Sunday 16th March 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Wry smiles in Reigate as Farnborough help opponents snatch draw
Another glorious Sunday morning for football with the mercury touching twenty, and the rains of winter were a distant memory as we began to wonder if it was time to get the mould out of the mouldeds. Today was our first trip to the Reigate Priory and Cricket and Football Club. The sense of discovery was heightened by the complex parking arrangements and the presence of other sports – lacrosse, bowls, tennis, croquet, rugby all taking place simultaneously in a green and leafy area about a hundred yards away from Reigate High Street. The setting was superb and the magnificent clubhouse will look a treat when the refurbishment is done. It took everyone a while to park their cars - in my case I had to do so twice after being watched by a group of elderly and knowing tennis players who told me after I parked my car that I could not park in their enclave. I could still do so, of course, I was told with a wry smile, but I should not be surprised to find the gate locked when I came to retrieve my wheels.
We could only muster twelve players today. This gave us a starting XI of Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Waine Hetherington, Ian Coles, and Mick O’Flynn in defence; Paul Bell, Nick Waller, Sinisa Gracanin, and Rob Lipscomb in midfield; Andy Faulks and Colin Mant in attack. Roger French was our twelfth man, supported by our two loyal fans Isabelle and Thomas French. Mick O’Flynn had an admirer on the scene, more on that later.
When the game started we were relieved that the Reigate Express was absent – some of you may recall a particular Reigate player who caused us no end of grief on 24 November at our place. But it was clear after the early exchanges that this would be a tough competitive game. In fact after ten minutes we had no illusions about that. Mick O’Flynn cushioned a lovely header behind our defence, not what he intended of course, but it played a lively midfielder from Reigate in. It was telepathic how he had anticipated Mick’s assist as he made his way untroubled by markers from the left midfield position to end up as a right winger in our box whence he lofted the ball over Gary’s 6 ft 3 frame. Mick had a difficult first half, uncharacteristically unsure, hesitant, lax, inaccurate. I could not help wonder later if Mrs O’Flynn, Asiyah, who was there at the end when we were taking post-match refreshments in the sunshine, might have been watching all along, thus affecting Mick’s game – a bit like a teenager keen to impress his sweetheart whose nerves got the better of him.
Anyway we settled down, sorted out our marking at the back, and went looking for an equaliser. Well most of us – we are not sure what Colin Mant was looking for when he was seen to take a tumble after controlling the ball and shaping to go forward – he was a long way from the box, there was no one near him, there was no sudden gust of wind, no earth tremors from fracking in Surrey, no sniper on the grassy knoll. This said even Reigate would agree that we were playing the more cohesive game, stringing moves of four of five passes, but the incision was not quite there. The approach play was good but we were not committing enough players into the box. We crafted some early chances none the less. Waine Hetherington floated a delightful cross which Paul Bell met with a glancing header from four yards out that went wide. Colin Mant had a good half chance on his left foot from five yards out which on another day would have yielded more. Robin Lipscomb, Paul Bell and Andy Faulks had shots saved. Reigate were doing enough to defend and attack on the break and force corners. On the half hour though the equaliser we deserved arrived. Waine Hetherington had spotted Andy Faulks out on the right and threaded a pass to him. Andy was about twenty yards from goal and to most of us it looked like the distance and the angle were not propitious but he had spotted space on the near post as the Reigate keeper was not quick enough to close the window of opportunity. Andy shot early, low and true and the ball was in the net.
At half time we were optimistic. We had held our own and had more possession and with a bit more belief and penetration could prevail. Roger French came on for Paul Bell (nursing a bloody shin – one of several knocks that we took today). The half was barely ten minutes old when Andy Faulks produced another contender for goal of the season. We had been reviewing some entries for this season’s competition earlier in the week, with the help of yet another of Roger French’s spreadsheets, and Andy had asserted confidently that he still had one or two contenders in his locker before the season was out. Imagine him on the corner of the box where he had received a lobbed pass from Colin Mant – looking diagonally at the goal, there was room for him to go forward but what would be the point of that when you can strike a ball like he can – he looked up, saw where the keeper was, made up his mind before defenders closed him down and produced an audacious shot that had the Reigate keeper utterly flummoxed, as the ball sailed over his head and dipped into the far corner, striking the inside of the post and putting Farnborough 2-1 up. Andy immediately asked for the goal to be entered in the register.
We then entered a phase of the game when we pressed for a third goal which never came whilst Reigate sought to hit us on the break. They came close to scoring but for Mick O’Flynn putting his body in the way of a point blank goal-bound shot (I hope Asiyah saw that). Mick went off injured soon after and Paul Bell came back on. The Reigate equaliser owed much to Farnborough. With fifteen minutes left Reigate had earned a rare corner. They managed to score direct from it. Gary Fentiman and Roger French managed to confuse each other and the ball was last seen glancing off Roger’s head into the net. We could have re-taken the lead in the last quarter hour but could not quite find the final finish. Sinisa Gracanin carved open the Reigate defence and shot just wide across goal. Andy Faulks had an outrageous volley, from a pinpoint Patrice Mongelard forty-yard free kick to the far post that was not far off – and would have won the goal of the decade if it had gone in.
In the end both teams settled for the draw, a fair result. We felt we had lost two points but an away point against an opponent who beat us convincingly on our turf in the autumn was not to be sniffed at. Some of our players felt that we had not reached the heights of last Sunday’s performance. I am not so sure. We only had twelve players today, some took knocks during the game, and we all had to put in a shift. The manner of the two goals we conceded was disappointing but we have to give credit for the skill that our opponents showed in their execution. We came back from a goal down, and had the greater possession and created more chances than Reigate. We were less compact in our play but this was a bigger pitch and the surface was more like you get in the spring, bobbly, and a ball that runs away from you.
I’d like to thank the referee who handled a difficult game well and fairly, and who doubled up as barman later. His patience was tested by a couple of feisty and over-excited Reigate players who got a bit heavy but they were the exception, and the handshakes were genuine at the end. Our hosts were as hospitable as we hoped, with hot pasta bake with farfale shapes coming round. I did not have time for a second helping but I am sure Reigate made sure Roger had a generous second plate. Talking of food, Paul Bell shared with us his local knowledge of Geordie matters when he revealed what passes for a “club sandwich” in the north east – a bit too much tough meat for my liking.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks for two strikes - one great, one superlative.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks