Sunday 21st October 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets come up very short as revitalised Wickham Park dish out footballing lesson
I am still undecided on whether the awfulness of this week’s defeat was worse than last week’s. Things are not good and certain truths have to be faced. I must apologise to my readers if over the course of the hundred and sixteen match reports that I have written to chronicle our matches over five seasons I have given the impression that we are any good. The truth is we are rarely very good, occasionally good but most of the time pretty ordinary or poor. There are severe limitations in our brand of football and in our squad that we choose not to see as we emphasise the social dimension of our Sunday morning exercise in masochism. I will not dissemble any more – we play without solidarity and without intelligence – there I have said it - and nothing will happen between now and the rest of the season to change this. At this point you can stop reading this report or carry on but you have been warned.
It is not quite Halloween but the starting XI in today’s horror show were: Gary Fentiman in goal; Ian Coles, Mick O’Flynn, Patrice Mongelard and Chris Webb in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Nick Waller, Ian Shoebridge and Rob Lipscomb in midfield; Andy Faulks and Andy Smith in attack. Mehmet Bozyigit, Chris Bourlet, and Roger French waited to join the lesson. We could have had more players – two had stood down (Colin Brazier and Steve Blanchard). Colin was among our supporters along with Paul Smith, Trevor Stewart, Graeme Evans and the two young tent dwellers Isabelle and Thomas French.
Prior to the game Roger French had been provided with mood-calming foods in the form of a banana and dark chocolate. I suppose we have to be grateful that these were consumed. There’ll be more on Roger’s consumption later.
The Wickham Park Vets we played today were not the same team that we played last season. They seemed younger, faster, more skilful, more organised, more purposeful and mobile than any of us could recall. We had no illusions about the difficulty of the task but I do not think we were quite prepared for the gulf in quality that began to show early doors. Their first goal, about fifteen minutes in, was a bit scrappy as we failed to clear danger and the ball went in off one of our defenders who attempted to block a close range shot after the ball had fallen kindly to our opponents in the box. We threatened briefly – Chris Webb came closest to equalising from a corner and Sinisa Gracanin had a good shot that the Wickham Park keeper was in the right position to pluck from the air. But on the whole we were restricted to tame long range shots, set pieces and never really penetrated their box or got behind them. Instead they broke with pace down the flanks or thorough our middle and they always seemed to be able to defend in numbers and snuff out any threat we mustered. After about thirty minutes Nick Waller was replaced by Mehmet Bozyigit but we continued to be under the cosh. The second Wickham goal ten minutes before half time was a very good header from six yards out that crashed against the underside of the bar and went in after an excellent cross from the right.
Roger French and Chris Bourlet came on for Chris Webb and Andy Faulks at half time. Our best opportunity to get back in the game came after five minutes when Sinisa Gracanin was hacked down from behind in the box but to our dismay referee Mick Gearing was unmoved. Even the Wickham Park players thought we had a case as the stud marks and the swelling ankle brought Sinisa’s involvement to an end and Chris Webb returned to the fray. That banana and dark chocolate appeared to work as Roger French engaged Mick Gearing in conversation minus red mist. I do not think we threatened the Wickham Park goal after that. At the other end we conceded a third after we failed to pick up an advancing midfielder on the edge of the box who finished the move with a cool lob into the top corner. By the time Wickham got a fourth the fight had gone out of us as a goal kick was returned with interest and another Wickham midfielder burst through two tackles and rounded Gary Fentiman to inflict our heaviest defeat this season, with Farnborough failing to score for the first time in eight matches and now with more games lost than won this season – always a dispiriting tipping point. Further changes were made as Nick Waller and Andy Faulks came back on for Andy Smith and Rob Lipscomb and later on Ian Shoebridge and Rob swapped places – all to no avail, and in some ways adding to the disjointed shambles we served up.
It did cross our minds later that perhaps it would have been better if Wickham Park had played our Young Vets on the adjacent pitch where the latter scored four without reply against Sanco Vets in the first half hour before winning 5-3 at the end. But then again we lost 3-2 to Sanco Super Vets a few weeks ago so maybe the idea of a switch was not such a good one after all.
There was much sound and fury in this game – all from Farnborough. If there was a trophy for the team most shouted at by its own players and management – we’d be champions every year. There is not a game without raised voices, accusations, dark mutterings, swearing, and other imprecations directed at our own. It needs to stop. John Keats’ poem “To Autumn” tells us this is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. I fear that for us it is turning into a season of misses and bitter frustration. After a game like today’s, as I find myself, at 55, just one game away from my 400th game as a Farnborough Vet - I find attractive the idea of leaving the scene with a round figure and putting an end to the “anguish of the soul” that John Keats also wrote about in his “Ode on Melancholy”. At least I will be spared the most irksome sight of players ten years or so younger than me playing without heart, brain, hunger, pride or fitness.
There were four Vets teams at Farnborough today with assorted families and the food laid on by Mrs Shoebridge was all gone by the time I appeared after sweeping two dressing rooms. Fortunately Mrs S had saved me a couple of sausages, four chicken drumsticks and a ham and Branston sandwich which were duly dealt with before more pizza slices and sandwiches were released. Most of these went on Roger French’s plate (note for Mrs French – Roger could need worming). Anyway I think I know why Roger has trouble adding up the match subs - and today was doubly perplexing as he was collecting two weeks’ worth. It is all about blood flow – blood that should be going to the brain for arithmetic is being diverted to digestive duties.
Alas the day did not get better for me. Having tarried at the club I arrived late at home (14:28) for a visit to mother-in-law’s only to see Mrs M about to get into our other car to drive off without me and I was greeted with the words “How long does a ******* game of football take?”. Wisely, I kept two thoughts to myself: (a) women, even intelligent ones, will never understand football and (b) good thing I did not take the kit home. I had put my name down to start the defence of my Dot Cotton Award but my guardian angel had persuaded Mick O’Flynn to grab the kit bag on his way out.
Next week the clocks go back. The only way to improve our performance I feel is for the clock to go back at least five years but only for us, not for our opponents!
Man of the match – Andy Smith for a thankless task in a very poor team performance on a melancholic day.
Man of the match: Andy Smith