The weather and cup commitments had yet again halted The Town’s league progress, arriving at Barlow’s Park having not played a league game in over three weeks since Friday, November 24th when they welcomed Alton to The Memorial Ground.
Paul Johnson’s side have seen their last two scheduled league games postponed due to waterlogged pitches, however they did progress in the FA Vase to the Fourth Round for only the second time in Club history with a 6-0 win over Burnham, but they come into this game following a defeat last time out for only the second time this season after a heavily rotated side was edged out in a nine-goal thriller 5-4 in the Premier Challenge Cup against Rayners Lane – the leaders of the Combined Counties Premier North.
A fresh wave of injuries hit the squad in the aftermath of the defeat to Rayners Lane, with both Max Meaton and Joe Jackson suffering nasty impact injuries which saw the Town end the game with only 10 men. While Jackson was able to recover enough to start at Tadley, Meaton remains sidelined with a knee injury. Tom Smith sustained a recurrence of a calf issue in training and he also missed out, handing a start to Brandon Kalu at left-back.
While it was only Farnham’s 14th league game of the season so far, their trip to Tadley was already the second instance of playing a team for the second time this campaign, having already beaten Sandhurst Town home and away. Johnson’s side ran out 4-0 winners at The Memorial Ground back in October.
It didn’t take long for the Town to find their stride once the game got underway and after five minutes they found themselves ahead. Shamal Edwards’ pressing down the left channel saw the hosts relinquish possession to Darryl Sanders. He moved the ball to his right foot and delivered a looping cross to the back post where Owen Dean was on-hand to rise above his marker and head back into the opposite corner.
Just five minutes later, Farnham thought they had doubled their lead only to be denied by the offside flag. Guy Hollis delivered a long throw into the box towards his centre-back partner Ryan Kinnane. He flicked it on towards the goal, Owen Dean then flicked it on again and then Darryl Sanders nodded it home but had come from an offside position in doing so.
Farnham were then nearly gifted a second goal as they looked to make their early pressure count. Edwards cut the ball back into the box towards Dean on the right, his heavy touch bounced towards the goalkeeper who fumbled the claim of the ball and nearly allowed Adam Liddle the simplest of tap ins, but a defender was there to block and clear it behind.
To their credit, Tadley were able to wrestle back a little bit of control of the game for the remainder of the first half, albeit without really testing the Farnham goal, but the Town found themselves limited to pot shots from distance as they went in search of the next goal in the game. The closest either side came to scoring before half time was when an Owen Dean cross was deflected onto the Tadley bar and cleared away.
This Farnham Town team so far this season has made a habit of fast starts after the interval, and it was no different on this December afternoon in Hampshire when inside the first minute after the restart, the Town had doubled their lead.
A long ball forward was controlled by Edwards who turned and played the ball into Sanders down the right. The pass was slightly overhit but Sanders was able to keep it in play and deliver the ball across the face of goal where Edwards was there to get on the end of it and tap home from close range.
Only one team has been able to score twice against Farnham in the league this season which was the task that Tadley now faced, but 10 minutes later they would be staring down a three goal deficit. Sanders played the ball out wide to Jackson before being flattened off the ball by a petulant challenge, Jackson delivered the cross into the box which evades Edwards but rolls into the path of Adam Liddle to coolly slots it into the bottom corner for a 3-0 lead.
Immediately after the restart, Tadley turned over possession back to Farnham who drove forward with pace and purpose. The ball made it’s way to Sanders outside the box in a central position, he was tackled and the ball ricocheted into the path of Dean who drove into the box, he cut it back to an unmarked Edwards in the middle of the goal who passed it into an empty net to make it four.
After the hour mark, Johnson began to make changes to keep his squad fresh, and three of his introductions combined for Farnham’s fifth goal with 70 minutes on the clock. Pat Nash sent a long ball forward for Charlie Postance who flicked it on into the path of Lewis Flatman. He brought the ball down well and then turned the ball in behind the Tadley defence with the outside of his right foot for Dean Rule who was able to dribble around the ‘keeper and pass it into the net for his fourth goal in his last two games, following his hat trick against Rayners Lane.
With the game no longer a contest, the Town were able to grab a sixth goal when Harry Cooksley cross from the right touchline made it’s way to Flatman in the box, he set it back to Postance who sent a thumping volley beyond the ‘keeper with five minutes to go.
As the final whistle blew, it meant that Paul Johnson’s side extended their winning run to start the season to 14 successive games and would remain top of the table going into their final home league game of the calendar year when they welcome Camberley Town to The Memorial Ground on December 2023.