Sunday 2nd September 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets slow to come from behind to win 3-1 in opener to season in game of two halves, two pitches, a girl, new kit and a new sponsor.
“You smell nice for the lads” said the wife as I was preparing to leave the house for our first match this season. The sheepish reply was “Well I might as well come clean, since you may read about it, our opponents today AFC Greenwich had a girl playing for them when they played our Young Vets last season. I am sure I told you about it”.
We had offered the use of our home pitch for this game but in the end made the journey to a passage between Ravens Way and Hamlea Close off the A20 to get to the Sozo House of Praise Community Outreach Centre - there were rumours at the end of the game that the bar had been turned into a place of worship.
For our first outing this season – the team lined up as follows:
Gary Fentiman in goal; Mick O’Flynn, Ian Coles, John Tallis and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Mehmet Bozyigit, Chris Webb, Rob Lipscomb and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Andy Faulks and Andy Smith in attack. Reinforcements were Roger French, Chris Bourlet and Leo Maccioni. Loyal supporters consisted of Jane (Ian Coles’ partner), campers Thomas and Isabelle French, and later Sinisa Gracanin.
I made a mental note that nine of these 14 players had attended training during the summer, but some more than others.
In a bijou dressing room we had the excitement of unpacking and unwrapping our new kit – from our new sponsor - Village Cuisine, after Roger French had agreed to consume one hundred curries and drink three hundred cobra beers in the course of the season at said establishment in Farnborough High St. – I joke of course but not entirely. I’ll just have to join him to take one for the team so to speak.
When we all got our leg over – the low brick wall that is - to reach the pitch we discovered that we were to play on an unmarked pitch, with bespoke goal nets. The grass was unusual – thick, springy, and short, with the capacity to slow everything down – players and ball. The referee was the above mentioned girl – until she swapped shirts to play in the game midway through the half. By the end of the game she had earned our respect – with intelligent running, good ball control and passing (better than some of us) and heading ability. She took up some good positions and I do not think that anyone pulled out from tackling her, including from behind, but obviously she could not be manhandled. In fact I do not think there was a single bad tackle or word said during this game even though there was tension and the result was far from a foregone conclusion.
It is fair to say that we were taken by surprise in the first half when AFC Greenwich scored after about ten minutes with a well-worked goal that came from a fast counter-attacking move. We could see they had three or four players much younger than we were – particularly in midfield and on the left but we had a lot of possession and were probably complacent – perhaps mindful of the very heavy defeat they suffered at the hand of our Young Vets last season. I hesitate to say that as this was our first game this season we were rusty, tentative, and not really with it. It would have been the same for the other team. They were more content in the way they played – than we were. We were tetchy, impatient and a string of missed chances did not help. On the plus side the chances kept coming – and we enjoyed the greater possession. Apart from the goal Gary Fentiman had one save of note to make in the half – whilst at the other end the not very tall AFC Greenwich keeper was equal to everything we threw at him. Andy Smith, Andy Faulks, Mehmet Bozyigit all had good shots saved and three one to ones came to nothing. Midway through the half Leo Maccioni came on for John Tallis and we reshuffled the side with Chris Webb dropping back into central defence but continued to put pressure on the AFC Greenwich goal. We forced six or seven corners to their two – all to no avail.
We had ended up playing on the unmarked pitch rather than one of the two adjacent marked pitches due to an administrative error. However, we spotted that the game on one of the pitches had ended prematurely – not sure why but it would not have been an outbreak of peace and understanding in SE12. That is how we ended up playing the second half on a different pitch. Chris Bourlet came on for Mick O’Flynn at half time.
The grass was different – more suited to our game – a much better, truer surface that did not absorb any energy from the ball or sap the players. We recovered our bearings from the white lines on the pitch. Less than a minute into the half Ian Shoebridge played Andy Faulks in behind the defence and Andy at last converted the opportunity. Ten minutes later the same two players combined and Andy lashed the ball into the net. From then on it was difficult for our opponents to get back in the game. The defence was well marshalled by Chris Webb and John Tallis now back on for Ian Coles. We created other chances but could not finish. With only the slenderest of advantages some tension did creep into our game especially when the ball was in our half and we were making heavy weather of securing the cushion of a third goal, and Roger French had came on for Mehmet Bozyigit. With about fifteen minutes left Ian Shoebridge also departed the scene (nothing to do with a glaring miss that put the ball on the pitch we had left) with Mick O’Flynn returning. Ian Shoebridge did come back for a tiring Andy Smith (at 56 – only just our oldest player but still with all the moves) for the final moments. In that time Rob Lipscomb was able to tee Andy Faulks up for his hat trick from close range. And that was it. In Village Cuisine terms this had been a korma of a game rather than a vindaloo but there will be plenty of time to spice things up.
Talking of spice the après-match was not eventful, nothing to report in the shower department, players drifted away in the absence of a bar or food. There was limited opportunity for post match analysis or Benny Hill humour.
Man of the match – Ian Shoebridge took the gold medal.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge