First Team, Match Report

16 Mar 2024

Match Report: Farnham Town 4-0 AFC Croydon Athletic

Farnham’s magical, British record run of 25 successive league games to start an English league season came to an end on the Tuesday just gone as second-placed Knaphill managed to become the first team to not only prevent the Town from winning this season when they clung on for a 0-0 draw at Redding Way, but also kept the only clean sheet against Paul Johnson’s side this season.

Jack Dean’s seventh minute red card changed the dynamic of the game, but even with the man disadvantage, Farnham enjoyed the majority of the ball and created the game’s best chance when Adam Liddle broke in behind, only to see his one-on-one effort tipped narrowly wide of the post as Farnham shared the spoils.

Eager to get back to winning ways, Farnham welcomed playoff chasing AFC Croydon Athletic to The Memorial Ground with the visitors experiencing some indifferent form suffering back to back 3-0 home defeats before thumping Fleet Town in their most recent fixture coming into this one.

The suspension reprieve rule allowed Jack Dean to keep his place in the side despite his red card before he serves his three game ban, but Max Meaton would be unavailable for this one, allowing Brandon Kalu to return at left-back.

It was an exciting opening few minutes of the game, with the first chance falling for Farnham as Lewis Flatman slid in Dean Rule on the left side of the box. He carried it towards goal and looked to stroke the ball through the legs of the ‘keeper who smothered well, with the rebound deflecting back off Rule for a goal kick.

On 14 minutes, Farnham were in again when Harry Cooksley picked up the ball on the left touchline just inside the Croydon half. He picked his head up and played an outside of the boot pass around the defence into the path of Flatman bearing down on goal. The striker took it around the ‘keeper and looked to place his shot. It was cleared off the line only into the path of Owen Dean who was there to turn it home and hand the Town the early advantage.

That goal seems to light a fire under Farnham as immediately after the restart, forcing a turnover in the Croydon half which Cooksley latched onto. Being forced wide towards the dugouts, he played a fizzed reverse pass towards Flatman just outside the box. His first touch sat up nicely for him to volley with his right foot, and he needed no second invitation to strike it, sending the ball up and over the ‘keeper – doubling Farnham’s lead in the process. Two in two minutes for the Town.

Just three minutes later with the bit between their teeth, Farnham could sense blood as the shellshocked Croydon players were unable to get a grip back on the game. Brandon Kalu picked the ball up just inside the visitor’s half and drove forward into the box, nutmegging two challengers on the way before being barged in the back and bundled over, and the referee pointed to the spot.

Cooksley has been on penalty duty for virtually the entire season, having netted from the spot with eight of his nine attempts this season – and slotting home the rebound from the one miss, and looked to step up to the mark again with three goals in his previous four games. Each of those first nine penalties were all placed to the ‘keepers right. This time, he switched it up and went to the left, but it was of a decent height to save and the Croydon stopper parried it clear. There was a feeling of the scoreline becoming somewhat of a cricket score if that had found it’s way in.

Croydon did always pose a threat on the counter, especially through their top scorer Louie Theophanous who was able to shirk Mark Waters and fire a low effort narrowly wide of the left-hand post. Shortly after, David Boateng saw a goal-bound effort blocked by Joe Jackson, and Darryl Siaw’s volleyed follow up was deflected wide.

Farnham would take their two goal lead into the break and knew that if they could get a third that they could put the game out of sight. Dean Rule picked up the ball five minutes after the restart just inside the Croydon half attacking the Clock End, he played in Owen Dean down the right channel who continued to drive into the box. His cut back was intended for Rule who was unable to make significant contact, but it fell for Cooksley looking to atone for his penalty miss by trying to sweep the ball into the top left corner. It crashed against the bar and came back out to the midfielder who this time tried to pick out the bottom right corner with a left-footed effort which was well held.

Two minutes later and Farnham were in again. Jack Dean hooked a ball forward along the right touchline for his brother, Owen. He was able to knock it into space for Rule to chase. Rule’s first time effort looking to chip the on-rushing goalkeeper was tipped onto the post and bounced back into play with Owen Dean following up to head home the rebound into an empty net, and Farnham would have their third.

A fourth nearly came swiftly after when again Owen Dean was penetrating the Croydon penalty area. He chopped back inside and was tripped over, but was able to get back on his feet and lay it off to Rule who took a touch and looked to strike it with his left beyond the ‘keeper who made an excellent diving save to his left to hold the score at three.

As the clock ticked down with under 20 minutes to go, Farnham continued to press for a fourth and were gifted an opportunity to score it when Flatman’s cross was collected by Jack Dean in the box who looked to turn and shoot before he was shoved to the ground, resulting in a second Farnham spot kick of the game.

Being on a hat-trick, the responsibility was handed to Owen Dean and his right-footed effort found the bottom left corner with a bobbled assist from the goalmouth, guiding Farnham into a 4-0 lead an another impressive victory.

Late on, Croydon nearly grabbed a consolation goal when Theophanous broke in behind and placed his effort around Pat Nash, but Tom Smith was covering behind and was able to get a vital block on the shot and clear his lines.

Rule nearly capped off his impressive individual performance with a goal as we edged closer to stopped time, receiving the rebound from a well saved Shamal Edwards effort and eyed the bottom corner. However, there wasn’t enough bend on his effort for it to come back inside the post.

It would finish 4-0 to the Town who were back to winning ways after the small blip on Tuesday night, their undefeated record remained in tact as they moved ever closer to promotion to Step 4 with a 12-point lead over Knaphill.

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