The thrills and spills of life down at the AIMITA Stadium continued on Saturday as Graham Westley's Farnborough Town put in an inspired performance in a 5-1 demolition of Nigel Clough's Burton Albion — celebrating the club's 200th home league game in the Nationwide Conference in fine style.
To put it mildly, Boro were simply outstanding in every department against a tired-looking Burton side who still seemed to be suffering from the effects of their midweek defeat to Oldham in the FA Cup 1st round replay.
Yet despite some tired legs from last season's Unibond Premier champions, nothing could be taken away from Westley's men as Ken Charlery set the tone with a superb hat-trick as Boro poured on the pressure from the word go.
The result moves Boro up to tenth — just four points behind the fifth place Play-Off slot.
In the early stages of what could only be described as a scrappy opening, Boro dominated possession throughout. Steve Watson — who before the kick-off was presented with his England international cap — was the thorn in the visitors' side and was proving to be the heartbeat of Boro's play, as is so often the case.
With the back four looking composed, and with transfer-listed Justin Gregory back in the starting line-up, Boro treated the loyal faithful to some fine football and their creative play paved the way for early chances to both Charlery and the in-form Rocky Baptiste.
Charlery, who it is fair to say did not enjoy the easiest ride in the early stages of the season, has in recent weeks shown a much higher level of fitness and it is no surprise that his improving form has coincided rather nicely with Boro's improving fortunes.
The former Dagenham hitman almost opened the scoring in the fourth minute, when he headed a Chris Piper cross just wide of Matt Dukes' right-hand post in the Burton goal. His effort simply signalled the sign of things to come for Burton. Despite Clough's men picking up their performance slightly midway through the opening half, they never really looked like posing much of a threat to Tony Pennock's area.
Charlery and Baptiste continued to pose the threat up front for Boro, and the defensive pairing of Stuart Reddington and Paul Talbot were having their work cut out with Watson and Danny Carroll picking their passes with relative ease as the home side continued to dominate.
Baptiste tried his luck from long range in the 27th minute but the tall striker saw his effort well held by Duke. However, the keeper's safe hands did not seem to deter Westley's men and both Watson and Chris Piper peppered the Burton goal with decent efforts moments later.
The goal was always coming — it was simply a question of when. That question was answered in the 40th minute. Charlery's fine header from Chris Piper's cross was directed into the corner of the Burton goal to make it 1-0. And when Reddington was sent-off just five minutes later for pulling down Baptiste when he was the last defender, the game looked all but over for the visitors.
Boro picked up where they had left off in the second half with the Piper brothers linking up superbly in the 50th minute to create Boro's second.
Chris's surging run to the edge of the box gave him enough space to pick out Lenny on the edge of the area and although the elder of the brothers' touch was slightly heavy, he managed to reach the ball ahead of the on-rushing Duke. When the Boro playmaker took a tumble in the box — a penalty decision was inevitable.
Lenny Piper then rewarded himself with the spot-kick moments later, firing low into the bottom left corner. But credit must go to Burton for their response in the 58th minute when Christian Moore pulled a goal back out of the blue. Moore, who had almost proved to be the hero for Burton just days before in the club's cup exit, curled a fine effort from outside the box. Despite Pennock getting a good hand to the ball, Burton were back in the contest after they had been on the ropes from round one.
The cheers for Moore's strike did not last long though, as just 30 seconds later Charlery headed home with a free header after Baptiste had picked him out with a pin-point cross. Three-one and after suffering yet another sucker punch, there appeared to be only one way the score would go from here.
Charlery completed the hat-trick in the 66th minute when he got on the end of Micky Warner's cross after Watson had once again been instrumental in the build up.
Then, in the 72nd minute, Baptiste got in on the act when he slotted into an open net from close range after Gregory — who himself enjoyed a fine afternoon's — broke down the left and delivered a low cross into the box to help answer the home crowds' cries of "we want five".
Chris Piper and Watson continued to push Burton and came close with further efforts. Meanwhile, despite letting five past him, Duke had to be at his very best to make a superb double save from Baptiste in the 83rd minute as Boro finished the game as they had started — in complete control.
A delighted Graham Westley said afterwards: "We are looking organised in our performance and we are finishing off the good passing with some quality in forward areas. It's another step in the right direction.
"First thins first; we wanted the points that were on offer today. Next week certainly wasn't in our thoughts today. Obviously going into the Southport game with the confidence from today's result is a nice thing but I'm sure we would have turned up next Saturday confident of winning even if today's result hadn't been quite so convincing."
"Ken got the rewards today for the tremendous hard work that he has put in over the last few weeks. He thoroughly deserved his hat-trick."
As for the 200th celebrations — it couldn't have gone better. Appearances from Chris Booth, Simon Read, Brian Broome and Mark Turkington were greeted by the club's biggest Conference crowd of the season (934) — a figure swelled by the Kids for a Quid scheme and the popular Quiz, which took place afterwards.
Boro: Pennock (sub Osborn 84mins); Warner, Gregory, Bunce, Laker, Watson, L Piper (Green 80), C Piper, Carroll (Holloway 76), Charlery, Baptiste. Not used: Taggart, Annon.
Ref: Steve Tanner. Att: 934.
l The leaving time from Farnborough Main station for Saturday's Supporter's C lub coach trip to Southport, has been changed from 9am to 8.30am due to roadworks on the M42 and M6. To book a seat, call Nick on 07734 472437.
l Farnborough Town have been named the Jewson Ltd Non-League Team of the Year during the BBC South Sport Awards on Sunday night.
STOP PRESS: Farnborough Town have been drawn away to Eastbourne Borough in the third round of the FA Trophy.
The game will be played on January 11, 2003.