Sunday 13th January 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets score twice with a clean sheet against Inter-Vyagra Super Vets
In the end our worries about the icy weather came to nothing and the game went ahead. It was on the cold side but there was not much wind, it was dry, the pitch was in fine fettle and the illusion of small snow flakes dissipated and the last quarter of an hour was even played in comforting winter sunshine – and our showers were the hottest any one could remember in a long while.
We played in a changed strip of white and black but with the Farnborough crest on the shirt so that Roger French would have a badge to kiss in the unlikely event of him scoring. Our strength in depth was severely tested particularly between the sticks with three players who have kept goal for us all unavailable, including Gary Fentiman who missed the opportunity to exorcise a 70-yard October howler against today’s opponents. But Daren Burkett stepped up to the plate and what a safe pair of hands he proved to be to give us our first clean sheet of the season. The other unfamiliar name in our line-up was Scott Dowie, ex-Buff player now looking for a new perch.
Our starting line-up was Darren Burkett in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Steve Blanchard, Mick O’Flynn and Scott Dowie in defence; Nick Waller, Mehmet Bozyigit, Rob Lipscomb and Paul Bell in midfield; Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge in attack. Roger French ran the line while Ian Coles got changed for the second time. Ian would have started the game – he arrived late but it looked like he had got changed in the car but the trouble was that he was wearing last week’s bacon and egg kit (presumably laundered since). So Scott Dowie had the first fifteen minutes while Ian kept Florence, sorry - Jane warm on the touchline, before coming on. Also keeping warm but in their familiar tent were Isabelle and Thomas French with guest Master George Dowie (one of them was hit by the ball in that tent in the first half and they wisely vacated it for the second half to have, unwisely, a water fight with the water bottles). This was the same tent that was the subject of an abrupt conversation, between Roger French and an Inter-Vyagra player in October - but I gather was Roger was more gracious to the same individual before today’s game.
Commander Mick Gearing got the game underway with the usual minimum of fuss and we set about avenging last October’s defeat. Inter-Vyagra had come to get something out of the game judging by the intensity of their pre-match team talk (an art Roger French has yet to master). They defended in numbers, and deep, and were quite happy to let us have the ball and play most of the game in their half. We had the better passing and movement in the early exchanges and indeed for most of the first half and for some time it looked like that was all we would have. Andy Faulks had missed a very good scoring opportunity when he side-footed the ball wide from three yards out after a quarter of an hour. Paul Bell blazed the ball over the bar from close range soon after Ian Shoebridge had flicked a Patrice Mongelard lofted pass into his path. It appeared, to coin a phrase, that we had a lot of foreplay but no penetration. Footballers will, of course, know this means we had plenty of possession, the passing was fluent, in the right zones, but the final ball was lacking and we never had enough bodies in the box to climax the move.
We were though getting quite a bit of joy down the right and it was from there that we forced yet another corner twenty minutes into the game. Andy Faulks loitered just outside the box, not quite in David Beckham territory but on the edge of the corridor of uncertainty. There was nothing uncertain though as he met the ball from the right with a sweet and crisp low volley that propelled the ball low into the bottom corner of the net.
We did not think that one goal would be enough and the cushion of a second one was very much on our minds as we pressed Inter-Vyagra back into their half. Ten minutes later our second goal arrived and this too was technically a thing of beauty as Robin Lipscomb with his back to goal in the 6-yard box delivered an overhead kick that the Inter-Vyagra keeper could only watch as it looped over and nestled in the back of the net. There was no mistaking the identity of the scorer (as I had mistaken the identity of the player who gave away the penalty against Old Colfeians last week).
It was not all one way traffic. Darren Burkett was not entirely idle in our goal and had to intervene once or twice to gather crosses and tip shots away for corners. For an occasional keeper Darren made the job surprisingly easy with good positioning, anticipation and distribution. Rob Lipscomb cleared a goal bound header off our line from an Inter-Vyagra corner and bar a long range shot that was narrowly wide we felt at 2-0 up at half-time that we had coped well.
The second half was a different affair, though goalless. Patrice Mongelard and Paul Bell had made way for Roger French and Scott Dowie and we had a new left side. But that was not the reason for the regression in our play. We dropped deep, ceded the midfield to Inter-Vyagra and gave them hope. It was tense for quite a while. Darren made some good interventions under the appreciative eyes of wife, daughter and grandson. I am not sure that there were any clear scoring opportunities for either side in that second half. Roger French reminded me that he had the ball in the net but that was long after referee Mick Gearing had blown the whistle for offside – so sadly it will not count as Roger played another barren spell up front to where he migrated on the hour as Scott Dowie and Nick Waller made way for the return of Paul Bell and in particular Patrice Mongelard to shore up our defence.
We deserved our win undoubtedly but we did not make it look easy and our visitors must take credit for this. A well-contested game was played in good spirit throughout and it was good to see our opponents enjoy our post-match hospitality - as I did with the foresight of a pre-order placed with Pam Shoebridge for a cheese and pickle roll, several chicken legs and thighs, and a slice of pizza. Inter-Vyagra had sharpened the appetite. There was not much food left for some of our Young Vets returning with a 3-3 away draw to Princes Park Vets under their belt.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge for a dynamic performance tirelessly linking midfield and attack.
Next week we are away to Baltic Exchange – not a happy hunting ground for us – but we would still rather not lose the game to the Beast from the East so once again will be weather-watching all week.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge