Sunday 23rd March 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
By George, Farnborough edge close contest
The beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere was four days ago, and in a week’s time British Summer Time will be upon us. All this felt a bit fanciful as temperatures were at least twelve degrees lower than last Sunday, and at one point it was hailing as the sunshine struggled to impose itself. The wind added to the chill factor but we were all very pleased to be playing football today, none more so than one of our number. Roger French had been up glen and down dale to find us opponents after it became clear very early in the week that diamonds were not for ever – yes Diamond Vets once again could not get a side, but the vets football bush telegraph had found new opponents for us in the form of Glendale Vets.
We could only muster twelve players today – it would have been thirteen with a better sense of direction. Injuries, and the lure of Geordie cuisine, deprived us of several players. So the starting XI consisted of Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Colin Brazier, Ian Coles and Ian Lyons in defence; Nick Waller, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington and Rob Lipscomb in midfield; George Kleanthous and Colin Mant in attack. Roger French was our twelfth man, whilst a thirteen Norman Harris was trying to find his way to Farnborough via Maidstone from south east London, allegedly.
The Farnborough family welcomed in particular the return of George Kleanthous after serious injury, several ankle operations and a few seasons not knowing if he would ever play football again. The last time I looked at an ankle that was bandaged like George’s; I was in the Egyptian section of the British Museum. The pharaohs have gone but George is still playing football.
We had a good number of fans today: Steve Blanchard Snr and Jnr, Ian Shoebridge, Rod Loe scouting the opposition for the Met Police Super Vets, Bunny Beston, Isabelle and Thomas French, Jane Martin, Rebecca “four-sausages” Coles. Glendale had brought along a big squad and some vocal fans. The silent and strong Mick Gearing was the referee.
Both sides were evenly matched and it was clear from the off that this was not going be a goal fest. Glendale were well-organised, with a solid defence, and some big units at the back. They were playing on the counter with a darting and busy dynamo up front. The first save of note came from our Gary who palmed off a dangerous Glendale header from close range. I cannot recall Gary having to do much more after that except for dealing with corners that were a strong point of Glendale’s play. Corners allowed them to move their big units into our box and they had the required quality from the dead ball to trouble us. Indeed one corner came off the apex where bar and post intersect. Gary’s kicking was as good today as we had ever seen it and his goal kicks, particularly down the left allowed us to build many of our attacks from that flank. I do not recall that we created any decent scoring opportunities in the first half. But I do recall that twice the Glendale keeper, resplendent in fluorescent orange, came off his line to punch the ball, and Sinisa Gracanin and Colin Mant had to take a count.
Roger French came on for Ian Lyons at half time with Colin Brazier dropping in at centre half, smoothly, and like a natural. The second half was just as even but with Farnborough testing the new Glendale keeper a bit more. We still had to defend well and watch out for Glendale breaks but our defensive line held. Gary was not really troubled in the second half. We were able to cope with the loss of Ian Coles to a knee injury by restoring another Ian, Lyons, to the centre of our defence. Although it was Lyons’ first run out for us he fitted in quite well and put on a rampant display. With about twenty minutes left we got our breakthrough – the keeper could not hold a George Kleanthous shot and Waine Hetherington glided into the box to snaffle the rebound and tuck the ball away. It was no more than we deserved at that point. We had half chances to add to this but they were not taken. Colin Mant had a shot from four yards out that looked very tame when the ball was crying out to be leathered. He also had a disoriented header from three yards out which did not interfere with the Glendale goal. George – putting in quite a shift, both physically and psychologically, almost squared the ball to an unmarked Colin a yard out. Interviewed after the match Colin revealed to your match reporter how nice it felt to have a real partner up front, who would pass the ball to him. Glendale had a good go at drawing level, and with a bit more luck on another day might have done so but we managed to hold out for a clean sheet and maximum points.
As we made our way back to the changing room after the usual post match tasks we were surprised, and a little amused, to see Norman Harris, who had finally made it to our ground. Next time Colin Mant will have to orient Norman but at least Norman now knows where we are.
Although this was a closely contested match there were no bad tackles in it, the only discordant note coming from a Glendale player who took George’s legs away, and remonstrated with Mick Gearing for awarding a free kick against him. It was good to see so many Glendale players in the bar afterwards, and to see the jug they bought passed round. We look forward to playing them home and away next season.
The food was quite a hit I am told. Alas, I had tarried, sweeping our dressing room, and was saved from starvation by Pam Shoebridge who put aside a cheese and pickle roll, and half a dozen potato croquettes, for me. I should note that the usual management bread roll, egg mayonnaise today, was annexed like a military base in the Crimea, by “Rob Lipski” whose eyes were bigger than his stomach as he failed to do the roll justice, to my chagrin. There had been sausages too, allegedly, although Miss Coles was quite coy about that.
Man of the match: Waine Hetherington, for his care of the ball, quick left foot and a quicker brain when it mattered in a narrow window of opportunity. George’s courage too should not go unnoticed even if we do not usually vote for this.
Man of the match: Waine Hetherington