The Winter weather had got the best of a number of non-league fixtures up and down the country in recent weeks, including at Farnham Town where our 2024 curtain raiser against Redhill was postponed on Saturday, January 6th, but with dry (albeit cold) weather on the horizon, the two Clubs worked fast to hastily arrange a fixture just three days later on a Tuesday night at Kiln Brow.
Both Farnham and Redhill had played the joint-fewest league games so far this season with just 16 completed fixtures, with some teams in the league having already played 24 games, so the incentive was there for both Clubs to get a game on and look to steal a march on the teams around them.
Paul Johnson’s side were able to get minutes in the legs on Saturday after a swiftly arranged friendly with Wokingham & Emmbrook of the Combined Counties North was locked in, with The Town running out 4-0 winners with two goals for the now-suspended Adam Liddle, and one each for skipper Guy Hollis and Lewis Flatman.
Redhill find themselves firmly in the playoff mix this season but have ground to make up largely due to how few fixtures they’ve played compared to the teams around them, but a win over Farnham would represent a serious gain against the field given our start to the season. The hosts are also the league’s second-most potent attack behind Farnham, averaging just over 2.5 goals per game.
Inside the first two minutes, Redhill were gifted an excellent chance to take the lead when a hopeful ball into the channel for Tyrese Sutherland was unable to be cleared by Pat Nash who came rushing out only to see his attempted clearance deflect off Max Meaton and into Sutherland’s path. His cross into the box was half-cleared by Ryan Kinnane and collected on the edge of the box. A wayward shot followed but skewed into the path of Adam Grant towards the back post with Nash still off his line, but he couldn’t direct his effort on goal from an awkward height.
The high press from the hosts was stifling Farnham in the opening exchanges, but after 10 minutes Redhill were almost the architects of their own downfall when Darryl Sanders beat his marker down the left wing and delivered a cross in towards the near post only for Tommy Smith to shank the clearance up and narrowly over his own bar. The corner was subsequently cleared.
Johnson’s side started to grow into the game from this point on and dominate possession, with last season’s Golden Boot winner Shamal Edwards coming close to adding to his 17-goal tally this season when he nipped the ball past his challenge and burst into the box, only to see the ‘keeper make a smart low save – and it wouldn’t be his last save of the night.
It would be Lewis Flatman who next came closest to breaking the deadlock with two great chances within four minute of each other. First, Owen Dean slid his strike partner in on the right of the box, but Flatman’s effort was blocked before it could find the bottom corner.
The next chance was perhaps the best of the first half. Joe Jackson played an outside of the boot pass down the left touchline for Edwards to run onto, he cut inside of the right-back and delivered a ball to the middle of the box for Flatman to run onto, but his first-time side-footed effort was inches wide of the far post.
Minutes before the interval, Edwards would be denied again by another top save, this time from the left side of the box after receiving the ball from Flatman, he turned his defender and lashed a powerful effort towards the near post but Luke Wynne-Roberts in the Redhill goal was able to get a strong hand to it to force it behind.
Farnham were knocking on the door going into stoppage time as from the resulting corner, Owen Dean guided a looping header towards the far post, but Wynne-Roberts was able to scramble across his goal and get finger tips to the ball in order to keep it out.
Edwards, having been thwarted several times on the night already, almost turned provider when he received a quick free kick from Sanders, he turned in the box and played a square ball across to Ryan Kinnane who was bursting in, but he could only get studs to it with the goal at his mercy, and again Wynne-Roberts was there to claim the loose ball. It would be only the third time in the league this season that Farnham were held to a 0-0 going into half-time.
Set pieces had been breeding grounds for attempts on goal for Farnham throughout the first half, and it was no different after the restart. An early corner was clipped in by Flatman and met by Guy Hollis who saw his goal bound header cleared away off the line.
Having scored 104 goals already this season, the only box Farnham had yet to check off was scoring from a direct free kick. On 52 minutes, The Town were awarded a free-kick roughly 25 yards from goal just right of centre, with Sanders standing over it. Flatman made a dummy run round the outside and beyond the four-man wall to occupy a defender, giving Sanders the extra space to bend the ball into the top-right corner of the net to hand Farnham a deserved 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute after the restart, Farnham reall should have doubled their lead. Neat interplay between Sanders and Dean around midfield saw Sanders break the lines and start driving at the rattled Redhill defence. He eventually played in Dean on the edge of the box with only the ‘keeper to beat, but his first-time shot was shanked wide of the right post.
Farnham continued to press on, searching for that all important second goal and cushion in the game, but Wynne-Roberts in the Redhill net continues to stand up to everything coming his way, this time denying a 20-yard effort from Flatman that was moving in the air, just about being able to parry it behind for a corner. Shortly after, a corner was played in from the right, met by Dean but his header falls a yard or so wide of the back post and Farnham may have been thinking they could rue these missed chances come full time.
With 10 minutes to go, Edwards was determined to put his name on the scoresheet to mark an excellent individual performance, receiving the ball on the right of the box, cutting inside onto his left-foot this time looking to bend one into the far left corner, but again,, Wynne-Roberts was there to make a top save.
Seven minutes from time however, Farnham did finally grab that second goal the performance warranted. Sanders launched a counter attack with a searching ball into the left channel for Edwards to chase. He dribbled beyond his challenge to stand up a cross for the back post where substitute Charlie Postance headed it back into the middle of the box for Sanders to slot home.
As the clock ticked past 90, Redhill were committing men forward in search of a consolation goal, and Arlie Desanges thought he had set one up when his cross found Tom Harland-Goddard unmarked in the box, but his header was poor and bounced well wide.
Deep into stoppage time, the hosts did pull a goal back when a defence splitting pass was played between Brandon Kalu and Kinnane for Desanges, his touch was heavy and allowed Nash to close down and make a challenge, but the ball fell for Reyon Dillon who thumped it into the roof of the net, but it was only to be a small consolation as the referee blew for full-time shortly after the restart.
Farnham were tested by a strong Redhill side, but were able to make 17 successive wins to start the league campaign with a 2-1 win as attentions now turn to the FA Vase Fourth Round tie with Bridgwater United this coming Saturday.