Farnham Town 3 Windsor 1 (6th October 2012)
Daniel Defoe may have noted Farnham had the greatest corn market outside London, but my lack of involvement in the 17th grain trade, among other things, has meant I’d never been through the town, despite it being only 20 miles from while I live.
I may have never had any reason to pass through the town, but that clearly wasn’t the case for many in the past. A castle sits a few hundred metres north of the town, with thick round castle walls joining a Tudor extension. On the main route through the town itself you find more Tudor buildings, half-timbered shops and pubs. With the modern version of these traders and inns being Fleet Services off the M3, a few miles north, it’s fair to say not all progress is an improvement. You try getting a fair price for three dozen sacks of barley at a Welcome Break, and see how far you can get.
Unlike some of the town’s buildings, Farnham Town’s Memorial Ground is not likely to ever get listed building status, but it’s certainly odd enough to think Daniel Defoe might have given it a mention had it existed in his time.
For a start, the site is roughly triangular, with the main entrance being through what looks like a back door of the social club. This clubhouse has a patio, but its location, right at the apex of the triangle, means it only offers a view of one of the goals. Even then, the distance to this single visible goal, plus the advertising boards, means you can only see the top half of it.
Crossing the expanse of grass to the near touchline, this nearest side is just a walkway separated from the pitch by the advertising boards. The spectators lining this side make the patio view all the more masochistic.
Left from here is an end so tight that there is no room for any spectator accommodation, and the goal nets are supported from lines attached to the back fence rather than poles behind the goal. The spectator footpath leads up at the far corner to a gate behind this goal line, curling up like a week-old British Rail sandwich.
The far side offers a barely used covered terrace, about 20 yards long, offering a couple of raised steps of terrace below a very low roof. Next to this are the dug outs, offering the maximum distance walk from the changing rooms, almost enough to classify as a warm-up in itself.
It is the other end though that is the ground’s notable feature. Whether the pitch here used to be a lot shorter and they had to make it longer to comply with league rules is unclear, but what is clear is that a pitch doesn’t really fit into the site. The pitch may well be fine and flat, but the spectator accommodation still follows the line of the steep natural slope that used to be at this end.
It’s not so bad in the corner nearest to (if not visible from) the clubhouse, rising up to around two foot high past the corner flag. The slope just continues to rise behind the goal though. Directly behind the goal, atop a 45 degree grass embankment, the first row of terracing is about five feet up. In the far corner it rises even further, perhaps nine or ten feet high, with a shored up cut-away section providing quite a claustrophobic setting for anyone taking a corner, with the walls looming above on two sides. OK, it’s not quite Norwich’s old “The Nest” ground, with its precarious walls and stands, but it’s certainly different. Behind this corner two giant hedges spill over from a garden behind, like giant puddings whose mixture has spilled over their trays during baking.
Behind this goal is the ground’s only seating accommodation – not counting the patio – with an assorted collection of seats making for a rather untidy looking stand. The ability of the base of nearly every unoccupied tip-up seat to be at a different angle from its neighbour rather laid bare the detail that at this level, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to infrastructure.
To be fair, as long as nobody is in front of you, this end must offer one of the best views in non-league football. The grass banking continues to rise up to a fair old height, although it’d be somewhat dodgy in the wet. You could easily slip down and take out the spectators below like skittles.
No chance of that today though, on of those bright sunny autumnal afternoons where it slightly too warm for a coat, yet slightly too cold to be without one. Feeling a chill of a rather different kind were the visitors Windsor. Having reformed after folding a couple of years earlier, they’d managed to get into a bit of a mess financially already, and had released their playing staff just a few weeks earlier. Twenty three goals against in five games followed. Even though things had settled a little since, the last two games had both been lost, and things wouldn’t get any better today.
Windsor actually started brightly, but went behind to a cross/lob from the right which dropped into the net to the apparent disbelief of the Windsor keeper. To be fair, Farnham had missed a chance to almost equal disbelief earlier, blasting a loose ball high over the bar from ten yards. They also went on to make a total pig’s ear of a one-on-one later in the half, with the on-rushing forward controlling the ball like he had shopping trolley wheels for feet.
With this wastefulness, Windsor we are to take advantage, heading in a corner at the near post in front of the travelling fans, but parity didn’t last. Shortly before half time a low cross was turned in at the back post to put the home side ahead again.
The second half was much slower than the first, and was pretty much ended as a contest a quarter of an hour in. A non-existent offside trap allowed two Farnham players a clear run at the keeper, with time to place the ball past the keeper before a defender had even got near. After that, decent chances were few and far between, with both keepers probably more troubled by thoughts of tension in the Middle East than by shots by either team. I had hoped for a second half onslaught once Windsor’s back had been broken, but the hoped for goal feast didn’t arrive. I would have settled for one or two fewer 2nd half goals at the Liberty Stadium too, but that part of the bargain wasn’t kept either.