Sunday 29th September 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets get away with it
At the end of last week’s match report I wrote: “Next week we visit the Weald of Kent for a rustic assignment with West Farleigh Vets (tricky opponents on their home turf).” And so it came to pass.
I had forgotten how charming the setting was for this ground – the experience of playing there now enriched with superb new changing rooms and facilities all done with great taste and in keeping with the rural context. We did not mind the travelling one bit – and those who went the right way, or left in good time, would have enjoyed the 30-35 minutes’ journey from the Farnborough club house via Junction 5 of the M20.
We did not look like a well-oiled machine to start with – and we creaked a bit at the finish too. Our numbers had dwindled to twelve overnight with the withdrawal of Scott Dowie, and ten minutes from the kick-off we were still short of three players and the kit. With hindsight, entrusting the kit to Andy Faulks was not the best idea. It was not only that he operates a just in time policy but we could not be sure that the kit would be washed, or dried, or see the inside of an airing cupboard, chez Andy. Still Andy was the least tardy of the missing trio. Michael was late too, though he arrived almost in time for kick-off resplendent in his “international duty” tracksuit. His fan club arrived soon after. Jane Martin, and Rebecca Coles, our other fans, had arrived early but left before the game started. Sinisa Gracanin was the last to arrive – he called us from Junction 4 to confirm he was en route – but failed to specify it was junction 4 of the M25, not the M20. With our numbers so stretched it was a relief that there was no phone call summoning Roger French back to Orpington.
The starting Farnborough X were Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Mick O’Flynn and Colin Brazier in defence; Ian Shoebridge, Chris Webb and Colin Mant in midfield; Roger French and Andy Faulks in attack. Michael (Obinna) Ugwumba joined the midfield five minutes into the game.
The first twenty minutes were a cagey affair with both teams probing for weak points and with Farnborough having marginally more of the play but needing to be vigilant against quick West Farleigh breaks led by their two mobile forwards. Both sides were looking to play a passing game, a little hindered by the longish grass, and a wind which made the flight and bounce of the ball unpredictable. The West Farleigh pitch is one of the biggest we play on and with a bit of a slope across it which could either increase or decrease the pace of the ball. Both defences played deep so it felt like there was a lot of ground for everyone to cover.
The game was about twenty minutes old before it was illuminated with a brilliant piece of football. Michael had taken possession of the ball on the left of our midfield and looked up to see Andy Faulks in acres of space on the right. He flighted the ball with just the right amount of pace, angle, precision and weight into Andy’s path as he glided free of two defenders. Andy did not have to break his stride, all that he needed was to compute the keeper’s position and the twin geometry of the ball and goal, and connect. The half volley was fluid, clean, exact and the ball flashed past the motionless West Farleigh keeper and arrowed into the bottom corner of the net. That was just the tonic our play we deserved.
But West Farleigh rallied and the nearest we came to adding to our score was when Patrice Mongelard intercepted a ball being played out of the West Farleigh defence, advanced to the edge of their box and put too much on the pass that was meant to tee up Andy Faulks (a better option could have been Roger French to my left but we’ll never know). After half an hour Roger French made way for Sinisa Gracanin (who was late in putting a Guild shirt on this time) but Roger was back not long after that as Ian Coles pulled a muscle and had to come off.
At half time we had eleven fit players (or just about) while West Farleigh brought on several subs. We are not sure what happened to the wind after half time. It did not feel the same as in the first half. West Farleigh too had changed – there was more energy and strength in their play and they dominated the early ten to fifteen minutes of the half and put us under pressure. We lost a bit of our composure and had trouble holding on to the ball. When we scored our second goal it was against the run of play. Andy Faulks had chased a throw-in down the line, feinted past his marker and set up a shooting opportunity for himself from eight yards out but from a narrow angle. From where I was it looked like the West Farleigh goalkeeper had been led to think he could parry the shot with his foot but he missed and we were 2-0 to our evident relief. It was beginning to feel like a smash and grab raid – the home crowd was silenced and stunned.
To their credit West Farleigh did not give up and would have felt justice was done when they got a goal back after neat passing down our left which ended with a deft close range finish. At 2-1 and a few of our players showing signs of carrying knocks we had to dig deep. “It’s like the Alamo out here” shouted Chris Webb now at the heart of our defence rallying the troops. I was thinking more of the Magnificent Seven myself, particularly when Sinisa Gracanin and Roger French combined to allow Ian Shoebridge the opportunity of a volley at the far post which put us 3-1 up. My inner voice said “Nice one Shoey, Nice one son, Nice one Shoey, let’s have another one.”.
Remarkably we were to grab a fourth before the game was over. Gary Fentiman punted the mother of goal kicks up the field, the West Farleigh centre half missed his clearing header and Michael was free to advance on goal and plant the ball into the bottom corner with a powerful left foot drive. Moments earlier Michael had needed to strap himself to continue playing. I am sure the goal made it all worthwhile and his three number one fans were there to see it go in, positioned as they were behind the West Farleigh goal like some football photographer who had guessed right.
There was no hiding the sense of relief that we felt at the final whistle. There were a few aches and pains but we revived at the prospect of a visit to the local public house at the top of the lane called “The Good Intent”. There my joy swelled with the news that I was today’s man of the match and with the consumption of seven magnificent sausages and assorted potato products including two roast potatoes from a generous patron on an adjoining table. Not much good intent on my part there as far as the diet goes but I felt I’d earned it today. We all did. I hope Mrs M sees it that way when I come clean.
Another tough away fixture awaits us next week at Belvedere Vets, against an even bigger squad on an even bigger pitch than today.
Man of the match: Patrice Mongelard