Sunday 31st March 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Seven Easter Eggs for Senior Vets As Statler Finds His Scoring Boots...Finally
The early morning frost had been dissolved by the sun by the time we arrived at the Catford Wanderers Club on Beckenham Hill Road off the A21. Andy Faulks arrived a little later with the kit, having had two reminders from Roger French that the clocks had gone forward overnight.
It was a relief to be playing on grass again - in British Summer Time - after a seemingly interminable catalogue of waterlogged, frozen and snowbound pitches. On the last day of March there was a feeling that we were emerging into spring at last. We could not help think back on last season’s corresponding fixture, played in tropical heat, which we won 1-0, having loaned several players to Catford who were short. Today they had the numbers. So did we - with Jim St John 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 and Paul Bell waited to join our Easter egg hunt. Jane (Colesy’s partner), Thomas and Isabelle French, Master Dowie and a special Andy Faulks friend completed our Easter congregation.
It is no hyperbole to say that we enjoyed about 75% possession in the first half as we wove wave after wave of attacking moves, passing profusely and probing here, there and everywhere. The trouble was that we could not get the breakthrough we wanted. The final ball was lacking, we did not have enough bodies in the box at the right time or in the right place, crosses were not hot, shots were rushed and wild, and, of course, Catford defended in numbers and well. Their keeper was equal to a couple of one to ones involving Mehmet Bozyigit and Rob Lipscomb. There was an uncharacteristic miss from Mehmet Bozyigit from a yard out after the keeper had parried his close range shot and Mehmet followed up, perhaps with his mind elsewhere like a kebab shop owner who had his savings in the Bank of Cyprus, to miscue. At the other end the rare sorties that Catford made when they wandered into our half of the pitch were neutered by the defence or by an alert Jim St John. Jim’s powerful and accurate throwing arm was a joy to behold.
After twenty-five minutes Paul Bell replaced Mehmet Bozyigit – though Mehmet was back soon after to replace a misfiring Andy Faulks who went off to gather his thoughts. The half time whistle was not far from being blown when we got our breakthrough. Nick Waller had made an overlapping run (Are you sure?? - Ed.) and was able to measure a cross with his trusty left peg that connected first time with Paul Bell’s corresponding limb, five yards out, crisply, unerringly to sail past the keeper.
Surely, we thought, more goals would follow even with the introduction of Roger French up front at half time, as he and Andy Faulks became the new pairing up front (with Scott Dowie and Mick O’Flynn taking a breather). The pattern of the first half repeated itself. It took us ten minutes though to get the cushion of a second goal. The busy Catford keeper parried an Andy Faulks shot into the path of Sinisa Gracanin who finished calmly and coolly. The goals kept coming after that as we found acres of space behind the overworked and tiring Catford defence. Roger French was played in on goal by Andy Faulks – Roger’s first touch looked rustic but was a cunning disguise to lull the Catford keeper into a false sense of security. Roger assured us that his shot was goal bound, in fact behind the line, when a Catford defender cleared that ball high into the roof of the net. It would have been cruel to deny him his first goal of the season and so the goal will go down as a ROG instead of an OG. Five minutes later, Ian Shoebridge saw a gap from distance and placed a low twenty-yard shot beyond the keeper into the bottom corner. Sinisa Gracanin and Nick Waller made way for the return of Scott Dowie and Mick O’Flynn.
After two assists, and a growing number of individual attempts, Andy Faulks body clock was now fully awake and he duly registered his first and second goals of the game (numbers 33 and 34 for the season in only twenty-four games) with identical moves. as he was put through by Ian Shoebridge and Robin Lipscomb to race on goal and finish with precision. After waiting ages for a goal Roger French saw his second one arrive as he was played in again by Andy Faulks, saw his first shot parried by the Catford keeper but was able to capitalise on the rebound to score what turned out to be our last goal of the game. There was time for Roger to be denied a third bun with a very good header from a cross by Mehmet Bozyigit after the linesman ruled Roger was offside. There was applause for the linesman from both teams – I made this up – but seriously the prospect of Roger taking us through his hat-trick in the bar afterwards was avoided. As it happens I did not get to hear about his brace as I had to shoot off to spend time with the family at this special time, as most of us did I think – so, apologies to Catford for our low numbers after the game, this is not our style.
Next week we have a tougher test in the depths of Kent away to Staplehurst & Monarchs. What price a clean sheet as today – only the second time this season that we have kept the opposition out, and both times without our regular keeper – hmmm. Jim was excellent on the rare times he was called upon – a dive low to his left, and a hand to a high corner stood out in the memory, and on a day when he could have been adding to his 15 goals as leading scorer for our Young Vets (who won 3-0). So thanks again Jim.
Man of the match - with no need for his none too subtle suggestion, Roger French, for the hat-trick that never was.
Man of the match: Roger French