Sandhurst transferred back to the Combined Counties League at the end of last season, after two seasons in the Hellenic League, the last of which saw them finish in a creditable fourth place.
The sides had last met in league action back in the 2012-13 season, when both sides were Combined Counties Premier League outfits. Farnham won an early season meeting by a goal to nil at The Memorial Ground with Sandhurst gaining revenge with a crushing 5-1 home win in April. The result, however, was not enough to save The Fizzers from relegation that season. Farnham went on the finish in eighth spot.
Bottom Meadow, a new ground for me, is situated next to Sandhurst Memorial Park, where the team played until National Lottery Charities Board money helped them to move next door into a fully enclosed stadium. Parking is available at the ground and, if full, in the Memorial Park car park (note for evening games: This car park shuts, and is locked, at 10pm sharp). The stadium itself is accessed through a large gate, there are no turnstiles. Facilities are at the entrance end of the ground where you will find the club house, which incorporates the tea/snack bar. Looking from the club house end, down the pitch, there is a small covered seating area to the right. This seats 108 people and have the club name emblazoned across the front of the roof. The dugouts are on the opposite side of the ground.
Given those statistics, it is fair to say that the game started predictably. Farnham were immediately on the front foot and looking confident. They forced a corner as early as the second minute and, when the ball was half cleared, new signing Smith fired the ball back goal-wards. Elliot Cardona stuck out a foot and sent the ball looping over Howells into the net. 0-1.
The goal served to give Farnham even more confidence with the movement of striker Danny Turner causing all sorts of issues to the Fizzers defence. Turner's runs were being picked out well by right-back Max Meaton, who was also looking very composed on the ball. Add to that, the battling, ball winning of defensive midfielder Dean Ellis, and all looked good for Farnham in the first 10 minutes.
However, great credit must go to Sandhurst who could easily have let their heads drop. They didn't. Instead, they steadily fought their way into the game and, after 12 minutes, they got their just rewards.
As with the Farnham opener, the equaliser came from a corner, this time on the Sandhurst left. The ball was played into the Farnham six-yard area where Ashley Ledger stooped to head the ball home. 1-1. Terrible marking by the Farnham defence, allowing an opponent to head in, unmarked, inside the six-yard box.
A very good finish from Rake.
HT Sandhurst Town 2 Farnham Town 1. The away side started well but Sandhurst hauled themselves back into it and deservedly lead at the break.
Farnham seemed to have re-grouped somewhat after the break. Ellis was getting on the ball more again and starting to make things tick in midfield. However, try as they might, Farnham couldn't find that killer final pass and, despite more possession, the score remained 2-1.
Farnham's cause was aided just after the hour mark when Fizzers skipper, Henry Oakley, launched himself into a really ugly challenge on a Farnham striker, a challenge that caused the first of a number of minor altercations between the players. Once the referee had calmed the situation down, he issued a second yellow to Oakley and Sandhurst had to play the remaining half-hour with ten men.
The Fizzers immediately made a substitution, bringing on a replacement defender for Oakley, leaving just the diminutive Ieuan Dimech up front. The extra space allowed Ellis to gain even more control of the midfield for Farnham but, as before, the final ball was never found.
The game became more and more scrappy. Sandhurst employed every trick in the book to help tick away the minutes, a tactic not lost on the referee, who eventually lost patience with goalkeeper Howells and issued a booking.
The Farnham players, irritated by their inability to get back on level terms, were letting themselves be drawn into confrontations by the Sandhurst gamesmanship (or game management, whichever way you see it). A few scores were being settled all across the pitch and the game was getting more stop-start, which was not helping the Farnham cause at all.
The referee, much to the disgust of the local support, added a fair bit of time to the game, presumably taking into account the number of times that Sandhurst had delayed restarts. However, The Fizzers hung on for their first points of the season.
FT Sandhurst Town 2 Farnham Town 1. In the end, a fair result in my opinion. Despite having the feeling that Farnham would get back into the game, especially when Sandhurst went down to 10, the home side hung on through sheer effort in the second-half. As a neutral, it was a very entertaining watch with no lack of application from either side.
Next up for The Fizzers is a visit from, currently pointless, bottom side Fleet Spurs whilst Farnham travel to Kensington Borough.
Update: I think I have said before that I don't take notes at matches. I try to write from my memory of the game. The theory being that I capture the incidents that stuck out. Whilst this, in principle, is an attempt at an honest report, it does mean that I do miss things out from time to time. When this happens, I am happy to, in fact expect to, get pulled up on it by players, managers or supporters. Last night was a case in question and I have been called out on it. So, let me just state that The Fizzer's victory owes more than a little to a fine, late save from their big man at the back, Ryan Howells. Sorry, Ryan. Next time, I'll pay more attention. (also, he's a big lad and I don't want to make an enemy of anyone that size).
Sandhurst Town: Howells, Turner, Green, Oakley (c), Barley, Goddard, Ledger, Dimech, Barron, Burrows, Rake. Subs: Barnard, T. Cooper, M. Cooper, Khomsi, Cox
Farnham Town: Norman (c), Meaton, T. Smith, Ellis, Conteh, Harlowe, Page, Medcroft, Turner, E. Smith, Cardona. Subs: Horwood, Falvey, Marker, Scurfield, Evans
Ground Number: 161