Sunday 24th November 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Not much to cheer on and off the pitch at Farrow Fields
It is possible to play well and still lose, and individual performances can make an enormous difference in team games. Those were not the only lessons for us today.
Sixteen players became fourteen overnight with the usual absence of communication. Like last Sunday the weather was dry, overcast and there was no wind. The pitch felt drier this week. Our starting XI were Gary Fentiman in goal; Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, Patrice Mongelard and Steve Blanchard in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb, Waine Hetherington and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Andy Faulks and Colin Mant in attack. Roger French, Paul Bell and Nick Waller waited their turn; and we gave up waiting for Scott Dowie and Obi Ugwumba. Michael appeared (archangel-like with a flowing white scarf) at the start of the second half time in his Sunday best, after a visit to church to pray for his injured knee to recover.
Club chairman Steve Viner, and a familiar face in Robin Lipscomb (accompanied by Mademoiselle Lipscomb) were there to lend their support. This was the first time Rob had watched us since his injury in the gym which required surgery, and after today he will have few worries about reclaiming his place in January. Other supporters were Jane Martin, Vicky Tanner, Rebecca Coles, and tent-dwellers Isabelle and Thomas French.
We thought our prayers would be answered as we dominated proceedings in the first twenty minutes or so. By then we knew that Reigate had the outstanding player of the match leading their attack, not much more than five foot, wiry, low centre of gravity, quick feet and quicker brain, blessed with a deadly left foot and pace to burn (and probably powered by Duracell batteries). Reigate were soaking up all our pressure, letting us unfold the geometry of our passing particularly down the sides, and watching our blunt cutting edge fail to give us the breakthrough we deserved. I doubt if you would find more crosses in a priory than the number we laid on.
Instead it was Reigate who took the lead – we lost the ball in midfield, it was transferred quickly to the Reigate Express who made the incision, advanced rapidly to the edge of our box and squared it for his partner unmarked in acres of space to lash the ball past Gary. The absence of a Farnborough defender near the scorer led us to believe the latter must have been offside but linesman Roger French and referee Mick Gearing were not moved. Five minutes later things got worse for us as the star of the show unleashed a left foot shot from twenty five yards that Gary could not hold. By the time Gary got off the ground twinkle toes had got to the ball, rounded him and steered it into the net, quick as a flash.
To our credit we kept our belief in our brand of football, and our faith was partly restored when with about ten minutes of the half left we finally made one of our crosses tell as Ian Shoebridge set up Andy Faulks to sweep the ball into the net from six yards out.
After half time we introduced our three substitutes as Nick Waller, Paul Bell and Roger French replaced Ian Shoebridge, Chris Webb and Colin Mant. The pattern of play did not really vary. We had more of the ball whilst Reigate continued to seek their dynamic outlet, either to create something for himself, or for others. The best scoring opportunity of the second half fell to us about ten minutes in. Steve Blanchard had found himself in an unaccustomed area of the pitch after a rampaging forward run and was able to measure an exquisite cross from the right. Sadly the quality of the cross was not matched at the other end. Roger French and Nick Waller were both unmarked at the far post and between them were responsible for the tame glancing forehead Roger applied to the sphere.
Midway through the half Ian Shoebridge, Chris Webb and Colin Mant returned with Patrice Mongelard, Colin Brazier and Waine Hetherington making way. We then had arguably the pivotal moment of the game. Colin Mant was tackled roughly from behind, the penalty was given, Andy Faulks stepped up with the confidence borne out of eighteen goals in twelve matches this season for us, and the sprightly and youthful Reigate Priory keeper saved the kick. I had closed my eyes at that point in silent prayer but clearly could not compete with a priory. A few minutes later Reigate pulled further ahead with a smartly taken goal from you know who after he showed our central defenders a clear pair of heels. Our heads dropped. 3-1 became 4-1 not long after with a deserved hat-trick for the outstanding player of the match. We were told by the Reigate linesman that the player in question “had played at a higher level”. These are possibly the last words you want to hear on a Sunday morning in a Vets game. But there was no denying the cutting edge that had sliced through our hopes. I do not think that anyone watching the game would argue against the contention that if the Reigate Express had been stuck in the sidings today Farnborough would have carried the day. Patrice Mongelard came back on for Ian Coles for the last ten to fifteen minutes – Ian’s hamstrings had been stretched by the Reigate Express – who oddly answers to the name of “Stretch” to his team mates.
I am afraid more disappointment awaited us when we got back to our dressing room. It turned out that we were burgled today – the first time I have known this to happen at our home ground in the seventeen seasons I have played football for Farnborough. Some of us lost money, car keys and a phone too was taken. Clearly there are two lessons here – things like that happen even in community-based family-friendly clubs like ours – all valuables must go into the valuables bag, and we must lock our dressing room door and the back door into the club for good measure. This affected us far more than the game, and the mood was sombre despite Pam Shoebridge’s food and the Farnborough Old Boys Guild merchandise that Roger had on display. The latter keeps expanding – noted Mrs M as I came home in my beanie hat, to go with my sweatshirt and hoodie. Gloves are possibly next - I’ll need a pair with special gripping properties to take throw-ins as I found out today (to my team mates ‘amusement). I am not sure I will extend to the cravat requested by Steve Blanchard.
Reigate Priory stayed in numbers to enjoy our hospitality, and there were more handshakes when they left than I can remember from any visiting team, they even bought us a jug or two from the bar. We look forward to playing them again.
Man of the match today – Steve Blanchard (and not just for that nosebleed-inducing edge of the box far post cross which deserved far better).
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard