The new era at Farnham Town wasn’t exactly ushered in this week – it began with whistles blowing and all guns blazing.
Manager Sean Birchnall and his team have spent the summer revamping his squad to be in a position to challenge for honours in the Combined Counties Premier South.
They got the new campaign under way on Tuesday with the visit to The Memorial Ground of Jersey Bulls, widely tipped for promotion.
A crowd of 603 turned up, all noise and support, and they watched Town battle to a superb 1-1 draw.
On a hard, bouncy pitch – the drought has so far played havoc with Town’s plans to have a surface suited to a quick, passing game – Farnham played with passion and guile.
“Jersey are a good side – they’re well drilled and have been together as a group for quite a few years whereas we have players who have to get used to us, and we have to get used to them,” said manager Birchnall.
“We’ve had eight pre-season games and in some we performed really well, such as against Basingstoke, and others we didn’t. But we took lessons from each to be ready for a game like this
“We work hard – that’s what my teams will always do. We put a shift in. And against Jersey we have set the standard we need to match week in and week out.
“On chances, we could have won that.”
The match showed glimpses of high quality – Jersey went close to hitting the goal of the season, with one effort from close to the halfway line sailing over the head of keeper James Ferguson, who was on the edge of his own penalty box, and rattled the crossbar.
Jersey took the lead through Sol Solomon but in the second half Farnham had much more of the game and Owen Dean hit the equaliser.
But it wasn’t without controversy – the goal followed a corner given by the referee who was the only man in the ground who deemed Bulls keeper had Evan van der Vliet had pushed a shot around the post, when the effort was well wide of its own accord.
“We deserved it – we made substitutions at the right times and all three players who came on made an impact,” said Birchnall.
“We knew we would have less of the ball against Jersey, especially early on, and it was about the players understanding that it’s less of the ball in certain areas.
“If they have the ball in the defensive third or the middle third, that’s fine – and we had trigger points to then engage. We did that and kept nice and compact.
“In the second half we really started to come into our own and had chances.
“We always said we wanted our players to be fit and Dean Greenwood has spent a lot of time on that, working on their running. We’ve worked them really hard. Normally in pre-season you get a bit of whingeing but there has been none of that – the players are driving each other on.”
Tuesday’s match was the first in the Premier South this season – most clubs are now in FA Cup action, with the league resuming the following weekend.
“When the league offered clubs the option to start early we were happy to do so. And why not play Jersey now? Yes, we knew it would be tough, but you’ve got to play them sometime,” said Birchnall.
“And what a crowd! When I was here before we’d have games without anyone here at all. We won’t get that every match, of course – it’s the first game so a lot of people will just come to have a look – but it’s great for the players to have support like that.”