Sunday 29th January 2012
Statler & Waldorf Challenge Match
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets and Youth team serve up perfect blend for Statler & Waldorf Challenge Cup
For those of you with raised eyebrows and quizzical looks the Statler & Waldorf Challenge Cup is the game that is played when the Senior Vets join forces with other players from the club to play a game that would otherwise not be played for a lack of opposition.
Statler and Waldorf are in fact the two mostly grumpy old gits that co-manage the Senior Vets – aka Roger French (Statler) and Patrice Mongelard (Waldorf). The analogy owes much to another Senior Vet, absent today, Toby Manchip, who thinks the muppets running the team do not know what they are doing. Anyway today was the third such game in a couple of seasons and an opportunity for Statler to finally win one.
To get this game on we used the full resources of the club drawing on both ends of the age range of playing members (a span of nearly forty years between the most senior Senior Vet and the youngest Youth); and adding their years together would still be shy of the age of today’s referee, the eternally sprightly septuagenarian, Mick Gearing.
What did we serve up today to the twenty five or so spectators that braved a cold day? Their number was augmented in the second half by a semaphoric Colin Brazier who ran one line (with Steve Blanchard Junior running the other). The Youth team are arguably one of the better, if not the best, supported teams in the club and there was a good crowd out there. They got a brew that was rich, balanced, intense and smooth, and full of flavour to the last – quite unlike the tea we had after the game which was still welcome.
The line-ups were as follows (with Senior Vets*):
Waldorf’s XI – Yellows
Gary Fentiman*, Mason Granger, Patrice Mongelard*, Steve Blanchard*, David Arthurton, Brad Smith, Sinisa Gracanin*, Tom Ayton, Tom Bennett, Paul Smith*, Andy Faulks*
Subs: Harvey Bailey, Paul Jarman.
Statler’s XI - Whites
Joel Wolfenden, Mick O’Flynn*, Jack Hampson, Dom Boorman, Darren Burkett*, Ian Shoebridge*, Nick Waller*, Cameron Zegeling, Rob Lipscomb*, Garath Benson, Jerry Cogotti*
Subs: George Rolt, Roger French*
It would take too long to describe the rich tapestry of this enjoyable game. The Whites had the better of the first half without question. Their attacking force and intent was greater. The Yellows were mainly on the defensive and did not have much impact in the Whites\' box. The Whites deserved their 2-0 lead by half time and could have had more but for Gary Fentiman. Both their goals, though well taken, owed much to mistakes: for their first Steve Blanchard attempted a tackle that reminded us of the forthcoming Six Nations and a long ball over the top was converted though Gary got a hand to the shot from Garath Benson but the ball went over the line. The second was a smart bit of control and finish from close range by Jerry Cogotti after we lost the ball down our left.
The second half started as the first ended but was ten minutes old when the Yellows pulled one back from the sliding boot of Andy Faulks who latched on to a low cross to wrong-foot the keeper. Five minutes later though the Yellows\' good work was undone as Steve Blanchard and Gary Fentiman got their wires crossed. Steve deftly headed the ball past an onrushing Gary Fentiman on the edge of the box and the young Whites forward – Paul Jarman, walked the ball into the net with a broad smile at his good fortune. Still the Yellows did not give up. There followed possibly the one controversial decision as the referee Mick Gearing awarded a penalty to the Yellows which was swiftly despatched by Tom Bennett. The last fifteen minutes were upon us and even Roger French, as he could sense a victory slipping from his grasp, would agree that the Yellows had the Whites on the ropes. Our pressure told with barely a minute left when Tom Ayton nipped in like a fox in the box to convert from close range and level the scores.
And that was it. The energy, verve, pace and elasticity belonged to youth but this was balanced by positional craft, discipline, economy of movement and football brain of the oldies, several of whom were three times the age of their opponents and team mates. Some of the Senior Vets performances were eyecatching: Sinisa Gracanin gave a vintage display in the middle of the park and Andy Faulks mixed it with the youngsters. Ian Shoebridge and Rob Lipscomb ran like teenagers and Roger French was mellow – no Basil Fawlty impressions today, despite having to wait for another match to get one over Waldorf.
On the way back to the clubhouse Mick Gearing was to be found looking for his lost whistle. I could say that I had not realised he had one but then again how else could he have awarded us that controversial penalty. It is an art of course to referee a game with such economy and let the game flow. Still careful owners must miss what they lose, and I hope the club buys him a replacement so he can continue the great job he does.
It was left to the Senior Vets after the game to tidy up – put the goalposts away, take down nets, stow them away in the containers etc. as the teenagers did what teenagers do when it comes to tidying up. To be fair they had done a pretty tidy job on the pitch and like proud parents we’ll let them off.
Pam Shoebridge fed the proverbial 5,000 as four hungry teams, and Roger French, tucked into a cornucopia of egg, ham, cheese and pickle, corned beef sandwiches, pizza slices, sausages, chips, crisps, celery and cucumber.
So today we had six goals like last week in the Senior Vets game but the mood was so different, a really uplifting experience for all involved. There were many moments of quality, plenty of passing, some good goals and a competitive edge that sharpened everyone up in the right sporting way. So it is a big thank you to all involved in this game on and off the pitch.
Man of the match: last week I wanted to take a vote off everyone who played. Today the management are more than happy to give a vote to everyone who played.