Sunday 9th March 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Normal service resumed as Farnborough re-discovers the art of winning
After last week’s pale imitation of a match report your usual scribe was back today, and with more of a tan than usual. There was more colour in our play too as you will hear shortly. Unlike last week, and despite the fact that I was actually here this time, today’s match report is not about me. This said the memory of winning last night’s Farnborough Old Boys Guild Quiz, with my new partners in the intelligentsia, Mick and Asiyah O’Flynn, was still fresh in my mind. I will not bore you with the item of quiz wear I was sporting today.
What a glorious day for football we had this Sunday morning, after all the rain, mud, gloom and postponements etc. that we have suffered over the past three months. Both our pitches were in good nick, a testament to the good work put in by our grassmeisters Keith and Bunny Beston. We were apprehensive about the game, such was the reputation of our opponents that had preceded them (from the games they had given to our Young Vets), and in the recess of our minds we were conscious that our last win was as far back as 15 December, even though we had played only five games since then.
The sun brought out fifteen Farnborough players today, with a starting XI of Gary Fentiman in goal; Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, and Mick O’Flynn in defence; Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Rob Lipscomb and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Andy Faulks, our lone wolf, who told me he’d coughed up a hair ball, don’t ask - in attack. Roger French, Nick Waller, Colin Mant and Paul Bell waited to make their contribution to what turned out to be an excellent collective performance, with much discipline and organisation on our part. Off the field too our organisational game was up to the mark today, aided by Roger’s long checklist of things to do on match day which starts with putting the hot water on, and closes with locking the dressing room. Thomas French, Jane Martin and Vicky Tanner were the three graces in our fan club. Nick Kinnear stepped in to referee the game in Commander Gearing’s absence, and did his usual fair and competent job with a smile.
The plan was to defend well, and to play a dedicated holding midfielder in the bronzed shape of Patrice Mongelard. More to the point we wanted a performance of solidarity, support, hard work and without errors and I am pleased to say we delivered. What surprised us a little after the initial exchanges was how well we could penetrate the Charlton Rangers defence. I am not saying this was an Emmental of a defence, it had undoubted quality in its midst and the Charlton keeper was more than useful, but we were finding space and perforation. In fact you could say that we were following the advice posted at the entrance of our clubhouse which states that “Players must use the rear entrance”, as we had quite a bit of joy round the back coming from behind the sides of the Charlton Rangers defence. That is how we crafted our first goal after twenty minutes or so as Andy Faulks played left-footed Waine Hetherington in on goal. Waine had ghosted behind the fullback and surprised everyone, including the opposing keeper, by using his right foot at the crucial moment to propel the ball high into the net from five yards out. We forced several corners and put our opponents on the back foot. But it was not all one way. Gary Fentiman was called into action, and what action that was as he pulled off several blinding saves some from point blank as Charlton Rangers pressed for an equaliser. We held firm though – the only false note in our defensive display was a mishit clearance cum cross field pass from Patrice Mongelard covering his defence which went for a corner. Apart from that we were quite sound defensively and the midfield – with Sinisa Gracanin and Rob Lipscomb full of running, were watchful and disciplined. Even Andy Faulks was spotted doing a bit of defensive work at some point and he let everyone know about it. We had lost Ian Shoebridge on the half hour with injury and Colin Mant came in to do the job he normally does, holding the ball, linking up play and not letting the Charlton Rangers defence settle.
We were thankful at half time for the shift that Gary had put in and generally we were quite positive. Paul Bell, Nick Waller and Roger French came on for Andy Faulks, Waine Hetherington and Patrice Mongelard. The initial phases of the second half were not to our advantage and Gary’s excellence was called upon more than once. Yet we knew that we could get through the Charlton Rangers defence and it was a little against the run of play when Colin Mant broke through on the left and had the presence of mind and skill to cross the ball to Paul Bell arriving with deadly intent into the box. Paul was deceptively agile and poised as he produced a deft first time volley to beat the advancing keeper – to give us the cushion of a two-goal lead. At one point it looked like the keeper was going to clatter into him but Paul kept his eye on the ball and his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time did the rest. That same ability deserted him not long after as he got his head to a deep Roger French cross a yard out from goal but appeared to have lost the use of the muscles in his neck, unlike Alan Pardew the manager of the team he supports, and the ball rolled harmlessly off him in a perplexing geometry. That was not the only clear scoring opportunity we had in this half – Waine Hetherington had two one- to-ones which his trusty left peg wasted – or rather we should give credit to the Charlton Rangers keeper. Paul Bell, Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Mant and Andy Faulks all had half chances to add to our score but to no avail. A third goal would have been harsh on Charlton Rangers because there was undoubted quality in their game and we had to defend as well as we ever have.
Midway through the second half Patrice Mongelard, Waine Hetherington and Colin Mant came back on with Rob Lipscomb, Mick O’Flynn and Colin Brazier making way. Rob seemed hard of hearing, unlike Mick, or was reluctant to go, as Roger French overruled his clipboard asking Rob to stay on, to give us momentarily, twelve players against Charlton Rangers’ eleven. We continued to defend well, punctuating our play with half chances. Colin Brazier came back on with about ten minutes left to replace Steve Blanchard and was heard to say he’d found it easy to play in that position (well not as easy as last night’s quiz) as we preserved that rare thing – a clean sheet. We finished the game with only one out of five match balls – and with a great feeling of a job well done, pride restored and all being well in the world. There was not a single bad tackle in the game – a credit to our opponents, who will have felt hard done by.
The clubhouse was buzzing. Pam Shoebridge put copious amounts of tasty food on the table. The sunshine was streaming in, and our Young Vets were basking in the warmth of a 3-2 win, from 2-0 down at half time.
Man of the match: overwhelmingly, Gary Fentiman – for a towering performance in our goal, who caused the Charlton Rangers management to say that they could have played for another whole day, and not score against Gary in the form he was in today. He told me this almost made up for not being able to join my quiz team last night.
Man of the match: Gary Fentiman