As October comes to a close, Farnham Town remain the only team in the country still boasting a 100% league record, with 11 wins from their 11 games in the Combined Counties Premier Division South. This run of form has seen The Town develop a slight cushion at the top of the table, holding a four point lead over Jersey Bulls with three games in hand on their title challengers as they travelled to Bottom Meadow to take on an improving Sandhurst Town side.
After a rocky start to the season, including a 4-0 defeat to Farnham back in August, Sandhurst were riding the crest of a wave heading into this one, with five successive wins across all competitions and fancied themselves to cause a huge upset amid the testing weather conditions.
Bottom Meadow is also the home of Step 3 side Bracknell Town, and the game represented the opportunity for a handful of our squad to return to familiar pastures. Injured right-back Jack Dean and attacking midfielder Darryl Sanders both starred at Bracknell last season, along with centre-back Guy Hollis who was making his first competitive start for Farnham on this wet Halloween evening in place of Michael Kinsella. The only other change from Saturday’s win over Epsom & Ewell saw Owen Dean come into the attack for Lewis Flatman.
In conditions which could only be described as monsoon like, Farnham, who had changed shape from their usual 4-2-2-2 to a 4-3-3 for this game, got off to a slow start as they got to grips with the artificial pitch and slick floor, but broke the deadlock before the 10 minute mark.
After some good possession in midfield, Darryl Sanders moved the ball wide to the right and found Max Meaton in space. The right-back drove towards the byline and cut the ball back into the box. It was half-cleared to the edge of the box into the path of Sanders whose low, first-time effort made it’s way through the bodies and under the ‘keeper, who was perhaps a bit unsighted as the shot was made.
The goal didn’t dishearten the hosts as they began to get on the ball themselves, moving it with intent, but found themselves two goals down half way into the first period.
A Harry Cooksley corner wasn’t dealt with well by the Sandhurst defence. It fell to Guy Hollis whose first shot was blocked, but the second one was on target angling into the bottom corner. The ‘keeper got across to parry it away but Shamal Edwards was alive to it and turned it home from five yards out to make it 2-0 to The Town.
Again though, the young Sandhurst side continued to stride forward with purpose, and pulled a goal back just after the half hour mark, albeit courtesy of a huge slice of luck. The No.7 for Sandhurst, Haydon Vaughan, was a perennial thorn in Farnham’s side and his shot from distance took a wicked deflection off Ryan Kinnane, wrong-footing Pat Nash and bounced into the corner of the goal.
With conditions continuing to worsen, controlling the ball and playing teammates into space became significantly more challenging, and the referee was certainly not afraid to give soft fouls and award soft cards. Both Owen Dean and Shamal Edwards were booked for what could only be defined as soft, innocuous fouls before the whistle went for half-time.
Sandhurst started brightest after the restart and got themselves back on level terms after just five minutes of the second period. A slack pass into midfield wasn’t controlled well by Sanders, allowing Harris to pounce on the loose ball. He played it into the striker, Sani, who turned and let fly from the edge of the box. Nash was able to get half a hand to it but was unable to stop it finding the top corner and for the first time in the league this season, Farnham had conceded twice, and it was also the first time they had been pegged back to level terms after taking the lead.
Paul Johnson then made a double change, introducing Lewis Flatman and Charlie Postance for Owen Dean and Shamal Edwards, reverting back to the 4-2-2-2 which had served the team so well, looking to reinvigorate the side, but it would be a set piece which provide Farnham’s best opportunity to retake the lead.
Just after the hour mark, another Cooksley corner found a Farnham head. This time it was Ryan Kinnane who leapt highest and his header looked destined for the net, but a Sandhurst defender managed to get back onto the line and head over the bar for another corner. Cooksley delivered another great ball in and it was the other centre-back, Hollis, who looked to score, but his attempt was right at the ‘keeper.
As the game went on, Sandhurst began to drop deeper and deeper, allowing for the likes of Cooksley and Sanders to get on the ball and dictate the play. Fresh off his hat-trick on Saturday, Sanders was keen to make it a brace on Halloween when he picked the ball up 25 yards from goal on 77 minutes, but his well-struck effort was pulled narrowly wide of the near post.
Four minutes later, Sanders would have his head in his hands after failing to turn home a cross from Adam Liddle into an empty net and it appeared as if Farnham wouldn’t be able to snatch a winner as the rain continued to fall.
With the minutes ticking by, Sandhurst appeared to look increasingly content with taking a point from the game, especially when they were pumping training balls onto the pitch for use when official match balls would be kicked out of play, resulting in delays in play allowing their team to reset.
The never-say-die attitude of this Farnham side came to fruition two minutes from time when Cooksley fired the ball into Sanders who turned his challenger with ease. He drove with purpose before sliding in Joe Jackson to his right. Jackson then cut the ball back behind the defenders into Sanders who struck it first time direct at the ‘keeper who couldn’t keep the shot out, deflecting it into the side netting.
A never-ending period of injury time followed as the over-involved referee looked to stop the game at every opportunity he could, but as we closed in on the 100 minute mark, the whistle went and The Town would leave with the three points in tact.
Johnson’s side advance to 12 wins from 12 to start the league campaign and extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points with two games in hand over Jersey Bulls as attentions switch to the visit of Spelthorne Sports on the weekend.