Combined Counties Premier
Farnham Town 0
Hartley Wintney 2
(Sam Argent x2)
Attendance: 86 and one dog! (approx. Headcount)
My first taste of Combined Counties League action and another new ground to add to my list, a 44-mile trip to Farnham was not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening, especially after nearly a week without a game.
Having endured a football-less weekend (I was celebrating my birthday with family so not all doom and gloom), I was keen to get to a game and with plenty of choice I decided to turn to my Twitter followers for some guidance.
After narrowing a ten strong list down to four I decided to put it to a vote with three potential new grounds (Farnham, Petersfield Town and Devizes Town) with a chance to return to see Moneyfields take on Team Solent.
With a whopping 111 votes, 50% of you decided that Farnham against Hartley Wintney was the one to watch.
After getting a warm welcome on Twitter from the club’s account before I had even left the house I was quite excited for the journey into Surrey.
Upon arrival I managed to park up and once I had worked out entry was through the clubhouse, I nearly managed to get in for free, however being the honest ground hopper I am I paid up.
The ground is like nothing I had visited before, that’s what I love about non-league football, there is an abundance of character everywhere you go, it’s a completely different feel when you are entering the likes of St Mary’s or Nou Camp for example.
Mead Lane is tucked away with a narrow road leading to the car park (I drove past it twice!) The clubhouse is neat, doubling up the bar and match day refreshments under one roof I treated myself to a cheeseburger which was decent and served with a smile!
Farnham look like they have invested in some new changing rooms (at least they looked fairly new), a big modern cabin, housing both sides and the officials opposite the dugouts.
Like with most tier nine clubs, a seated stand is a must and with little space down each length of the pitch and zero space behind one goal, the stand is situated behind the opposite goal, raised on a bank giving quite a good view if being behind the net is your thing.
There is a small covered terrace behind the away dugout but, just as I did at Romsey Town, I stood between the two benches (quite enjoying the dry weather and not having to look for shelter).
The pitch is fairly flat (believe me, some have more slopes that the Alps at this level) and the scene was set for the opening league fixture for the away side and a first home league game for Farnham.
Sam Argent’s brace gave Hartley Wintney a perfect start to their Combined Counties Premier League campaign with a 2-0 win over Farnham Town. The captain scored either side of half time to give The Row all three points on the road.
Having won the league last season, the visitors would have been in full confidence starting the new season and they were dominant in the early exchanges.
Home ‘keeper Matt Petts was in fine form to prevent Adam Everiss and Shane Holamby with a smart double save.
Argent had to wait for his opener when his chip shot went high of the mark when he raced through following a mistake in the midfield.
The home side barely had a touch of the ball and Everiss was a constant threat from the left wing but he was wide of the target after cutting inside and firing at goal.
Captain Argent was left unmarked when he headed the away side in front from Dean Stow’s cross as Farnham had done well to go this long without conceding.
The home side were struggling at the back and Hartley were exploiting all the gaps when defender Liam Eagle reacted quickest from Everiss’ free-kick but he couldn’t quite angle the ball towards goal.
It was more of the same in the second half and Holamby should have got himself on the score sheet after some quick feet inside the area but the shot went wide.
Farnham did manage to keep the ball and mount an attack but Hartley were deadly on the break and Everiss’ looping ball over the top to an onrushing Argent to poke in the second of the night was the move of the evening.
The second goal sparked the home side into life and they soon started to see more of the ball and midfielder Stan Staines had a bullet shot saved well by visiting goalkeeper Craig Bradshaw.
Steve Ramsden then had a chance to pull a goal back but his headed effort went wide as Farnham’s luck started to run out.
Home boss Paul Tanner made a triple substitution in a last ditch attempt to get something from the game and the decision instilled some life into the Town attack.
Within seconds of the change, Chris Poole raced through and was taken out by Eagle as last man. The referee had to take the advice of the linesman to give a decision and a free kick was eventually awarded with the defender getting away with just a yellow card.
England Beach Soccer international Mark Corbett forced a good save from Bradshaw from the resulting free kick as the villagers looked likely to hold on to their lead.
The referee dropped another clanger when he denied Farnham another clear penalty when the Town attacker was barged over in the corner of the box, the referee gave a free kick instead and Ramsden took the set piece only for the ball to ping off the post as the home side rallied to get something from the game.
As the encounter ran down, Hartley did managed to gain control of the closing stages and Everiss should have put the game to bed, but Petts did well to open up his body and save the wingers effort with his legs to keep the score at 2-0.
2016/17 Games: 14
2016/17 Grounds: 16
Total Grounds Visited: 158