Sunday 25th September 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets go down 2-3 in Dull Display Against Sanco Super Vets
Today was a glorious day for football, on a still, balmy Sunday morning, and on a peach of a pitch, against opponents that we have beaten in the past on their delightful ground in Dulwich Village. Yet we came up short after leading twice in the match, and lost the game in the last ten minutes.
Injuries mostly had robbed us of several players and there were other reasons for absences, but we still had a competent team out there and for all we know our opponents could have been missing a few themselves, though they had about five substitutes to our solitary one. But they were better organised and balanced, used their substitutions well, and had home pitch advantage. We played without cohesion and pace. We had two forwards looking for their touch, a midfield not in touch with each other, and a defence that was a touch too defensive.
Farnborough lined up with Steve Palmer in goal; Chris Bourlet, Colin Brazier, Ian Coles and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Rob Lipscomb, Toby Manchip and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Paul Smith and Andy Faulks in attack. Dave Green was our solitary substitute and we had three loyal supporters in Isabelle, Thomas and Roger French.
When the game started Sanco moved the ball about better through their skilful playmaker in midfield, and to their forwards who were comfortable holding the ball and playing with their back to goal and using the full width of the pitch. We had a more direct style. But Paul Smith and Andy Faulks had trouble imposing themselves on the Sanco defence. Andy had not scored for months – yet he got our first goal after a cleverly angled and weighted ball from Sinisa Gracanin played him in behind the Sanco right back and he got to it, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball in from a very narrow angle with his left foot. This felt a bit like it was against the run of play – particularly as Sanco were forcing corners which we had trouble coping with. The set piece is becoming a weakness of ours. It was no surprise when Sanco equalised ten minutes later after we failed to clear the ball and did not close down on the edge of the box and a well-struck acrobatic volley brought the teams level.
Things got a bit tense for a short period as both teams sought to edge ahead. I was called a “throwback” by a feisty and prickly Sanco forward we had not encountered before, who had heated words with three or four of our players in a short space of time. The sentence addressed to me was not fully formed, so I was left wondering what or who I was a throwback to – Tommy Smith perhaps though I’d prefer to think of Alan Hansen. Putting this rare unpleasantness in a game against Sanco behind us, we rallied and had our best spell of the game. Toby Manchip had a couple of shots from distance cutting in from the left but these were not good, and he seemed in need of new footwear. The management hope that they have now solved the problem. This said, I must confess to putting a technically difficult 25-yard volley well over the cricket sightscreen behind the goal. Ian Shoebridge had a close range glancing header from an Andy Faulks cross that brought a very sharp save from the Sanco keeper.
Ian began to make some gains down the right – though we lacked our normal penetration down that flank (as we did on the left too with the changes we had had to make) - and from one such move came the best goal of the match. Neat interplay between Sinisa Gracanin and Ian Shoebridge saw Ian free with time to look up, listen to the call, measure and thread a pass across the Sanco box into the path of Colin Brazier coming in at pace who shot first time to place a low, hard drive beyond the keeper. Colin will have been quietly very satisfied with this crisp and clinical finish against one of his former teams. We held on to our 2-1 advantage until half time.
For the second half Dave Green came on at right back, notionally, for Chris Bourlet. He brought a bit of bite into our game as he put himself about up front, and in midfield but conceded free kicks. Toby Manchip was substituted after 65 minutes – in what he later described as a game-changing substitution by the management when we were 2-1 up, to be replaced by Chris Bourlet. I think by then we had lost belief and Sanco finished the last 15 to 20 minutes on top and that was when the game was turned on its head. The tipping point was the excellent save midway through the second half which the Sanco keeper made from Andy Faulks in a one-to-one, after Sinisa Gracanin had played Andy through when he could have carried on into the box himself. Until then our own goal had not really been troubled but the tide turned with that save.
Our weakness at corners returned as Sanco equalised with twenty minutes to go. The force was now with them, except for free kicks that we failed to capitalise on. They were awarded a penalty, and rightly so when Ian Shoebridge brought down one of their players in the six-yard box with a late and tired tackle. The aforementioned feisty and prickly Sanco player stepped forward and screwed his low shot wide. He will have been disappointed with that. I was not. Just when we were beginning to think that a draw would not be a bad result – with five minutes left, after yet another corner which we cleared this time but failed to get to the second ball, a dipping volley was despatched from about 30 yards out which surprised Steve Palmer and went in under his body and that was that.
We lost to three well-taken goals: (i) a volley from the edge of the box which we were too slow to close down; (ii) a header in the six-yard box from a corner that we failed to defend and (iii) a speculative but well-executed volley from thirty yards which again we were slow to get to. Of course, we played a part in these goals, even if one of omission, and we could not feel after each of them that we should have done better. That was the abiding memory of the game which left us all a bit morose and grumpy, especially Roger French who had been going apoplectic on the touchline. Yet things had started on a light-hearted note before kick-off when Toby Manchip was presented with his 2010-11 season award for services to comedy. And even though some of us were cheered up a little on the way home with the “confessions of a postman” the last laugh today belonged to Sanco.
Man of the match today was Steve Palmer for a performance that deserved better.
Man of the match: Steve Palmer