by his challenger, allowing Harry Cooksley the opportunity to open the scoring from the penalty spot. He calmly strode up to the ball and stroked it into the bottom left-hand corner and The Town had the lead.
Just three minutes later and Farnham had doubled their lead. The Town moved the ball neatly around midfield before making its way out to the right to Dean Rule who slipped in Jack Dean on the overlap. His flighted cross found Charlie Postance six yards from goal, and he made no mistake with the header, guiding it into the top left corner and Farnham were two to the good. That would be Postance’s fifth league goal in as many games, with all of the other four coming off the bench.
Johnson said after the game that his side came away from the game knowing they should’ve netted probably double the amount they did in the end, and Postance nearly secured his brace after 21 minutes when his low effort was tipped around the near post. The resulting corner found Jack Dean at the back post; he headed across the face of goal, but Shamal Edwards couldn’t quite get on the end of it to nod into the net.
Edwards would have another chance with his head to make it 3-0 when Cooksley clipped the ball into the left-wing for Max Meaton who skipped past his challenger to deliver an excellent cross to the unmarked Edwards, but he was unable to guide his header on target. He would have another opportunity shortly after when he himself evaded two defenders on the left edge of the box before dragging his shot into the side netting.
Sheerwater didn’t have a great amount of the ball in the September sunshine but when they did, they weren’t afraid to commit players forward in search of a goal. Their best chance came when a cross came in from the right-wing and met by the striker who attempted a bicycle kick volley and caught it flush, but Pat Nash made an excellent diving reaction save to keep it out.
Just before the interval, Farnham carved out a clear-cut opportunity to extend their lead when Owen Dean whipped the ball in low across the face of goal. Dean Rule had a stab at it first and couldn’t score but it made its way through to Charlie Postance at the back post. He can’t get the best connection on the ball, and it ricochets off a retreating defender off the line and into the grateful arms of the Sheerwater goalkeeper.
The hosts opened the second half with an excellent opportunity to drag themselves back into the game when a deep free kick was launched into the box. One of the centre-backs who was sent forward had a free header at the back post and nodded it back across goal looking for someone to sweep it home, but it evaded both the goal and the players and went out for a goal kick.
Perhaps that gave Farnham the reality check they needed to go and really put the game to bed as they went immediately onto the front foot. First, Postance was denied low to the ‘keepers right by an outstretched hand before Owen Dean burst into the box and looked to score, his shot was deflected into the air and towards the net with Edwards rushing in to nod it home, but a defender got there just before and beat him to the ball, taking a serious whack on the head in the process and was forced to be taken off with what looked to be a nasty cut on the back of his head.
Just 12 minutes into the second half and Farnham did find their third. Cooksley drove forward with purpose and laid it off to Dean Rule who quickly passed it into Postance who acted as an excellent pivot for attacks all game. He squared it across the box back to Cooksley who shifted it onto his left and let fly into the bottom right corner. The result at this point was a foregone conclusion but The Town were hungry for goals.
Looking to save legs in the 32-degree heat, Dean Rule was replaced by Kai Tanner who immediately made an impact when he intercepted a pass around the halfway line and drove forward. The ball would find its way to Edwards on the left wing who cut it back for Cooksley looking for his hat-trick goal. His shot deflected off Postance and into the path of Max Meaton who kept it alive on the byline, his cutback was cleared into the path of Edwards who thumped it into the roof of the net.
Farnham had already recorded three 4-0 wins this season across all competitions including two in the league, so would be hoping to go one better but throughout the remainder of the second half it just had an inevitable feeling about it that they would be unable to do so.
Introduced in the second half, Matthew Surmon did well to win the ball high up the pitch and played it into Edwards looking for his second goal. He shifted it onto his right and drilled a shot right at the ‘keeper who tipped it over.
Perhaps the easiest chance would come next when Owen Dean crossed the ball in for his former Farnham youth teammate Kai Tanner who horribly mistimed his finish and from two yards out managed to kick the ball into the ground and over the bar when it looked almost impossible not to score.
As they had done all afternoon, the Dean brothers linked up well down the right wing and this time it was Jack who would shoot. His effort was parried into the path of Owen, but his half volley skewed over the bar.
It took until stoppage time, but the fifth goal did finally come. Jack Dean looked to play the ball inside to Owen on the right, it took a deflection and found its way into the box into Edwards who turned his defender to finish into the bottom right corner, making it five, which is how it would end.
The result would be Farnham’s biggest margin of victory of the season and the biggest margin of victory for Johnson & Hibburt since they took charge at the Club last November, also extending their unbeaten away league run to 15 in the process.
Farnham Town would now return home for the first time in three weeks and bring FA Cup fever with them as they welcome unbeaten Step 3 side Chesham United to The Memorial Ground on Saturday, September 16th for the Second Round Qualifying.