Sunday 11th September 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets Edge Tight Contest to Maintain Unbeaten Start to Season
This fixture, in the second weekend of September, has in recent seasons been a testing one and so it proved today, but with an outcome that was more to our liking. We approached the fixture with only twelve players, our squad depleted for various reasons – paternity (congratulations to Mark Perry and, belatedly, Paul Bell though in the latter’s case it may have been the patter of bat and ball); recuperation (last week’s man of the match Toby Manchip); and injury (Chris Webb, John Tallis, Ian Shoebridge and Roger French, to name a few). Roger normally plays at the back on the left but today was left back at home after a fairly serious injury sustained in a “charity” match at Edenbridge two weeks ago, which almost led to a call for the air ambulance - allegedly. Between you and me I have always thought that the words charity match and Roger French do not go well together.
Farnborough lined up with Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Danny Winter, Ian Coles and Steve Blanchard in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Brazier, Grant Gable and Mehmet Bozyigit in midfield, Jerry Cogotti and Robin Lipscomb in attack. Our sole substitute was Paul Smith – and how heart-warming it was to see him playing football again after a long break, but more importantly after the all-clear from his doctors. He looked very good in his “Peter Cech” hat which is a more common sight in New Zealand currently. Erith appeared to have four or five subs and looked impressive in their pre-match huddle.
The referee Steve Palmer called for a minute's silence before kick off to mark 9/11, which was impeccably observed by our 12 players and the swarm of Erith vets, in black and yellow. The game was barely a minute old when we were stung by a long range shot from the left which beat Gary Fentiman but luckily for us rebounded off the post across goal. The Erith player responsible had announced himself as their most dangerous player – full of running and cunning, strong, pugnacious, and with a deadly left peg. He was to have quite an afternoon.
After this early scare we took control of the game and began to move the ball about and 60% to 65% of the play was in the Erith half. Our midfield was more mobile and energetic. Our attack was more varied – though with a bias to the right, which Colin Brazier was not slow to point out. Colin showed great hunger for the ball today – that was because he had not had any yesterday, football that is, with the 4th team. It was on the right that Mehmet Bozyigit took an early knock to his knee which limited his contribution and he was to come off after 15 minutes, making way for Paul Smith. Still the Erith defence held firm and their keeper, though relatively slight, was equal to anything we threw at him. The Erith weapon of choice – the long ball to the star forward on the left remained potent and our defensive line had to be vigilant.
Erith scored first – we did not defend a throw-in on the left too well, their full back had advanced to the edge of the box and decided to shoot rather than cross the ball. The ball came through a forest of legs and Gary did well initially to get a hand on it but it squirmed over the line. We equalised fairly quickly as Patrice Mongelard placed a corner straight onto Grant Gable’s unmarked forehead in the 6-yard box. We began to have more joy up front – with Paul Smith holding the ball and distributing it well. Jerry Cogotti and Rob Lipscomb were full of running and Grant Gable and Sinisa Gracanin were looking to burst into the Erith box. There were even a couple of long range shots from Patrice Mongelard that looked good on the eye. We went on to take a deserved lead with a great piece of skill from Jerry Cogotti. Ten yards out, he controlled a high ball from the right, turned his marker in the same move, and volleyed the ball against the inside of the far post and into the net. We seemed to relax after that and Erith came back intro the game to finish the half strongly. The aforementioned forward barrelled his way into the box on the left, saw his first shot parried by Gary Fentiman but his quick feet tucked away the loose ball. Before what felt like a very long first half ended, Erith had a one-to-one that Gary did very well to keep out.
It was important to set the right tone for the second half. Erith were probably unsettled with all the substitutions they made whereas we had the same players and got back into the game more quickly. Colin Brazier lifted our spirits with a great cross from the left that Jerry (possibly the smallest player on the pitch) headed narrowly wide, looking very surprised that the ball reached him. The game followed the same pattern as the first – we pressed more but had to be wary of Erith on the break. Gary Fentiman pulled off a great save from another one-to-one to keep us in the game after the dangerous Erith forward had beaten the offside trap on the left. This was against the run of play though and about a quarter of an hour into the second half Paul Smith, gradually rediscovering his touch, played a great one-two with Grant Gable who moved smoothly past the last defender to beat the keeper with the outside of his right foot.
To their credit Erith came back into the game and had a goal disallowed for pushing in the box. This led to one of the few sendings off I have witnessed in vets football. Frustration and possibly the warm sunshine caused their feisty forward to have heated words with the referee and with Farnborough players, and to square up to Rob Lipscomb. This left the referee Steve Palmer who kept a fair and firm grip, with a smile, in a tight match, with little choice but to expel the player. We did not mind that Erith replaced him to keep eleven players on the pitch.
We needed the security of a two goal cushion and Grant Gable was to provide this with a run into the Erith box, after neat interplay, which was capped with a well placed low shot that the Erith keeper could not keep out. A similar Farnborough move moments later nearly brought another goal as Sinisa Gracanin placed a low shot just wide of the post from about the same position. But there was to be a last goal and it was scored by one of the Erith substitutes who had come on at half time, and caused us quite a bit of trouble, with his close control, balance and dribbling ability, all of which could be seen in the execution of his goal. This caused a late frisson but time ran out for Erith. We were left to celebrate a hard fought win against a team which I suspect wins more games than it loses.
It was good to see so many Erith players staying in the clubhouse long after the game, in some way making up for the early departure of their forward. We have been playing Erith for several seasons now, and whilst our games have been close and competitive – today’s incident was out of character.
Pam Shoebridge provided an excellent spread after the game, including the Branston pickle, and not a crumb was left. I should also mention the appearance of the shellfish man. Vic Farrow was on hand as usual, with his trademark bonhomie, to make sure after match duties were performed. Roger French made an appearance (twice) to help with the paperwork and the food.
Man of the match today – Grant Gable for a smooth hat-trick, and an all round dynamic performance – who said to your reporter in his post match interview, that it was “all about the service” he’d received from his team mates.
Man of the match: Grant Gable