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First Team, Match Report

19 Mar 2024

Match Report: Farnham Town 3-0 Redhill

March’s slate of fixtures were always going to be a test for the Town, taking on a number of playoff and promotion hopefuls game after game, but it was great to see the side bounce-back after their 25-game winning run came to an end with a 0-0 draw away at Knaphill by putting four past AFC Croydon Athletic without reply, moving 12 points clear at the top of the Combined Counties Premier Division South table.

The win put Paul Johnson’s side within seven points of clinching the league title and promotion to Step 4, and given the display on the Saturday just gone, Johnson admitted he couldn’t warrant rotating the side, with the only change being an enforced one as Jack Dean’s three-match suspension for his red card in the draw at Knaphill coming into effect, allowing Max Meaton to return to the back four after missing the win over AFC Croydon.

Redhill themselves occupied fourth place in the table coming to The Memorial Ground, with games in hand over some of their rivals for a playoff berth. In the reverse fixture, it was a brace from Darryl Sanders that proved to be the difference as Farnham defeated the Lobsters 2-1 at Kiln Brow, but as has been the case for the last month, Sanders would be on the sideline for this clash as he recovers from an MCL sprain.

Employing a tactic that we hadn’t seen many teams try this season, Redhill looked to go man-for-man with Farnham across the pitch, implementing a high-pressing tactic to force the Town into errors. For a lot of the first half, it did it’s job as the opening exchanges were relatively quiet, with Dean Rule’s low effort on the left side of the box following a knockdown from Lamar Koroma was cleared by Luke Wynne-Roberts in the Redhill net.

It would be efforts from distance that Farnham were largely limited to in the first period. On 20 minutes, captain Ryan Kinnane left fly from about 30-yards, but Wynne-Roberts was able to get down low to his right to stop the ball flying into the bottom corner.

Next, Harry Cooksley was presented with an opportunity to shoot from a dead ball situation just right of centre after the Town were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. His effort deflected off the wall and bounced agonisingly wide of the far post as Farnham continued to turn the screw.

The best chance of the game to this point did come from a set piece, this time from the left touchline. Lewis Flatman whipped in a rapid cross towards the back post and Mark Waters was able to get there first but couldn’t guide his header on target from only a few yards out.

On 37 minutes however, the deadlock was broken. Joe Jackson, as he had done a few times earlier in the game, strode out of defence with the ball and played it into Cooksley on the half turn inside the Redhill half. He continued to carry the ball forward to just outside the box before rifling a left-footed shot into the bottom left corner – his fourth goal in his last six league games – and Farnham were a goal to the good.

Cooksley was again at the heart of the move that led to the Town’s second goal just five minutes later. Redhill were certainly looking to make the game very physical and had been giving up a number of free kicks in and around their box for late challenges, but this time they were handed the ultimate punishment as Cooksley was upended dribbling into the box, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot.

After scoring from eight of his previous nine spot kicks before the AFC Croydon game (netting the rebound from his only miss), Cooksley was replaced on penalty duties by Owen Dean after missing against the South London club in the first half of that fixture. Dean netted from the spot in the second half to complete a hat-trick, and was rewarded with an opportunity to do the same just before half time, making no mistake, slotting coolly into the bottom right corner, and Farnham would hold a 2-0 lead going into half time.

Looking to kill the game off in the early stages of the second half, Johnson made an attacking change by bringing on Adam Liddle for Lamar Koroma, adding more firepower in the final third to secure the win.

Farnham were made to wait but the third and decisive goal did come shortly after the hour mark. Pat Nash delivered a long pass into the path of Max Meaton marauding down the right channel. He slid it into Dean Rule who turned his marker and drove into the box, cutting it back for Owen Dean who was able to bury it from eight yards out, his fifth goal in two games and setting the Town on course for another league victory.

Shortly after the restart, with frustrations starting to boil over for the visiting side, Ben Dyson flew into a challenge on Tom Smith right in front of the Farnham dugout. It was late, it was reckless, and having already been cautioned in the first half, Dyson was sent for an early shower by the referee who brandished a second yellow, followed by the red, and Redhill were down to 10.

Eager to get back amongst the goals, Adam Liddle had an opportunity from a free kick just outside the Redhill box to stamp his mark on the game. His effort beat the wall, beat Wynne-Roberts in goal but couldn’t beat the crossbar as it crashed against the woodwork and back into play. Shamal Edwards was first on the scene but couldn’t guide his reactionary header between the posts.

As we entered added time, Jackson picked up the ball on the right corner of the Redhill box, slalomed his way past three challengers before firing a low shot in on goal. It was spilled by Wynne-Roberts into the general vicinity of both Edwards and Charlie Postance but neither player could turn it home.

His defensive partner, Max Meaton, one of only a few outfield players without a goal this season, thought he had made it four when he struck a ferocious shot in at the near post, only to see it rattle the post and back out into the path of Edwards who was unable to find the right contact with his rebound effort.

The final whistle would sound shortly after and the Town’s unbeaten streak moved to 38 league games dating back to last season – effectively a full season of football.

News from around the grounds filtered through as Tadley Calleva could only get a draw at home against Horley Town, which meant Farnham Town would travel to Jersey Bulls on Saturday with a chance to win the title with a win in addition to Knaphill failing to beat Balham in a game which kicks off at the same time.

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