With respect to our previous opponents, Farnham were perhaps presented with their first big test of the 23/24 league campaign when Knaphill arrived at The Memorial Ground.
The visitors were the only other unbeaten side left standing in the Combined Counties Premier Division South, along with Farnham, with six wins and a draw form their seven games played – two points behind The Town in third place and also with four games in hand over the leaders Jersey Bulls.
Paul Johnson and Jimmy Hibburt are still dealing with a slew of injuries, especially defensively. Jack Dean, Tom Smith, Guy Hollis and Josh Lelan all remain sidelined for the next few weeks minimum with their respective injuries, while top scorer Shamal Edwards is also unavailable with an ankle injury. Teenager Joe Goddard was again called up to the matchday squad.
Farnham themselves were riding a run of seven successive league wins to start the campaign, and 13 wins across all competitions in 14 games in 2023/24, with their only defeat coming at the hands of high-flying Chesham United of the Southern League Premier Division South in Step 3.
A bumper crowd of well over 400 people were in attendance at The Memorial Ground with a further 250+ tuning in on YouTube to our live stream for this clash between second and third in the table, and the first half got off to a slow start with neither side really establishing a grip on the game.
Knaphill came with a game plan to press high, work hard, fight for the second balls and really frustrate Farnham who had been free-scoring to this point, with 48 goals in those 14 games played, and to their credit it was working in the opening exchanges.
Farnham were beginning to turn the screw as the intense Knaphill press began to waver after the first 10 or so minutes and Adam Liddle had the first real sight of goal as he picked up the ball from Joe Jackson left of centre around 20 yards out but his effort didn’t quite have enough curl on it to bend inside the far post.
Shortly after, a misjudged header from a long Max Meaton pass presented Darryl Sanders with time and space inside the box to pick out a teammate. His attempted volleyed cross was half cleared to the edge of the box to Lewis Flatman, but his left-footed strike cannoned off the chest of a Knaphill defender and eventually cleared upfield.
After weathering that short storm, Knaphill began to move the ball around nicely themselves and will be kicking themselves for not taking the lead in this one. With some quick one-touch play down the left, the ball fell to ex-Farnham midfielder Sean Swift who evaded the lunging challenge of Michael Kinsella and drove into the box looking to shoot.
His effort was initially blocked by Ryan Kinnane before hooking it back in towards the back post where the Knaphill right-back was charging in, uncontested. Fortunately for Farnham, he lacked the technique and the composure to guide the ball into the net with the goal at his mercy. This would be the closest Knaphill would come to a goal all evening.
Having been let off the hook, Farnham immediately upped the tempo and looked to make their unbeaten visitors pay. On 18 minutes, Farnham moved the ball nicely around the back until Kinnane popped the ball into Sanders on the halfway line. He turned upfield and popped the ball into Charlie Postance coming deep who immediately returned it to Sanders for a one-two. Sanders then played a first-time pass into Liddle, turning it round the corner back into Sanders who rilled the ball through the Knaphill defence into space for Meaton to deliver another first-time pass, this time a ball across the face of goal into the path of Lewis Flatman who tapped home for his fourth goal of the season. It was a team move worthy of the Premier League seen at the ninth tier of English football.
From this point on, only one team looked like they would go on and win the game. Sanders, having been instrumental in the opener, could’ve bagged himself when he nicked the ball off a Knaphill midfielder and drove at the defence, shifting it wide of the centre-back and shooting with venom, but the ‘keeper was equal to it.
The visitors nearly turned the ball into their own net shortly after when another dangerous cross from Meaton was headed awkwardly into the ground by a defender and angling towards the top corner of their own net, tipped over for a corner which was subsequently dealt with.
With just minutes to go before half time, Farnham surely had thought they’d doubled their lead after another excellent move, this time down the left-hand side which ended with Joe Jackson crossing back towards the edge of the box for Flatman who took aim with a first-time volley back across goal, only to be denied by a truly superb reflex diving stop from the ‘keeper, and The Town would go into the interval a goal to the good.
Just like they did on Saturday in the win over Tadley Calleva, Farnham came out of the traps in the second half fast and shortly before the hour mark had found a deserved second goal. This time is was a short corner from Harry Cooksley into Sanders in the box, he swivelled and jinked past two Knaphill defenders, leaving them in his wake as he cut it back for Kinnane who guided the ball into the roof of the net.
Now in possession of a two-goal advantage, Farnham looked to really put the game to bed as they countered again with a three on two. Postance created the angle for a shot himself which was spilled into the path of Sanders. His prodded effort rebounded back out to Flatman, who then attempted a similar volley to the one that was saved at the end of the first half and again, the ‘keeper got his left hand to it to parry over.
On 70 minutes, Farnham did find the third after Sanders slide in Flatman, his shot was saved and half-cleared to Liddle at the edge of the box who volleyed with power at goal. It took a deflection on it’s way in but they all count the same. Farnham were 3-0 up against the only other team yet to lose in the division and it looked rather comfortable throughout.
Both sides had a couple of half chances thereafter but as a contest it was well and truly over once that third goal went in. It would finish 3-0 to The town who extend their unbeaten run in the league this season to eight games, winning all eight, however dating back to last season, Farnham are now 18 league games unbeaten.
Next up is a trip to Horley Town who now occupy third in the table, but succumbed to a 4-1 defeat to Farnham just a week ago in the Premier Challenge Cup First Round.