Sunday 12th January 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets cannot do it on Astroturf with Inter Vyagra
To sum up our performance “that was a bit limp” as the actress might have said to Bishop Justus. I mention the bishop because today we played our home game at Bishop Justus CE school, in Magpie Hall Lane, Bromley BR2 8HZ, on their 3G Astroturf pitch.
The Bishop in question, if you are wondering, came to England in 601 AD to convert Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism. There was a fair bit of Anglo-Saxon spoken on the pitch today. The gifts of meteorological foresight and methodical planning granted to Roger French had resulted in us playing this home game on a pitch unlikely to be waterlogged, unlike Farrow Fields. We believed the 3G surface less likely to give us “carpet burn” but we still had to be careful when we put our tackles in (nothing horizontal), and the bit of moisture from the sun acting on the morning frost helped. It is fair to say though that the pitch was a tricky surface to play on – passes had to be just right and any weight on them would see the ball run away, the bounce was not easy to read and any attempt to dribble and carry the ball over two or three yards was unproductive. We also had two zip wires stretched across the pitch which referee Mick Gearing had decided to take account of by stopping play every time the ball hit the wire and an advantage accrued. You would be surprised how many times that happened over 90 minutes – at least six times if I recall correctly.
Like for our last (dismal) performance, on 22 December, we presented with fourteen players. Our starting XI were Gary Fentiman in goal; Steve Blanchard, Chris Webb, Nick Waller and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Mehmet Bozyigit and Robin Lipscomb in midfield; Andy Faulks and Colin Mant in attack.
Andrew “Denzel” Washington (ADW like his number plate), Roger French and Ian Shoebridge waiting to go into orbit, watched anxiously as Inter Vyagra, tails up, came at us in the first ten minutes. They pressed us hard and forced errors – one of which led to their first goal when one of their two quick forwards closed Steve Blanchard down after an unwise back pass, took control of the ball and beat Gary Fentiman. The Inter Vyagra keeper had not yet touched the ball at that point such was our lack of penetration. Yet, we managed to show a little vigour of our own and fashioned a number of chances but as now seems to be the pattern of our performances we failed to capitalise on them. Andy Faulks hit the post. Sinisa Gracanin and Andy Faulks drew good saves from the excellent Inter Vyagra keeper with his feet from close range shots. Waine Hetherington was played through behind the Inter Vyagra defence on his favourite left foot and blasted the ball wide from five yards.
It was not until the half hour that we drew level. A corner from Patrice Mongelard connected with Chris Webb’s left knee in the middle of a crowded penalty area and we were back on terms. We huffed and puffed our way to half time, nearly got caught again with a dodgy triangulation of passes at the back only to be rescued by a great one handed save by the big man in goal. We were finding it hard to cope with the zip of the two Inter Vyagra forwards and their hard working midfield. We could not match the cohesion of their collective play and our game became a loose collection of individual cameos punctuated by errors and frustration as half time came.
The first of numerous changes to come were made as Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant and Sinisa Gracanin made way for Roger French, Denzel Washington and Ian Shoebridge. We never got into it the second half. Inter Vyagra took the game by the scruff of the neck and wanted it more than we did. As the actress might have said to the bishop we looked like we were out of practice. We had not played since 22 December and the surface was challenging but it was probably the same for our opponents. It was all about desire, hunger and pace. Inter Vyagra had more of it than we did. Crucially too they played with more solidarity and did not have a go at their own players. We on the other hand....... .
We were saved by the wire, so to speak when Inter Vyagra took the lead again early in the second half but referee Mick Gearing true to his pre-match steer, disallowed the goal because the ball had hit the wire. It did not matter as about a quarter of an hour into the second half Inter Vyagra took the lead again after one of their hard working midfielders found himself in no man’s land on the edge of our box and calmly steered the ball home. Relations between certain individuals in our defence and attack were strained at that point and remained so beyond the match I think. All music to the ears of our opponents of course who watched us make a series of further adjustments in the last twenty-five minutes, a bit like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Nick Waller, Mehmet Bozyigit and Rob Lipscomb made way for the return of Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracacin and Colin Mant.
Before the game was over Rob Lipscomb was back on for Ian Shoebridge (tight hamstring) and Ian was to have to limp on when Andy Faulks came off. Andy was a bit out of sorts today and generally when he is off his game and drops deep we make no impression on our opponents. I cannot help thinking that Andy’s preparation for the game had been sub-optimal: there was evidence captured on camera, a selfie if you like, of Andy thrilling himself with dance moves to Michael Jackson music, in a superman costume at 4:40 AM
With ten minutes left the inevitable happened after a quick Inter Vyagra break following a Farnborough corner and their two quickest players combined to give them a 3-1 lead that in the end was well deserved. We were sloppy as much as our opponents were sharp today. Certain bad habits came back into our play and the rest of the season could be quite taxing as our shortcomings and short tempers mean that we lose and draw more games than we win. I hope we are all prepared for this.
Eight of us came back to our club with a similar number from Inter Vyagra to enjoy Pam Shoebridge’s excellent spread: ham, cheese and pickle, tuna rolls, sausages, potato croquettes, plum tomatoes, crisps, tea on demand etc. I was glad to see that Inter Vyagra player who kindly climbed two lots of wire fencing to retrieve three out of our five balls, tuck in with gusto.
There was also quite a bit of analysis of the game – including a copious and perceptive piece from Denzel, on his first visit to our den, about how our game today was proof that England could not win the World Cup. In a funny sort of way that cheered me up, almost as much as news of a 2-1 win for our Young Vets who did it on grass.
Man of the match today – or should that be astronaut – likely to be Chris Webb (with four out of nine votes cast at the time of writing).
Man of the match: Chris Webb