Match report by Ian Peach
My journey to this game started Wednesday morning. Living in the Midlands and working some Saturday's, I have to pick and choose my games, earlier in the season I just let fate decide which Saturday's I was able to travel down, but what seemed to be happening was, every week I was off, we was away, well that was great, it's been lovely to see some of these small quaint places, including the likes of Cove, Merstham, Frimley (or Farnboro actually), Viking Greenford (or as it turned out, Hayes), Sandhurst (who could forget that day) and Farnham Town (which must be the strangest football ground I ever visited), oh yeah, also Wallingford(but I'm still trying to forget that afternoon in Oxfordshire), but since xmas I've decided to ask for the days off for the matches I wanted to see most. Ash Utd was 1 of those games, despite having a ticket for the lively August fixture against them, I couldn't get down for that early Bank Holiday fixture, and despite them being no longer a threat after falling into the lower half of the table, events at that game and comments made after by their, now sacked, manager, meant that this was still seen very much as a grudge match by many.
There was also a reason why I wanted to be at the Farnham game, so I used up the last of my holidays to head Sarf for a week, not the most glamorous fixture against a team 3rd from bottom who already cannot beat our points total for the season, but the date was the significant part of the day for me.
On the date 15th March 1983, we played Tranmere Rovers at Plough Lane, a midweek fixture that was to be the 1st time I'd stood and watched a game on the famous "West Bank" it was the day I fell in love with the Dons and so the Farnham game 20 years on represents to me my 20th anniversary of being a dons fan(exactly 2/3rds of my life). That night we won 4-0 with goals from John Leslie(2), Gary Peters & Stevie Galliers (who was to become my all-time favourite dons player). It really was the 15th of March, so don't be fooled by the programme from that game that still showed the original date of Saturday 12th February. More than seeing a 4-0 win from the west bank that night, I also saw what to me was my 1st glimpse of the famous "Wimbledon Spirit", the player that showed that was none other than big Dave "Lurch" Beasant a number of times Tranmere players were through 1-on-1 with the great man, but he absolutely refused to let that ball hit the back of the net, even when the ref had called them back for offside, Dave made a great double save from their striker who still tried to finish it anyway, that may sound like a minor thing, but it had an immediate effect on me and shaped the last 20 years of my life.
So to 2003, expectations were high of a similar score, our 5-3 demolition of Ash and Farnham's 1-7 capitulation to W2K in midweek, probably had most home fans expecting an easy win, but maybe our narrow 1-0 win at their place back in October should have warned us that it may not be quite as easy as we were largely assuming. When the teams were read out, we were told that there was a return to the starting line-up for Ali Russell who had been out since getting injured at Frenford Senior in the CRBT, there was also a return on the bench for Simon Bassey, he'd only made 1 start and 1 sub appearance since November, due to a very harsh 35 day suspension and various injuries, but he'd turned out for Netherne to get fit and was deemed ready by Terry Eames, there was also a rare appearance on the bench for Robbie Burns, Robbie is very much deemed a player for the future and had only been named on the bench for a league game once before, in which he was unused, his only appearance on the pitch before today being as a sub in the London Senior Cup defeat to Barkingside.
So the game was under way, it soon became apparent that the pitch was much more hard and bouncy than normal and players were struggling to control the ball and pass it around in the manner which we've become accustomed too, in the 1st 15 minutes, it appeared only Dave Towse who looked comfortable on the ball and was actually finding a team mate with his passes and so it was no surprise when Farnham had the 1st serious attempt on goal in the 15th minute, their number 7 forcing a good save out of Merry after Wardy had rather got himself into trouble messing around with the ball rather than clearing upfield, a few minutes later and Merry gave everyone another scare when he fumbled on the edge of his box and the Farnham no.7 again shot, but thankfully cleared the bar. That was pretty much the end of the Farnham threat to our goal, on 25 a Wardy cross led to our 1st corner, Sully whipped it in and a goalmouth scramble ensued, but a few blocked shots later and Farnham had survived. There were a number of times the Refs assistant gave offside when balls were played through, Siddy had been dubiously called back when through earlier, but the worst case was when Coops was through and play was halted for Russell coming back from an offside position, I felt the Ref's assistant really ought to have let that one go.
On about the half hour mark a free-kick for a foul on Frodo, taken by Sully found coops unmarked in the 6 yard box, but once again was unable to control the ball quickly enough and ended up trying to lob the keeper from about 3 yards and the ball went wide. A quick throw from Frodo earned another corner, but Sully got the cross no higher than 2 foot off the ground and it went off for a goal-kick before if had reached the 6 yard box, I kid you not. On 35 Sully raced through on the Farnham goal, the challenge by their no.5 saw the ball smothered by the keeper, but the defender was to leave the pitch on a stretcher, I don't believe it was a break but he was replaced by the no.14 anyway. After the delay we saw two great through balls from Towse, 1 to Sully and 1 to Russell, which resulted in a corner on 40 min, it was noticeable that with a proper left back, Sully gets so much more involved, unfortunately his crossing and corner taking was not as good as his general play and his corner was a carbon copy of the 2nd, maybe even worse actually. Siddy had a header from a Bolger cross, and another Bolger cross after a through ball from Frodo was just too high for Coops. A throw from Wardy found Russell in the box but his shot from close range sailed over the bar, seconds later another close range Russell shot went wide, it wasn't a classic and even the half chances we were creating weren't troubling their keeper too much.
Half time came and I decided to go and see some of the Millwall fans who had turned up in support of us and in protest against franchising, songs heard from them included "we salute you AFC" and "chim chimney" which I wont print all the words of, but it was a shame for Farnham that they happen to play in the claret and blue similar to a certain club Millwall fans don't like very much, still, I'm sure they took it in good heart and will probably never get sung at by Millwall fans again in their careers. The half-time chat with them was of the usual stuff, they don't agree with what's happened to us and they can't imagine how hard it's been for us over the last year or so, but they respect us very much for what we've done. For a bunch of fans with such a bad rep, it was heartening to see them turn up and show the positive image which rarely gets portrayed in the national press, well done them, you are a credit to your club and football.
I'd got a bit caught up in my chatting to the 'wall fans and missed 5 minutes of the 2nd half, but I apparently didn't miss anything as such and Passmore came on for Frodo. We won a corner which this time Sully didn't take, but Daly did and was the total opposite to Sully in clearing all. A ball played into the 6 yard box went to Siddy, but somehow he couldn't prod it into the net from close range. To be honest, a game that never really got going was turning from poor to worse, Towse had a long-range shot easily saved, Everard was booked for a high challenge, Bassey replaced Siddy who'd taken a knock, Farnham replaced the no.7 who'd been lively earlier with no.15. On 70 min another corner was nearly punched/pushed/fumbled into the Farnham net by their own keeper, but was eventually cleared. Coops shot over just after and Sully was replaced by Robbie Burns who soon had a shot deflected for a corner which Daly nearly got on the end of, but never got a clean enough header on. Farnham had a couple of late free-kicks which both went over Merry's bar from their numbers 6 & 9 respectively and burns was booked late on too. But the moment of the game that was the closest to breaking the deadlock was when a ball into the box couldn't be controlled by Bolger and the Farnham players clearance seemed to hit Coops and agonisingly hit the post, we'd beat them in October with an 87 min Oakins free-kick, and we nearly snatched this 1 late on too, but it wasn't to be, the only other action saw a Coops free-kick hit straight at the wall but that was that and eventually the Ref brought an end to the game.
It never lived up to my experience of 20 years earlier, but I still love this club we now have, even if the road to get where we now are has been somewhat torturous.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
It was between Towse and Bolger for me, Sully played well in open play, but his crossing today wasn't good enough, Frodo for me was linking up well with Bolger and I was surprised he was replaced by Passmore so early for technical reasons, we wasn't as much of a threat in the 2nd half without him. Towse looked very comfortable and assured, but by nature of Farnham not being much of a threat, Bolger had a lot more of the ball than Towse and looked throughout like our most likely source of creating a goal, so, for keeping going for 90 minutes on a day when a number of his team-mates had off days, the MOTM award goes to GAVIN BOLGER.