Sunday 23rd December 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets unwrap early Christmas present with comfortable 3-1 win
All week we had been watching the dark heavy clouds unload on the Orpington area (and elsewhere) and wondering if we would have the opportunity to continue our rich vein of form. The silver lining was that this was an away game and we knew from a recent flying visit to Wellcome’s ground that there were grounds for hope on the well-drained and well-kept pitches at Beckenham Cricket Club in Foxgrove Road. I had been keeping an eye also on the Mayan calendar but it had not said anything about both Farnborough Vets teams playing on the same Sunday at the same ground against the two Wellcome Vets sides. A consequence of this was that we ended up playing on the smaller pitch (and probably the better surface given where the wickets are). In the end it was quite mild, dry, sunny even at times and although there was a bit of a breeze this was one of the best pitches we have played on this season even if its size suited our opponents better than us.
The norovirus and Christmas schedule had reduced our numbers to twelve – and the Farnborough drummers today were: Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard and Mick O’Flynn in defence; John Tallis, Mehmet Bozyigit, Sinisa Gracanin and Nick Waller in midfield; Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge in attack. A wan Roger French ran the line.
An unfit Andy Smith turned up to watch the first half and Jane (Ian Coles’ partner) was there for both halves and après-match. She also brought Christmas presents for Isabelle and Thomas French – a sweet thought as those children truly deserve a present (if you get my drift). In return I hope Santa brings Jane a Cath Kidson bag (Ian - ahem).
It was very clear from the start that we had the better individual and collective movement and that we could expect most of the play would be in the Wellcome half. The game was barely five minutes old when a throw-in from Patrice Mongelard played Sinisa Gracanin in on goal but he was not able to get his shot on target. If anything we lacked a bit of composure and did not make our pressure tell. It was against the run of play that Wellcome fashioned the clearest scoring opportunity of the opening fifteen minutes when a break down the right of our defence saw the ball played across goal to the Wellcome forward with the intelligent movement only a yard out and with the goal seemingly at his mercy. It took a virtuoso save with his feet from Gary Fentiman to prevent us from going behind.
Thankfully we heeded the warning. A smart bit of inter-passing left Andy Faulks unmarked on the edge of the box and he placed a delightful lob over the keeper into the net. Five minutes later Andy back-heeled the ball into the path of Sinisa Gracanin gliding into the Wellcome box to place a low shot beyond the keeper. That was our best spell of the game – we forced several corners and it did not take very long for Andy Faulks to get his name on the score sheet again. Nick Waller cut the ball back from the left to Patrice Mongelard who advanced to the corner of the Wellcome box before unleashing a powerful low shot that the Wellcome keeper parried but could not hold and Andy pounced on the loose ball like the predator he can be to give us a comfortable and deserved 3-0 lead.
At that point there was a touch of complacency that crept into our game. The referee initially awarded a penalty for an Ian Coles handball in the box (even though it felt like a ball to chest situation) but he was eventually persuaded that contact was on the edge of the box. Nothing came of the free kick but five minutes later there was another penalty given against us – rightly this time even though Gary Fentiman thought it was a 50:50 situation as he rushed out to intercept a ball at the feet of the Wellcome forward with the smart moves. The problem was that Gary was not first to the ball and one 50 was the forward’s right leg and the other 50 his left leg. Gary redeemed himself by saving the penalty diving low to his right but as the Farnborough defence had decided to pay tribute to the Easter Island stone carvers at that very moment – the Wellcome penalty taker was the first and only player on the scene to lash the ball into the net.
We had a good opportunity to restore our three-goal lead when Mehmet Bozyigit ghosted in from the right behind the Wellcome defence, took possession of a clever Ian Shoebridge through ball, rounded the keeper, but as he only uses his left foot to stand on he had to re-adjust his position and the narrow angle did him no favours - his shot came back off the crossbar above an empty net. Mehmet was a little unlucky today – another of his runs behind the defence had seen him through and clear on goal but the referee had blown for offside (wrongly as he apologised for straight away). It turns out that the referee John Pearce was an old friend of Vic Farrow’s and we passed on his Christmas tidings to Vic. The game was played in excellent Christmas spirit even though Andy Faulks seemed to attract a fair number of tackles, but then again it was Faulks\' fault for holding on to the ball too much.
The second half was very much a hit and miss affair. Roger French came on for John Tallis as we reshuffled the side. Roger had a part in the woeful shot that Andy Faulks attempted from the half way line as the second half whistle blew. In a sense this set the tone for our half. We had plenty of chances but none were converted. Sinisa Gracanin had what a neutral observer would call two sitters but both were missed. The first one was a delightful move involving three or four players that carved the Wellcome defence open and deserved a goal. Roger French had a header that drew a smart save from the keeper and there was a pile driver from Andy Faulks that caught the eye with the keeper equal to it. We even had the ball in the Wellcome net courtesy of John Tallis who came back on for Nick Waller but the goal was ruled offside.
To their credit Wellcome defended better in the second half and whilst they never created a clear scoring opportunity we needed to be careful and vigilant at the back. The wind got up a bit and the game got a bit scrappy. Still we’ll take the 3-1 win, our fifth consecutive win, a rare feat which I cannot recall in my long memory of 400+ games for the Farnborough Vets. Meanwhile on the other pitch our Young Vets were edged out by the odd goal in a nine-goal thriller. But if you aggregate today’s scores over both games you could say that Farnborough won 7-6.
The Wellcome hospitality afterwards lived up to their name as a steaming plate of sausages, mini stone-baked pizzas, chips and onion rings (or as Mick O’Flynn imagined calamari rings) arrived and was duly dealt with.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin (despite two shocking misses) but at least Ian Shoebridge and I know he got the Mrs something nice for Christmas but she does not know yet (unless she reads this report on the club website before Tuesday).
One more game we hope in 2012 next Sunday as we seek to recover from the mince pies, turkey etc. My letter to Santa asked him to make sure Paul Bell does not have any sprouts.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin