Sunday 30th October 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Roger & Co. go back to Winning Ways in 2-1 Win over CUACO
For today’s trip down St Dunstan’s Lane in leafy Langley Park we had the bare 11, excluding Roger French who was unsure whether he had fully recovered from his injury sustained on 28 August in the now infamous charity game, but got changed nevertheless. Quality not quantity we thought, as we prepared to face opponents who were themselves an unknown quantity and quality as this was the first time we had ever played them. Mindful of our recent form I was hoping that we would not produce a load of guano against CUACO.
On paper we had a strong well-balanced side, with Steve Palmer in goal; Ian Coles, John Tallis, Danny Winter and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Rob Lipscomb, Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Brazier and Mehmet Bozyigit in midfield; Ian Shoebridge and Andy Faulks in attack.
Thomas French, Sam Tallis, Steve Palmer’s partner (Karen) and a little later Chris and Alex Webb made up the away supporters club, on a mild autumnal morning, dry but overcast and with hardly any breeze. The playing surface was conducive to a passing game. The geometry of the goal posts behind the pitch looked not quite right and even when put in position and the right way up, they seemed wider and lower than usual, with some curvature of the bar. More peculiar though were the mix of red and white pitch markings. The presence of archers practising their sport a hundred yards or so from the football pitch was also unusual but perfectly safe we hoped. We’ve heard of forwards going down in the box as if hit by a sniper - hit by an archer would be quite a story, in a perverse sort of way.
When the game started we realised quickly CUACO would be tough opponents, well organised, physically strong, tenacious. At the same time we could see that we were moving the ball around well and the more dominant side. Possession was about 65:35 in our favour and we attacked down both flanks, with Colin Brazier and Mehmet Bozyigit much in evidence. Our early dominance unsettled CUACO and there was discord in their ranks when their burly centre forward and one of their midfielders exchanged words and seemed prepared to take things to the next level. I heard somewhere that the initial letters in the CUACO team name stand for Commercial Union but there did not seem to be much solidarity in that moment. Still it passed and there was no recurrence – even later when CUACO were under more stress.
Our progress was checked momentarily down the right when Mehmet Bozyigit was bundled into the ditch and tossed into the brambles. But he recovered his poise as we created the early chances. Andy Faulks put a thirty-yarder on the crossbar (“it would have gone in if the bar was straight” he muttered later as we walked back to the dressing rooms). Sinisa Gracanin had probably the clearest scoring opportunity of the half when he arrived twelve yards out to connect with a poor clearance only to put the ball narrowly wide. We had a number of promising free kicks and long range shots but nothing came of them. The CUACO keeper was proving quite adept at plucking high balls from the air and being in the right position to make all his saves look deceptively easy, even for the long range shots from Patrice Mongelard. At the other end Steve Palmer was not exactly overworked – he may well have been more worried about the archers, such was the efficiency of the defence in front of him. When CUACO got corners John Tallis stretched to get us out of sticky situations with his head.
At half time we felt we were the better team but it was not a given that we would win the game. The fact that no substitutions could be made at that stage may have helped us as we quickly picked up the tempo of the game and resumed where we had left off. Only this time we appeared to have sharpened up our act in the final third. The second half was barely five minutes old when Mehmet Bozygit broke through on the right and crossed accurately for Robin Lipscomb at the far post – whose header across goal was screaming for a forward to get on the end of it, but it narrowly eluded both Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge. From then on we hammered at the door, and a string of half chances came and went. We were encouraged by the fact that we had more of a presence in the CUACO box, we picked up loose balls on the edge, we recycled the ball quickly from the back and the fullbacks were joining in and generally we forced CUACO to play on the break.
Our first goal, about twenty minutes into the half was long in coming but certainly worth waiting for. Andy Faulks had been dropping back to the edge of the box to snaffle the loose ball and fashion shooting chances. He picked up the ball from a lay-off from Ian Shoebridge, saw his first attempt on goal charged down but the ball sat up nicely for him as he got a second bite at the cherry – and what a yummy bite that was – as he produced the cleanest of strikes to arrow the ball into the top corner. It was going to take something special to beat the CUACO keeper and so it proved. We hit a purple patch over the next ten minutes as we created a lot of danger in and around the CUACO box. The culmination was our very clinical second goal: Ian Shoebridge played Colin Brazier in behind the defence on the left – he blazed down the wing, looked up, and measured an accurate low cross for Andy Faulks arriving on time, to stretch and guide the ball inside the post.
We relaxed a bit after that even though CUACO came close to scoring from the solitary corner they had in that half. There was even time for Roger French to come on for Mehmet Bozyigit for the last ten minutes, in which time Roger fouled an opponent, gave away a free kick, and almost had a good goal opportunity. It was very good to see Roger put his injury behind him and finish the game with a smile (which would have pleased young Thomas French, last seen insouciantly poking some barbecue coal remnants with a stick).
There was time for Danny Winter to miss a one to one before we gifted CUACO their goal. Patrice Mongelard had outpaced the CUACO right winger, intercepted a through pass and rolled the ball back to Steve Palmer in goal. Steve must have taken his eye off the ball as he attempted to finesse it out of the box instead of putting it in row Z. He scuffed the ball and lofted it gently to the nearest CUACO forward who calmly and expertly placed it over Steve’s head into our goal. There were a couple of hairy moments for us in that last five minutes but we held on to earn a deserved away win. Pity about what Chris Webb, now running the line in Roger’s stead, called the lesser spotted Farnborough Senior Vets clean sheet.
Man of the match today for winding the clock back to his glory days was Andy Faulks for his two goals, and an overall performance which showed, perhaps, that he had put the extra hour in bed to good use. Also deserving of mention was Sinisa Gracanin for a smooth performance like clockwork anchoring the midfield, spraying passes, and being in the right place at the right time for most of the game.
Next week we look forward to the first of four consecutive home games after a run of six away games.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks