After a promising pre-season it was time to finally get back to competitive football, and what better way to kick it all off than with an FA cup tie! Fawley have remarkably been drawn away in all cup competitions, and yesterday we travelled to Farnham Town of the Combined Counties division which meant a relatively unknown opposition and a new ground to visit.
Just before kick-off there was some pretty impressive thunder and lightning covering the sky and the rain was heavy but short lived which led to a short delay. Hopping around Hants took these impressive shots to capture the downpour!
The Fawley team had three debutants in terms of competitive games, with Nick Dwyer starting in a back three alongside skipper Dane Sayce and Aaron Lucas. Ollie Bradley and Declan Hartigan also started for the first time in an attack-minded midfield.
Farnham almost got off to the perfect start as they were a post-width away from scoring within the first minute, but Fawley managed to survive and settle into the game. Both teams were playing a 5-3-2 formation and the game was being well contested in the middle of the park. Declan Hartigan started to find some pockets of space for the away team as Fawley started putting some pressure on the Farnham back line, and the first clear cut chance came soon after as Kieran Roche was set free from a lofted midfield pass. Kieran managed to shrug off two defenders and seemed to be in on goal but as he tried to get the ball onto his right foot to get his shot away, another Farnham defender was on hand to clear the pressure.
Just as it seemed the teams would be going in at half time with the scores level, Declan lured two defenders slightly out of position to free up some space for Kieran Roche in the Farnham penalty area who showed great strength and balance to keep hold of the ball and execute a neat finish into the far corner. Fawley took a one-nil advantage into the break and maybe the FA Cup curse was coming to an end after four successive defeats!
Second half begun and Fawley found it difficult to get out of the traps and put the same kind of off-the-ball pressure on their opponents, with Farnham allowed more time on the ball to pick passes and pin the Fawley team in their own half. A Farnham equaliser came on '50 after a couple of free-kicks were given (perhaps a little dubious) in favour of Farnham's target man striker. The second free-kick was flung into the box and poked home by Glass to draw the scores level.
The saying 'hero to zero' is probably appropriate for what happened moments later, as Kieran Roche reacted to some off-the-ball grappling with a Farnham defender and was shown his marching orders by the official, whilst the Farnham player escaped unpunished.
The game was seemingly heading for a replay as Farnham failed to capitalise on their one man advantage, although the pressure was starting to tell on some weary Fawley legs. Wing backs Dan Semmens and Sam Burrows had done an excellent job of nullifying the attacks from both flanks, although the whole team can be applauded for digging in and making much better decisions than the first half. Declan won a free-kick mid way in the Farnham half to give the Fawley defence some relief, and Dane Sayce hit a great effort which the keeper had to be at full stretch to tip over the crossbar.
If we were going to get a late goal with ten men, chances are it would be from a set piece as it was proving our only opportunity to get players into the Farnham penalty area. So it proved to be the case as Dane whipped in the resulting corner and Aaron Lucas was in the centre of the goal to prod the ball home! At this stage Kevin Mitchell was biting down his nails and smoking all the cigarettes he could get his hands on, surely we weren't going to do it against the odds?!
The travelling Fawley supporters and subs had barely sat back down before Farnham had entered the Fawley box, played a neat one-two which led to a mistimed sliding tackle and a penalty to the home side. Glass was again on hand to dispatch the spot-kick and make the game all-square with 4' min remaining plus stoppage.
The game looked to be heading for a Wednesday night replay, however Farnham and Glass had other ideas. A neat through ball put the Fawley defenders running back towards goal, and Glass took a couple of touches and hit a right-footed effort which beat Conor Beattie in goal and trickled across the line sparking celebrations for the home team and their fans. A cruel ending for the Fawley side who battled hard with ten men for the most part of the second half.
Best of luck to Farnham Town in the next round of the FA Cup and thanks for the kind hospitality!