A goal three minutes from the end of their home game with fifth-placed Balham on Saturday ended Knaphill’s mathematical chance of winning the Combined Counties Premier Division South.

Playoff-chasing Balham took an early lead at Redding Way, with Mark Palmer netting for the visitors in the 14th minute.

It could have got worse for Knaphill, as Balham were awarded a penalty in the 38th minute, but goalkeeper Jos Barker saved the spot kick to keep the deficit to a single goal at half-time.

Knaphill took advantage of Barker’s heroics in the 52nd minute when Jose Sani equalised for the hosts.

The match was now in the balance but it was Balham who took home the three points thanks to an 87th-minute winner from Samuele Pagano. Farnham Town still needed a point to clinch the title and looked to be heading for their first league defeat of the season as they trailed 2-1 at Jersey Bulls with five minutes to go.

Then, to the delight of the 200 travelling fans in the crowd of 1,151, Max Meaton sent the ball into the Jersey box from 50 yards out and watched in stunned delight as it sailed over Bulls keeper Pierce Roche and dropped into the right corner of the net to extend Farnham’s unbeaten start to 29 matches and secure the championship with nine games to spare.

Despite the disappointment of only their sixth defeat in 33 league matches and saying goodbye to the title, Knaphill are still looking a very solid bet for a playoff place.

They remain second in the table, seven points clear of Jersey who have two games in hand. Knaphill have a 15-point cushion over Redhill, the side immediately below the playoff line, who also have two games in hand.

There remains a threat further down the table. AFC Croydon Athletic and Tadley Calleva, in eighth and ninth places respectively, both lie 16 points behind Knaphill but both have five games in hand.

Knaphill have five games left, starting with a trip to Horley Town on Saturday. Horley are 13th and lost 2-1 at Knaphill in September.

After a blank Saturday, Knaphill start a run of three home games in 11 days, beginning with Tadley Calleva on April 9. Victory for Tadley would give them a chance to overtake Knaphill if they can win their games in hand. Knaphill won 2-0 at Tadley in November.

Next to come to Redding Way, on April 13, will be bottom club Colliers Wood United. Knaphill drew 1-1 at Colliers Wood in the first league match of the season.

Knaphill finish with two tough games against playoff contenders - Redhill at home on April 20 and Balham away on April 27.

Jake Hawker, Knaphill v Balham, March 23rd 2024.
Jake Hawker controls the ball for Knaphill (Photo: Knaphill FC) (Knaphill FC)
Pemi Yakubu, Knaphill v Balham, March 23rd 2024.
Pemi Yakubu squeezes past a Balham defender (Photo: Knaphill FC) (Knaphill FC)