Sunday 20th October 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Norman Park stroll for Wickham Park against shambolic Farnborough
Looking back I ask myself at what exact point were the seeds of today’s abysmal display sown. Was it when we had to relinquish our home pitch to make way for the Sunday team’s re-arranged fixture? Was it our misplaced faith in referee Graham Seymour turning up (he has form we should have remembered)? Was it when our fourteen players went down to twelve in the space of twenty-four hours? Was it when we allowed 10-man Wickham Park to play a 16 year-old? Was it when we got old and slow – or was it a combination of all these things? We\'ll never know but what we do know is that today was the most inept performance (I hesitate to use the noun) of our season so far – and the future is not exactly rosy.
We knew Wickham Park were a good side – after all they beat us 4-0 at our place last season; but I am not sure we knew how badly we could play. This will be a short report I fear.
The starting XI were Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard and Nick Waller in defence; Waine Hetherington, Paul Bell, Martin Warwick and Colin Mant in midfield; Roger French and Andy Faulks in attack. Our only substitute Chris Webb impersonated a referee with a whistle from Master Thomas French’ Christmas cracker last year, and did a very good impression of one, for a man without a watch.
Before we could start though we had to put the goal nets up – I say put but it was more a case of having to tape the nets up. The bars and post bear witness via sticky tape of thousands of matches played on the Norman Park pitches in the London Borough of Bromley. The man in the hardware shop was prescient when he sold me a larger roll of duck tape than I needed two years ago. This was our second “home” visit to Norman Park in six months, and for the same reason. Paul Bell needed an industrial size loo roll to clear one of the goal mouths of what I can only think was evidence that the Hound of the Baskervilles had passed this way looking for Imodium. Ironic, I thought, that Paul should complain about the smell.
When the game got under way I felt like asking Paul to do a bit more waste management to clear what Farnborough was leaving behind. Maybe I felt that way as I was marking someone young enough to be my grandson (I do not mind a gap of one generation but two seemed a bit much) and I think he’ll remember me in the morning. But as a collective we were for the most part poor, slow, unfit, lethargic, never in the right place, not marking our opponents tight enough, second to loose balls, weak in the tackle, without shape or discipline, tetchy with each other, out of breath, out of ideas, unable to hold on the ball or string two passes together. We should have been more than 1-0 down at half time. Our opponents were good and we made them look even better. We had at least two players carrying knocks and who should really have come off but we did not have that option, let alone luxury. Referee Chris Webb let the game flow timelessly, and without the support of linesmen – and it was typical that the only thing he blew was for a foul throw by Paul Bell as he attempted an entrechat at the same time. Paul Bell had the only sniff of a chance we created in the first half and even here we failed to draw a save out of the Wickham Park keeper.
It is only 1-0 we said at half time, and would have taken that as the final score but of course our opponents had other ideas and I cannot blame them really. Nick Waller – unable to walk let alone run took over as referee with a proper whistle and stopwatch whilst Chris Webb attempted to shore up our midfield.
It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Wickham Park rattled another four goals and it could have been more but for some great saves by Gary. The pattern was broadly the same - quick breaks overwhelming our defence mainly through the middle or down the left and Wickham Park players queuing up to have a go in the box. Roger French limped off (self-injured we think) to have his parenting skills severely tested on the touchline by young Isabelle and Thomas French who had passed up the opportunity to go back to the club with Jane Martin, Rebecca Coles and friend. We played the last quarter of the match with ten players.
When Nick Waller drew matters to a close it felt like a mercy killing. In the midst of this debacle there were some players who put in quite a shift today – in particular Martin and Waine, and they deserved better. Andy Faulks had a good chance to restore some pride when clean through in a one on one but blazed over from three yards out. Martin drew a good save from the second West Wickham keeper. You know you are not doing well when the opposition change keeper with ten minutes left for what I can only think was to give the original keeper a chance to get on the score sheet.
The arthritic showers made us miss our home ground even more. Five of us made our way back to our clubhouse where Pam Shoebridge had kindly saved us some food. I was able to have one chicken leg for every goal we conceded today. Call it comfort eating – good thing I did not play for our Sunday team who lost 10-0. Our Young Vets lost too, but only 3-1, and after lending a player to the 10-man opposition. I think this was a particularly grim weekend for the club – only one of the Saturday sides won.
Man of the match today – Gary Fentiman in the Farnborough goal. Enough said.
Next week we visit CUACO – who will be keen to avenge their 4-1 defeat at our place a few weeks ago. Based on our showing today I would say the odds are 1-4 in their favour.
Man of the match: Gary Fentiman