Farnham Town’s start to the league season had become a bit of a procession as they sat second in the table, six wins from six and four games in hand over the leaders Jersey Bulls before they welcomed Tadley Calleva to The Memorial Ground for what was The Town’s first home league game for 53 days.
In the last few weeks, Paul Johnson’s side has well and truly been hit by the injury bug, with two more casualties coming out of last week’s 3-1 away win at Fleet Town as both Shamal Edwards and Jack Dean suffered nasty looking ankle sprains. Edwards’ definitely the less severe of the two with hopes that he can return later this month but for Jack he could miss the rest of the loaded October schedule, leaving Farnham light on cover at the back with Guy Hollis and Tom Smith both also sidelined.
The injuries presented an opportunity for Joe Goddard to be involved in the matchday squad for a league game for the very first time. The 16-year-old left back earned Player of the Match honours in the 4-1 Premier Challenge Cup win over Horley Town on Tuesday night and was rewarded with a call-up back into the senior squad this afternoon.
With respect to the other six teams Farnham have played so far this season, Tadley Calleva presented possibly The Town’s biggest test of the league campaign so far with all of Farnham’s other opponents all sitting in the bottom half, with the exception of Balham who were eighth entering the weekend having played up to four games more than most of the teams around them.
In a first half which didn’t have many opportunities for either side, Farnham thought they could have had a penalty less than two minutes into the game when Lamar Koroma was bundled over on the edge of the box, but the protests were waves away by the referee and perhaps rightly so as it appears Koroma possibly made the most of the contact.
Tadley had the first decent opportunity of the came when the ball was crossed into the middle of the box, controlled well by a Tadley defender who made their way forward. He swivelled and shot, but it was dragged wide of the near post.
Farnham came streaming forward with a counter attack of their own, lead by Darryl Sanders who was excellent on the day, he slid in Adam Liddle in the right channel, the striker carried it into the box and looked to find the far corner but scuffed his shot into the ground and into the arms of the goalkeeper.
The injury crisis worsened after just 18 minutes when Josh Lelan pulled up with a hamstring injury. A natural centre-back by trade, Lelan was filling in at left-back as cover for the injured Tom Smith, but now found himself sidelined with Michael Kinsella coming on to replace him, slotting in at centre-back next to Ryan Kinnane with Joe Jackson, a central midfielder who was covering in the heart of the defence, shifting over to the left side.
Another ball in from the left side, this time from a free kick, presented Tadley with another sight of goal. After a bit of pinball in the box, the ball fell nicely to a Tadley player, but the connection on the strike wasn’t quite there and Nash was able to fall on the ball before it trickled in.
Undoubtedly the best chance of the game was midway through the first half when Liddle did incredibly well to evade multiple challenges on the left side of the box, getting to the byline and cutting it back across the face of goal. Having just come on, Michael Kinsella was there charging in and stretched out his leg to try and poke it home but his effort skewed just over the bar.
Tadley themselves would’ve been questioning why they perhaps weren’t in the lead going into the break when they got in behind down the right side. The ball was fizzed across the face of goal, Nash managed to parry it away from the Tadley striker but it eventually fell to former Town midfielder Jack French on the penalty spot with the goal at his mercy, but was leaning back when he shot and spooned his effort narrowly over the bar.
Right before the break, Harry Cooksley lost the ball midway in the Farnham half allowing the striker to run at goal, but Kinsella was there to come across and match a last-ditch challenge to deny what looked to be a certain goal.
The Town came out for the second half like they’d had a fire lit under them, showing a renewed sense of purpose and precision moving forward and Tadley were unable to cope with the pace and movement of Farnham’s attacks. Less than two minutes after the restart, Farnham broke the deadlock when Liddle played in Sanders in acres of space on the edge of the box. He composed himself and found the bottom corner, sending the 595 fans in attendance into raptures.
Sanders came agonisingly close to doubling the lead just three minutes later when he picked up the ball on the right side of the box, wriggled through two defenders and took aim for the far corner. It cannoned off the inside of the post, rolled across the face of goal but never crossed before the ‘keeper reclaimed possession.
Farnham’s pressure would prove fatal however as after 55 minutes, the lead was doubled and it was Sanders again landing the crucial blow. The ball was moved out wide to Max Meaton, he delivered the cross into the box which was brought down by Sanders and again, with no challengers around him, was able to take his time and pick his spot, slotting it into the same corner he put the first.
With a two goal cushion, The Town began to really express themselves and Lewis Flatman nearly got in on the act when he received a quick reverse pass from Sanders in the box. He took a touch and aimed for the far corner but the ‘keeper did awfully well to tip it away.
As the clock ticked past the hour mark, the game was put beyond doubt with a moment to forget for the Tadley ‘keeper, who actually had an excellent game aside from this. Flatman spotted the ‘keeper off his line and struck a first time volley from just inside the visitor’s half. It was swirling and moving in the air, but was not on target, and the ‘keeper attempted to catch the ball around the penalty spot but it’s cannoned off his shoulder and into the net for The Town’s third.
Substitute Charlie Postance, fresh off a brace in the midweek cup win over Horley, nearly grabbed his sixth league goal of the season and eighth in all competitions when he let fly from 25 yards, but the ‘keeper pulled off a fine diving save to deny him.
Farnham did complete the win when Kai Tanner launched a clearance towards midfield what was expertly controlled by Liddle. He turned his challenger and played it back into the middle for Tanner who was streaming forward unopposed. He strode into the box and clipped the ball over the ‘keeper for the fourth, which would be how the game would end.
Johnson’s side made it seven wins from seven to start the league campaign and secured their spot second in the table four points behind leaders Jersey Bulls with four games in hand. A huge test ahead as The Town welcomes third-placed Knaphill, the only other undefeated side in the league, to The Memorial Ground on Tuesday evening.