Wednesday 3rd August 2011
By Colin Brazier
Champion start to the season!
Our first pre-season friendly of the new campaign saw us make the journey into London to play a Dulwich Hamlet XI at their 3,000 capacity Champion Hill stadium. For the Guild players and manager Darren Burkett it was a fitting reward for last season’s title-winning efforts and a chance to give a few summer signings their first match action; for Dulwich, with their first XI having played 24 hours earlier, it was an opportunity to put some of last season's academy graduates under the microscope whilst using the encounter as a chance to look at other "fringe" players, current academians and any new ambitious triallists keen to impress. Dulwich have an impressive youth set-up; their under 18's reached the third round proper of the FA Youth Cup last season before going out to Newcastle United.
The game was played at the end of a hot and humid day and a roll-on, roll-off substitutions regime was agreed for the game. The home side, however, chose to make most of their changes during the half-time interval, while Farnborough, after the initial half-hour, made substitutions throughout.
After a very short feeling-out period, it was the visitors who made an early breakthrough when Michael Bishop played through midfielder Ray Perkins, who bore down on goal and finished clinically high into the net from 15 yards. The noise echoing from the Tommy Jover stand belied the presence of a fair proportion of Farnborough followers in the crowd of 100 or so.
The goal understandably lifted Farnborough, but also stung the home side into action. During one of their first meaningful attacks, the referee penalised George Belchamber for a mistimed tackle in the box. Keeper Stewart Copeland has a proud penalty saving record, however, and showed why with a fine dive low to his right to first parry then smother the ball. Copeland was again in the thick of things a few minutes later when he seemed to get more of man than ball when clearing from outside his area but the referee waved play on.
Farnborough were quick to close down Dulwich players all over the pitch, with the home side reduced to long passes down the flanks, easy meat for the Guild’s defence. At the other end Webb and Michael Bishop, between them scorers of 43 competitive goals last season, never allowed the home defenders to settle. Club captain Colin Judge entered the fray on 30 minutes, the first of many substitutions during the game. It was fair to say Farnborough were the sharper side in the first half and deserved their interval lead; manager Burkett held his team talk on the pitch and urged his players to keep their passing game going and not get drawn into going long too often.
The second half saw a much (if not 100%) changed Hamlet side take the field. As a team they looked more comfortable on the ball than they had in the first half and dominated possession without really having a cutting edge. Farnborough’s midfield quartet harassed and harried at every opportunity and the visitors’ defence was only really troubled late in the game when the effects of the warm conditions became apparent and regular personnel changes disrupted their rhythm. Even so Dulwich only came close to an equaliser twice, once when a deft lob came back into Copeland’s arms off the middle of the crossbar and then when their main striker escaped the offside trap but was foiled once again by the Guild keeper.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though and with Ray Perkins’s probing passes featuring prominently Farnborough’s strikeforce always remained a threat.
All in all it was an excellent and encouraging start to an important season for Farnborough.
Farnborough OBG: Copeland; Belchamber, Johnson, Mark Bishop, Warren, Perkins, Lott, Godward, Wray, Michael Bishop, Webb;
Substitutes: Judge, Cleaver, Brown, Thorogood, AN Other.