Sunday 17th March 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets beat the weather but are beaten by new opponents on a subdued St Patrick’s day
That this game was played at all owed much to the persistence and websurfing of Roger French to find us a replacement fixture, and a replacement pitch – and, of course, the willingness of new opponents to travel and play on astroturf. Still a game was better than no game and after last Sunday’s cancellation due to a waterlogged pitch we were glad to get a game today before what I fear will be yet another rain-induced cancellation next week.
They say it rains a lot in Ireland but this weekend St Patrick would have felt at home in Farnborough. Maybe he did not look after the Senior Vets today, but we do not mind as long as he looks after our club Secretary Vic Farrow who was sorely missed this morning having been taken to hospital yesterday with a suspected heart attack. We all wish Vic well and must apologise for not giving him the tonic of a Farnborough victory today from one of only two teams in the club that got to play a game this weekend.
We did not know what to expect as this was our first ever game against Reigate Priory Vets. They came in large numbers – with between four and five substitutes that were rotated throughout the game with more than a little tactical acumen particularly in the second half to break our flow. We could only manage twelve players - having opted not to call on any of our Younger Vets who had a wet day off. The twelve Farnborough astronauts today were Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Nick Waller, Mick O’Flynn and Ian Coles in defence; Ian Shoebridge, Mehmet Bozyigit, Scott Dowie and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; Andy Faulks and Rob Lipscomb in attack. Roger French conversed with Jane (Colesy’s partner) and young Thomas on the line.
The astroturf pitch at Darrick Wood School is a peculiar surface to play on. Think of a narrow strip of fine wet sandpaper, hemmed in by razor wire fencing, a surface that imparts energy to the ball and where the ability to weigh a pass correctly and control the ball instantly are at a premium, where sliding tackles, dodgy knees and ankles are inadvisable, and where you need a large supply of footballs because on three sides of the pitch it is not possible to retrieve balls that go over the fence. I think we used between five or six different balls in that game – you could say that you need a lot of balls to play on that pitch.
We were genuinely surprised by the quality of our opponents. We had somehow formed the impression from their website that they were of mixed ability, felt it more important to play than win, liked the social aspect of the game etc. But all this does not preclude quality, technical ability, a nippy well-balanced midfield in particular and they probably had more than one player under the age of forty unlike us who had only one. I think too we did not help ourselves, having played more than a part in the five goals that our opponents scored. Yet things looked very good for us after five minutes as we relaxed in the glow of a lead given to us by Ian Shoebridge who had capitalised on a poor clearance to beat the Reigate keeper from twenty yards out. And for a brief while it looked like one of Mehmet Bozyigit’s crosses from the right, or one of Sinisa Gracanin’s shots from distance would yield more – Rob Lipscomb with a header, and Scott Dowie with a volley at the far post had come very close to extending our lead.
We had the stuffing knocked out of us with three quick Reigate goals. The first came from a through ball over the top that Gary could not reach before one of the nippy Reigate forwards who poked the ball home. For the second we were ambushed just outside the box passing the ball in a dangerous area and a very well-executed volley was driven home. We were doubly guilty for the third – first by allowing Reigate an unmarked header in our box from a corner and second with Patrice on St Patrice’s day deserting his position on the back post as we all watched the looping header go over the line in an adjacent area. Things did not look good at that point – Mehmet had come off after taking a knock and Roger French came on with Scott Dowie transferring to the right of midfield. Gary’s dislike of the playing surface was apparent and our chief marksman Andy Faulks was finding it hard to penetrate and having to drop deep to pick the ball up. But we kept at it and Scott Dowie scored with a low left foot shot to bring us back into the game.
Rob Lipscomb made way for a returning Mehmet who went up front as the second half started. All our good intentions and pious hopes were extinguished as Reigate registered their fourth goal – again a mini-catalogue of defensive errors, as probably the oldest player on the pitch was rewarded with a coolly taken goal after riding two Farnborough tackles. Chris Webb and two offspring appeared at that point and they would have witnessed signs that Andy Faulks was stirring and he began at last to trouble the Reigate defence. He came close with a low shot that narrowly shaved the post before pulling one back for us after timing his run to a collect a through ball and beat the keeper from close range. We could not build on this immediately as were exposed again on the right of our defence and Reigate got to the byline and the ball was cut back to come off Patrice Mongelard on a path parallel to the goal line before somehow being diverted into his goal by a diving “I hate this surface” Gary Fentiman.
The last twenty minutes were quite a lively affair. Rob Lipscomb came back on to add to our presence up front and there were more scoring chances falling to Farnborough than to Reigate. Andy Faulks notched his second of the match to bring the scores to 5-4 and then had two great attempts saved very well by two different Reigate goal keepers. First he slid in at the far post to direct the ball into the net only for the keeper to pull off a great reflex one-handed save. This was followed by a one to one where the keeper saved a goal bound shot with his feet. We huffed and puffed but could not force the equaliser that our play deserved. We created twice as many chances as Reigate over the course of the game but had also made twice as many mistakes at the back.
Mick O’Flynn lightened the atmosphere with some Irish music in the changing rooms. By then there was more water falling outside than there was in the showers. About twenty of us, over half from the opposition, and including referee Mick Gearing, made our way back to the club where Pam Shoebridge had laid on a feast fit for a Saints’ day: cheese and pickle/egg mayonnaise/ham sandwiches; potato croquettes, pizza slices, chicken thighs and legs, sausages, pork pies, sliced red onion, celery sticks, spring onions and crisps – and Ian Couchman opened the bar, as he did the club today in Vic Farrow’s (we hope temporary) absence.
Men of the match – Sinisa Gracanin and Andy Faulks
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin and Andy Faulks