Delighted Spencer Day hailed “the best week of the season so far” after back-to-back away victories all but secured Farnborough’s Conference South status for next season.
Day watched on proudly as his patched-up side of youngsters, loanees and hungry new recruits took all three points from league big guns Dover Athletic on March 18 – this after ending his Essex hoodoo with an impressive 3-1 success at Bishop’s Stortford at the weekend.
Now, with 43 points and a mid-table position safely in the bag, the boss believes another double this week – at home to Concord Rangers on Saturday and a trip to Gosport Borough on Tuesday, April 1, – will mean the club can make an early start on preparations for next season.
“It’s given us a massive chance with eight games to go,” Day said. “AFC Hornchurch went down on 44 points last season so I'm using that as a barometer. Ideally, I’d like another two wins to be absolutely sure, but it may be that one may do it.
“It won’t be easy though, we've got some tough teams with plenty to play for to come and the sooner we can get over the line and make plans for next season the better.”
For Day’s squad, the long trip to the Crabble was almost a wasted one with the match thrown into doubt early on due to a power failure.
But once the problem was resolved and the game did eventually get underway, Boro set about closing down their hosts early and, with it, began to enjoy success on the break – JJ Hooper, with three goals in as many matches since joining on loan from Northampton, forcing a save from home keeper Mitch Walker, while Josh Huggins also went close.
Indeed, it was a very similar story after the break with the hosts, well in the hunt for a play-off place after a seven-match unbeaten run, stifled from the off but a well-organised Boro, who again looked the more likely.
Second half breakthrough
Dan Bennett, on as a substitute for Connor French tested Walker with one effort, as did fellow sub Page, before the latter finally made the breakthrough three minutes from time by firing home a loose ball after a bit of ping-pong in the Dover area.
The home side pressed in the closing stages and almost grabbed an undeserved stoppage-time leveller but former Boro defender Richard Orlu was denied in a crowded box by a combination of new keeper Ross Fitzsimons and the physical presence of Darryl Siaw.
“We deserved the points and it’s a fantastic result,” Day beamed. “Sometimes the players don't get enough credit when things go well but don't underestimate how valuable that result is to us.
“We’ve changed the way we set up away from home and it’s paying dividends. We want to be hard to beat because we know we can get at teams and have goals on the break, and so it proved both on Saturday and Tuesday night.”
A tough week on the road has taken its toll, however, with Day’s squad struggling with a few bumps and bruises ahead of the trip to Concord Rangers, who thrashed Boro 5-0 in the reverse fixture back in November.
That means we may see a debut for new winger Yussuf Bamba, who has joined the club on a short-term deal from AFC Wimbledon – while Jamal Lowe, not included in the squad for Tuesday night due to the exceeding of the rule to name only five loanees in a squad – may also feature in his last game before his deal from Barnet expires.
One welcome presence on Saturday, however, will be that of the PRE stand, which will finally be open to the public after long-running cash and legality issues.
Meanwhile, four days earlier, Day had thanked his new-look Farnborough side for helping to end his Essex hoodoo on Saturday – with their 'best performance of the season to date'.
Best of the season
Looking to end a wretched record of results in the county, proud Boro boss Day looked on as goals from Adam Doyle, Dan Bennett and JJ Hooper earned his side a hard-fought three points to move further out of trouble at the foot of the table.
“It was the best performance of the season to date, without a doubt,” Day beamed. “Every time I go through the Dartford tunnel the same thing happens, I don’t know what it is about playing against Essex teams but I’ve never won there, but these guys were fantastic.
“Bishop’s Stortford are arguably the most physical team in the division, but we set out our stall and show resilience and strength of character, and that’s exactly what they did.
“A result and performance like that shows the development of the team that they can go to places like that, not be bullied and stick to a game plan. It was a massive statement from this young team.”
Frantic Day only completed the deal to sign new loan goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons just seven minutes before deadline – and the young Crystal Palace stopper, in as a replacement for the retired Kevin Scriven, was in the thick of the action straight away, denying Brian Woodall an early chance.
Boro, though, enjoyed by far the best of the first half with home keeper Joe Wright forced into action to keep out Matt Ball’s 40-yard free-kick, while Connor French and Alan Inns went close with headers.
They finally got their reward, however, in added on time at the end of the first half when Fraser Colmer, making his full debut at left-back, crossed from the left and Doyle was on hand to convert.
The Bishop’s, however, started the second half the brighter, putting the Boro defence under aerial pressure before they levelled things up on 68 minutes when a Matt Johnson free-kick was whipped into the box and Anthony Church stole a yard to tap home.
But Farnborough weren’t to be denied and after Day brought on Dan Bennett following clear-the-air talks in the week, suddenly they had new attacking impetus.
Indeed, on 79 minutes, it paid off when Bennett received the ball just outside the box on the right, burst forward at pace and dummied a defender before crashing his shot home for only his second league goal of the campaign.
And four minutes later, Boro wrapped up a fine victory from the penalty spot – Johnson fouling Hooper in the box and the Barnet loanee picking himself up to fire home his third goal in as many games.
BORO (v Dover): Fitzsimons; Huggins, Treacher, Bosch, Inns, Siaw, Colmer (Berry 77), Ball, Hooper (Page 83), French (Bennett 68), Lee. Subs not used: Fearn, Bamba. Att: 501.