Sunday 15th January 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets make it hard for themselves and come from behind twice to win 4-2 against an up for it Inter Vyagra
For the visit of our opponents today we wanted something to be soft and that was the pitch and I suppose we got part of what we wanted as the game was played though this was not a day for studs. Seventeen available players had taxed Roger French’s software to work out the team permutations – in the end he was down to a manual job as seventeen became fifteen, and then thirteen, and finally twelve on the morning of the game on a cold, crisp and sunny morning (though my advice was not to inform our caterer, Pam Shoebridge, of our reduced numbers).
The Farnborough hardy twelve were Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Paul Bell, Steve Blanchard and Ian Coles in defence; Chris Webb, Ian Shoebridge, Nick Waller and Robin Lipscomb in midfield; Paul Smith and Andy Faulks in attack. Roger French simmered down the line with a linesman’s flag until boiling point at half time. We had two fans in Jane (Ian Coles’ partner) and, briefly, Sinisa Gracanin.
Our record against this team is very good and I think we were complacent and limp in our approach. The game was not five minutes old when we fell behind. Inter Vyagra had the freedom of Farnborough down the right of our defence and produced a speculative long range lofted shot which beat Gary Fentiman at the near post, coming down from a great height and creeping in off the crossbar. I do not know what was more surprising, us falling behind so suddenly, or just the geometry of the whole thing. We set about putting things right but found it very difficult. We had a lot of possession but kept playing the ball into crowded areas down the right, never producing a telling cross or final ball. We tensed up, the passing got wayward, there was too much dribbling by some, there was no penetration in the box, our shape was poor, and every one of our misplaced or over-hit passes, and ineffective tackles gave heart to our opponents as we bickered and argued amongst ourselves in a half of sound and fury. Whilst Inter Vyagra did not manage to create a clear cut chance in the next half hour, neither did we. We even found time to inconvenience referee Mick Gearing with a “pass” from Andy Faulks that caught Mick full in the face, with not a little force. Mick was dazed for a bit, but I do not agree that this blow the head impaired his judgement though there was controversy later.
With just over half an hour gone we got back in the game. On one of the rare occasions when play was switched to our left – Chris Webb played the ball to left full-back Patrice Mongelard who swung in a cross. The clearing header only presented the ball to Andy Faulks loitering with intent on the edge of the box – his instant control was followed by a shot from his weaker left foot. The Inter-Vyagra keeper was beaten and the ball went in off the underside of the bar.
Despite this rare moment of skill, our general play was still unsatisfactory and unproductive. Sinisa Gracanin – one of our fifteen who dropped out (with flu) appeared suddenly well-wrapped up to watch most of the first half but his condition must have been made worse by our display. I hope he did not see Inter Vyagra take the lead five minutes before the end of the half. As a sequence of unfortunate events this takes some beating – we conceded a throw on the right at the edge of our box, the Inter Vyagra throw-in was ruled a foul by Mick Gearing. We then took the throw; decided it was a good idea to get our keeper Gary involved. He made a poor clearance; the ball fell to probably the best Inter Vyagra attacking player who instantly measured up his lofted shot from twenty-five yards out. There was time for the not hard of hearing Gary to get a hand to it, thus changing the flight of the ball beyond the clearing head of Steve Blanchard on the line who had loudly called for the ball to be left alone.
On the sideline Roger had thrown not only his toy out but had somehow hoisted the whole pram into the adjoining field as he steamed across for a half-time team “talk”, lashing the bench with the linesman’s flag in a moment that brought to mind Basil Fawlty thrashing a car with a sapling. Roger’s words to the onanists in red and yellow were few and pithy as he removed himself to the other side of the pitch to warm up on his own for the second half in lieu of Paul Bell. Warm up? I hear you ask quizzically. Well with hindsight warm down would have been a better idea – given the effectiveness of Roger’s first quarter of an hour at left back with misplaced passes, mis-controls, sliced clearances and memorably a clown-like tumble whilst on his own. Roger’s insertion in the game meant that Patrice Mongelard moved to right back - a tad ironic that, given his loud complaints about too much of our play having gone down the right in the first half. This also meant that I had, in both halves, to play on the side of the pitch least warmed by the sun and give a more sure-footed performance than usual.
I would lie to you if I said that we had the better of the first fifteen to twenty minutes of that second half. In fact at 2-1 the score did not flatter our opponents who were much better all round than we remembered them, and as one of their players kept saying “we never give up”, or at least we never give up telling you that we never give up. We then had one of those tipping points in a game when Mick Gearing blew for a free kick against us in a passage of play that even now is unclear in the mind’s eye. A flaccid back pass from Steve Blanchard did not quite reach Gary – and when he got there so did an Inter Vyagra forward – there was a tangle of legs, the ball fell to another Inter Vyagra forward to poke into an empty net as the whistle blew. Even then a neutral in the crowd could have been forgiven for thinking that a penalty was on the cards. The free kick to our opponents came to nothing. That was a pivotal moment.
Chris Webb went off with an injury and Paul Bell came back on – this time at left back, as Roger elected to go up front whether to try and get on the score sheet for the first time this season, or to leave the nightmare of the previous twenty minutes behind. From then on our play improved and Roger even managed a couple of shots on target. Our equaliser came when Patrice Mongelard picked up the ball on the right wing, beckoned his forwards to get in the box, and duly delivered a deep cross that eluded the keeper, and landed on Ian Shoebridge’s forehead who converted from two yards out. Five minutes later we won a free kick on the edge of the box and were treated to the sight of a first goal from Paul Smith this season as the Inter Vyagra keeper fumbled the shot which had cleared the wall, and the ball dropped into the net behind him. This was a hugely significant moment for Paul, after whom our top scorer’s trophy is named, and after the serious doubts that were had about him playing football ever again. He would have preferred a thirty-yard screamer into the top corner but this will do, for starters. Five minutes later Patrice Mongelard snuffed out any hopes of an Inter Vyagra recovery, by hitting the Goal-spot again as he placed a corner in the six yard box on Robin Lipscomb’s forehead who made it 4-2. And that was it, a tad harsh on our visitors, but a win that was long overdue for the under-pressure management team.
The showers were at a temperature which made us appreciate Vic Farrow’s efforts to raise a huge sum for the new boiler. Vic was on hand to eat a few sausages, and provide a towel solution to Patrice Mongelard, and an accounting one to Roger French as his sums failed to add up.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge