Sunday 23rd February 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough the unready earn well-deserved draw
After eight consecutive Sundays of waterlogged pitches at Farrow Fields, play resumed today on the heavy clay of our home turf, against our visitors from West Farleigh themselves pleased to get away from the watery Kentish Weald. We expected some rustiness in our play but there was rustiness too in our overall organisational efficiency. We had a job finding the key to the container to get the goal nets and we were past kick off time, a player entrusted with getting two match balls failed dismally. Another, tasked with putting the hot water on for the showers, proved equally ineffective as we found out later; next time we’ll have to ask a woman if we want the job done, his mum in fact, not least as the boiler controls are located in the ladies toilets.
Still we were all very pleased to be out in the fresh air, and there was quite a stiff breeze, conditions were overcast and the pitch was playable though understandably soft in places.
For our third consecutive game, in two months, we assembled fourteen players. Our starting XI were Gary Fentiman in goal; Colin Brazier, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Mehmet Bozyigit and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Robin Lipscomb and Colin Mant in attack. Roger French, Nick Waller and Mick O’Flynn were held in reserve.
The ever reliable Mick Gearing was the referee and was to do something unexpected in the course of the game, more on that later. There were many spectators including our usual fans Isabelle and Thomas French, Rebecca Coles, Jane Martin. Three games were to take place on our two pitches in just over three hours, and it was good to see what we would class as a big crowd, all sharing in the exultation of local grassroots football being played after so much rain.
Although we had won the away fixture 4-1 earlier in the season, we could sense early doors that West Farleigh had brought along a fair number of decent players. One stood out in particular; 5 foot 2, 9 stone, very feisty, pacy, ginger-quiffed, and for a small man not afraid to put himself about. I seem to recall playing against him before and saw him as Tintin in my mind’s eye.
The first twenty minutes were very even, with defences on top but the direction of travel more towards the West Farleigh goal than ours but without any clear chances being created. We were missing our own superman – Andy Faulks, 22 goals in eighteen games, last seen frenetically advertising Duracell batteries in a Superman, or possibly Batman, costume at four in the morning. We got our breakthrough after twenty minutes when Sinisa Gracanin was felled from behind by Tintin in the box, and even the usually reticent Mick Gearing had no choice but to point to the spot. Robin Lipscomb repaid the faith of about half of his team mates by expertly slotting the ball home.
West Farleigh were playing mostly on the break but were gradually dominating the play. Before we made our first mid-half substitutions – there was time for one half of the Farnborough Senior Vets Management to get involved in a little contretemps with Tintin who took exception to being handed some of his own medicine. No it was not the half you’d expect (tut tut) as he was not on the pitch. Colin Mant and Patrice Mongelard made way for Nick Waller (our new secret weapon up front) and Mick O’Flynn. West Farleigh were to score twice before the half time break. Although we had a part in both goals it was, on reflection, no more than they deserved at that point as they showed more desire and hunger, were more mobile all over the pitch and as often happens made whatever luck came their way. Gary Fentiman and Steve Blanchard created a farcical moment which saw Tintin nip in between them as they left the ball to each other on the edge of the box on the half hour. Five minutes later we were trailing behind as another moment of hesitancy saw Farnborough overrun on the right of our defence and the ball was stroked into our net with a deft finish by their other mobile, but taller, centre forward.
At half time we took comfort from the knowledge that we would be playing with the wind. More changes were made as Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant and Roger French came on for Steve Blanchard, Ian Shoebridge and Waine Hetherington. The pattern of the second half was not really that different. We had more possession, West Farleigh could be dangerous on the break but there were few clear chances created. We earned several corners, as well as a couple of free kicks around the West Farleigh box which Patrice Mongelard punted towards goal from thirty-five yards out, on target, but without any fizz. We had a better grip on the game and the changes we made midway through the half with Steve Blanchard, Ian Shoebridge and Waine Hetherington replacing Ian Coles, Mehmet Bozyigit and Colin Brazier did not check our momentum. Mehmet looked like he could do with some of those batteries that Andy has been advertising; I know that with the state of his knees every game is a bit of a gamble, but I understand his pre-match preparation for a game on a heavy pitch after a long lay-off, was not what his managers would recommend.
We got back on terms after a neat three-man triangulation of passes between Sinisa Gracanin, Nick Waller and Robin Lipscomb as the latter finished from close range. The dubious goals committee decided that the ball was over the line when the West Farleigh defender put it in the roof of the net – and so Robin now has five goals to his name, only seventeen needed to catch Batman. We had one good further scoring opportunity in that half when a goalbound pile driver from Sinisa Gracanin inside the box was intercepted by a sore West Farleigh body. A draw was a fair result in the end, and apart from Tintin’s tantrum this competitive game was played in excellent spirit.
The showers were not very busy but the clubhouse was. The Young Vets returned from a 4-1 away win, and there was time for the latest Farnborough signing – Daniel Nott, 10 days old (7 lbs 1 oz at birth) to be unveiled by his proud parents. We congratulate them and wish all three of them well.
Pam Shoebridge (our new boiler operative from next week) laid on the usual cornucopia of food and at one point had as many orders for teas as she might have had over the last eight weeks. The long lay-off had done Roger French’s brain cells a bit of good too, as he added the match monies correctly at the first time of computing. Master Thomas French’s brain cells too are doing well as he can now post hand-written comments on the changing room white board immediately after the game. He wants us to play better next week. Better music than Roger’s eclectic mix might help (there is nothing wrong with a bit of Tom Jones particularly as it was good to touch the green, green grass of home after so many weeks of cancellations - Ed). You will have a new match reporter next week – I hope they remember to get the match balls, bring a valuables bag and the half-time oranges, and sweep up the dressing rooms but not the two used for the Sunday team match.
Man of the match today – Sinisa Gracanin, a master class in the art of midfield play.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin