Sunday 4th March 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Joyless occasion for Senior Vets who go down 4-1 against Staplehurst Monarchs
This was a dismal affair from start to finish as the weeping rain dampened subdued spirits creating a glumness that enveloped the ground and the team and our performance was not exactly a ray of sunshine.
Pre-match strategy had been thrown out of kilter with the overnight withdrawal of Mick O’Flynn and the emergency transfer of Darren Burkett to the Young Vets who were down to the bare eleven and, unusually, also playing at home today. We still had 14 players available. Our opponents in fact had 16 players – reinforced we noted by some ex-Maidstone players. Something else which they were better at today were substitutions – more on that later.
Toby Manchip had selflessly answered the call to go in goal after Gary Fentiman had to withdraw during the week. This gave Toby an opportunity to mimic Roger French’s contrasting telephone manner on either side of Gary’s communication. The rest of our starting XI were Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Colin Brazier and Danny Winter in defence; Rob Lipscomb, Chris Webb, Nick Waller and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; Paul Smith and Ian Shoebridge in attack. Patrice Mongelard ran the line whilst Roger French brooded in the dugout on the whereabouts of Andy Faulks, among other things. We were later to discover from a bedraggled Andy who trudged into view towards the end of the first half that even by his standards Andy’s pre-match routine had been most unhelpful to our endeavours.
The first fifteen minutes of the game were very even. Both sides were measured, patient and looking to string passes together. There were no early chances of note to report apart from a good shooting chance that fell to Paul Smith but was wasted. As the half progressed our keeper became the busier of the two. Set pieces were clearly going to be a problem for us. Staplehurst had more shots at our goal and we were saved by goal line clearances from Steve Blanchard and Colin Brazier. Toby was called into action more than once but we kept our opponents at bay until about the twentieth minute or so. We failed to defend a set piece, Toby was lobbed with a header from a central position just inside our box and the ball came back off the base of the post, eluded Toby’s grasp as well as a Farnborough defender and fell nicely for a Staplehurst forward who slammed it into the net from two yards out. Soon after the goal Patrice Mongelard came on for Sinisa Gracanin on the right side of midfield.
I cannot say that we did much to get an equaliser before the half ended. We never really penetrated the Staplehurst defence. Instead we had to withstand more pressure. Toby Manchip made a really brave interception coming off his line which left him a bit dazed. We kept the score at 1-0 until the interval. Rob Lipscomb went off with about five minutes left after what looked like a “sniper job” but was a genuine knock, and Sinisa Gracanin rejoined the fray. Staplehurst will have ended the half in better spirits than we did. Even the copious supply of half time oranges this week (32 quarters - a number which taxed the arithmetic of some) did not quite lift our mood. Andy Faulks came on for Paul Smith, and Rob Lipscomb returned having recovered his poise. Roger French, we noted was withdrawn and even more surly than usual – his mien not really helped when there was no response to his call for volunteers to make his complicated life easier with our substitutions.
In the first five minutes of the second half we could have had two goals, capitalising on Staplehurst defensive errors and we nearly opened them up twice but the last connections involving Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge both shooting on target were never forceful enough and the chances which perhaps came a bit early for tardy Andy, went begging. The next ten to fifteen minutes were fairly bright for us. At the end of that time Colin Brazier came off for Sinisa Gracanin and soon after Staplehurst doubled their lead. There was a suspicion that the forward who scored had become active from an offside position to beat Toby from outside the box but the goal stood. Toby Manchip pulled off some great saves over the next few passages of play to keep us in the game. We were rewarded with a goal after some good work by Andy Faulks who teed up Robin Lipscomb for a smart finish into the roof of the net with his left foot from three yards out.
Just when we thought we’d build on this we were undone by one of those “what happened next” moments. The biggest player on the pitch had barrelled his way into our half – the sliding tackle from Steve Blanchard, a little in arrears if truth be told, had we thought steered the ball to the onrushing Toby Manchip. Toby got to the ball but by a cruel twist of fate seemed to play it against the heel of the Staplehurst forward who by then had his back turned to our goal and was starting to enquire with the referee, Mick Gearing, about Steve Blanchard’s tackle. Meanwhile and unbeknown to the forward, the ball was trickling into our net.
This was a tipping point in the game. Our heads dropped. Ian Shoebridge limped off injured and Paul Smith came back on for him. There were other unsettling changes in that last quarter of an hour. Roger French came on for Nick Waller. Patrice Mongelard was replaced by Colin Brazier but came back soon after as Danny Winter limped off. Staplehurst added a fourth goal which they deserved and that was it.
There is no question that the better team won today. They could have had six or seven goals without us feeling hard done by. There was a malaise in the team today which seeped through with the rain which left a bit of an aftertaste. It reminded me of a book about management called “The fish rots from the head”. It did not help the Senior Vets that the Younger Vets won their game on the adjoining pitch 11-1. Clearly we should have swapped opponents but at least Darren Burkett was happy.
I think that by the time we had showered and had a bit more banter in the changing room we were less glum, and if that is not too much of a contradiction, had started to look forward to our next game – away against the Metropolitan Police Supervets. The clubhouse was bustling with four vets teams to feed, and Pam Shoebridge did a sterling job as always, and wisely held back some of the food for you know who. Roger let slip that hunger had added to his morosity and I was even moved to offer him my half-eaten pizza slice to cheer him up. Even the seafood man found some customers today.
Man of the match: overwhelmingly - Toby Manchip, who took one for the team today, and more, and truly deserved the captain’s armband.
Man of the match: Toby Manchip