After comfortably seeing off a toothless Knaphill side 3-0 at The Memorial Ground in midweek, Farnham travelled to Horley Town who had leapfrogged Knaphill into third place in the Combined Counties Premier Division South table, one place behind The Town.
With their sights on a ninth straight league win to start the 23/24 season, Paul Johnson’s side welcomed a new face to the squad prior to the game with the addition of Brandon Kalu. The left-back was part of the Northwood squad that narrowly missed out on promotion via the playoffs in the Isthmian South Central last season, and also played for Johnson at Bedfont Sports.
The addition of Kalu to the squad, it should ease the burden of the defensive injuries The Town have sustained in recent weeks with Jack Dean, Tom Smith and Josh Lelan all joining Guy Hollis on the sidelines. Fortunately, striker Shamal Edwards had recovered from his ankle injury to make the bench for the trip to Horley.
With the grass long and the rain falling down, Farnham started the game fast and were moving the ball well against a Horley side they beat 10 days ago 4-1 in the Premier Challenge Cup First Round and after 10 minutes they found themselves in the lead.
After breaking through down the left, Darryl Sanders squared a perfectly weighted ball across the face of goal, into the path of Adam Liddle who couldn’t miss from two yards out, tapping into an empty net.
It wouldn’t be long until Horley had a way back into the game. After being gifted a free kick outside the left corner of the box, the Horley player noticed Pat Nash had offered probably too much space at the near post and flighted his effort over the two-man wall and dipping down towards the bottom corner. Nash was able to get half a hand to it but not enough to keep it out and for the first time in the league this season, Farnham had been pegged back after taking the lead.
But the reaction from Farnham was excellent, and seven minutes later the lead was restored from a corner. Harry Cooksley delivered the ball from the right side into the middle of the box, it was met by Lewis Flatman whose glancing header found the far corner.
The conditions were starting to become more prevalent as the game went on as the overgrown, bobbly pitch, together with the flash showers made for an awkward surface that nearly gifted Farnham a third goal when a backpass to the Horley ‘keeper evaded his attempted touch and bounded towards the goal. Fortunately for the hosts, the ‘keeper was able to scramble back and clear it off the line before it crossed. It would be an eventful afternoon for George Hyde in the Horley net.
On 35 minutes, a loose back pass was latched onto by Adam Liddle who was able to skip round Hyde, but the ‘keeper clipped Liddle in the process and brought him down, giving the referee no option but to award a penalty and book Hyde for the challenge. Cooksley, who had scored three successive penalties for Farnham, stepped up to take the spot kick and made no mistakes, sending Hyde the wrong way to find the bottom left corner.
Horley remained a permanent threat on the counter attack all afternoon. When their back five was able to thwart the Farnham attack, they looked to move the forward quickly and directly into the channels, dragging either Michael Kinsella or Ryan Kinnane wide and out of position in a move to create space inside and around the box. They had a number of half chances approaching half time but were unable to really test Nash in goal.
In what’s become a bit of a staple in Farnham’s recent performances, they started the second half with the foot down, and Cooksley almost secured his brace on 50 minutes when his volley at the back post cannoned off the cross bar.
Around the hour mark, The Town continued to turn the screw and should really have put the game out of sight when Sanders picked the ball up in space and played in Liddle who telegraphed his shot into the bottom right corner in seek of his second of the afternoon, but Hyde got down well to turn it behind.
Five minutes later, it was Sanders again driving at the heart of the Horley defence. This time he slid Owen Dean through on goal, but his shot was right at the ‘keeper.
As we entered the final 10 minutes of the game, a moment of potential controversy in the eyes of the hosts helped The Town on the way to a fourth goal which sealed the win.
Max Meaton played a hopeful ball upfield towards Charlie Postance who flicked it on into the Horley half. Liddle, who was onside, started to make a run for the ball before backing away, prompting the linesman to flag him for offside but as he stopped his run and didn’t approach the ball, the referee allowed for play to continue.
While the Horley defence momentarily paused their runs, Sanders spotted the opportunity to run onto the loose ball unchallenged and into the box. Like Liddle in the first half, Sanders danced around Hyde and looked to pass it into the empty net, but the ‘keeper tripped up the Farnham #10 and again, a penalty was awarded and Hyde was shown a second yellow and sent for an early shower.
Cooksley again stepped up to take the spot kick and again, buried it into the bottom left corner, putting The Town three goals clear.
This handed Johnson the opportunity to reintroduce Shamal Edwards off the bench after he had missed the last four games with an ankle injury, and Edwards marked his return with a goal as the clock ticked to 90. Postance stabbed the ball forward into the path of Dean Rule, he headed it into the path of Edwards on the left of the box. Last season’s golden boot winner opened his body up and curled the ball into the top right corner and Farham now had five, which was how the game would end.
Nine wins from nine to start the league campaign, it couldn’t be going much better for Farnham who were met with the new at full time that Jersey Bulls had lost at home to AFC Croydon Athletic meaning the win at Horley sent Farnham back to the top of the Combined Counties Premier Division South table, with three games in hand over second-placed Jersey Bulls.