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First Team, Match Report

28 Feb 2024

Match Report: Farnham Town 1-0 Jersey Bulls

After seeing our home fixture with Fleet Town succumb to the weather, the ground-staff were tasked with a big job to get the pitch in a playable condition for the visit of Jersey Bulls but, despite a couple of sanded down boggy areas, the pitch was passed to go ahead with one of the most anticipated fixtures of the league calendar on the cards.

Jersey Bulls travelled over to Surrey boasting a record of just one defeat in their previous 14 league matches as they sat third in the table, 17 points behind Farnham. However, they had only won six of those games, the most recent of which came away at Knaphill 10 days prior, so the Bulls arrived with the confidence that they could beat anyone on their day.

In the 10 days since Farnham’s last game, a 1-0 win against bottom of the table Colliers Wood United, manager Paul Johnson welcomed a new signing to the squad in the form of Kingstonian captain Mark Waters, with the midfielder named among the substitutes ahead of a potential debut.

For this game, Farnham would still be without arguably their player of the season so far in Darryl Sanders who remains sidelined with a knee problem sustained in the win away at Epsom & Ewell two weeks prior, while left-back Brandon Kalu is nursing a hamstring injury he picked up in the same game.

The opening exchanges of the game proved to be the theme of the evening: two fairly evenly matches teams working each other hard and struggling to carve out any clear opportunities to break the deadlock. The first foray into either penalty area was by the Bulls when Adam Trotter dragged his shot across the face of goal, Fraser Barlow couldn’t quite get on the end of it and it fell to Miguel Carvalho looking to cut it back into the middle for Lorne Bickley but Pat Nash was there to intercept.

Around the quarter of an hour mark, The Town generated their first opportunity to get a shot in on goal. The ever-industrious Adam Liddle closed down not one but two attempted clearances from Luke Watson and Harry Curtis respectively before prodding his shot wide of the right-hand post.

Liddle was presented with the next chance of the game when Joe Jackson’s clipped ball upfield evaded both Liddle and Curtis as they challenged for the header, with the Farnham striker reacting fastest to the loose ball. He drove into the box and struck a low effort in at the near post which was saved by Pierce Roche in the Jersey net.

With neither team really penetrating the opposing defence, perhaps it would be an effort from distance that could be the difference maker. Jonny Le Quesne picked the ball up around 30-yards from goal in acres of space and tried his luck, with Nash scrambling across to parry away his powerful effort.

Farnham peppered the netting behind the Jersey goal more than the actual goal several times as the half went on, but it would remain all square at the break as there was an overwhelming sense that this game would be decided by just the one goal, if at all.

The second period followed a similar pattern to the first and Johnson didn’t hesitate to change things up, bringing on Waters for his debut 10 minutes into the half in place of Lamar Koroma in midfield, and then Kai Tanner replacing Shamal Edwards shortly after, allowing Owen Dean to move forward into a striker’s role.

Just after the hour mark, Jack Dean was brought down by left-back Fergus Boyle down the right-hand side touchline, presenting Harry Cooksley with an opportunity to deliver the ball into the box. Boyle was subsequently booked for the challenge. The free-kick was glanced goal-wards by Waters, it ricocheted off a number of Jersey defenders and fell to Jack Dean who scuffed his first effort into the shins of Curtis but it came back to him, this time on his left foot. He found greater contact with his next strike but again, Curtis was there to make the block and it deflected behind for a corner.

Having trotted over to take the corner, Cooksley bent one into the near post and Waters rose highest again to flick it on, it fell at the feet of Tanner with his back to goal and he flicked it upwards. It cannoned off the bar and was eventually hooked away – by far the closest either team had come to scoring as Farnham looked to pile on the pressure with 20 minutes to go.

Jersey’s skipper and leading scorer on the season, Bickley, was kept in check for most of the evening by the Farnham defence and was forced to wait until around 15 minutes to go before having his first effort on goal, attempting to strike one from 25-yards but dragged it well wide.

Into the last 10 minutes and the game really came to life. Charlie Postance, just introduced off the bench for Dean Rule, broke in behind after a headed through pass from Owen Dean. Unfortunately, his own momentum saw him take a tumble into the box enabling Curtis to come away with the ball. He was closed down by Tanner towards the far touchline and as the ball went out of play for a Farnham throw, Tanner appears to barge into Curtis who’s stopping Farnham from taking a quick throw in which sees the Jersey defender collide with the pitch side barrier.

The referee brought a stop to play as players from both sides rushed over to the scene. After diffusing the situation, the referee brandished a red card to Tanner for serious foul play to the shock of all the players and fans watching on for what seemed to be a fairly innocuous coming together. Curtis for the Bulls was also cautioned for obstruction to play prior to the alleged shove from Tanner.

Down to 10 men for the closing stages, Farnham didn’t alter their approach and if anything, were more on the front foot in search of a winning goal.

With less than five minutes to go, Owen Dean picked up the ball just inside the Jersey half. He jinked past the challenge of Le Quesne, strode forward, glides past Boyle, skips around the sliding challenge of Ben Le Rougetel and drove into the box before being tripped up by a desperate Boyle trying to make up ground, giving the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot. The contact was minimal, but it was clear to see on the replay that Dean was tripped whilst running at speed causing him to fall.

Having already been booked, Fergus Boyle was shown a second yellow card and sent for an early shower for his trip on Owen Dean which presented Harry Cooksley with the opportunity from the spot. He’d scored seven of his previous eight penalties this season, with the one miss being tucked away on the rebound. He stepped up and buried it into the bottom left corner, handing The Town a 1-0 lead.

Jersey threw men forward late in the game to try and snatch an equaliser but it never came as Farnham held on for the win, their 24th successive victory in the league this season and extending their league unbeaten run to 34 games dating back to last season.

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