Sunday 13th April 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough master the art of winning ugly
All week I had been pondering this deep metaphysical question: Is God a Liverpool fan? I guess I had my answer today but it seems he is a Farnborough fan too, or else Vic Farrow is up there managing things. The Avery Hill Vets, mostly PE teachers, always pose a stiff test in the spring, and we have often not been up to the mark against their physical presence.
We had thirteen players for this examination but in the end only used twelve: Steve Palmer in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Colin Brazier, Ian Coles and Nick Waller in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Colin Mant and Rob Lipscomb in midfield; George Kleanthous and Obi Ugwumba in attack. Andy Faulks was late for class, and became our twelfth man as he ambled up the hill nonchalantly after kick off.
Roger French was our thirteenth, but became Avery Hill’s eleventh player for a full ninety minutes as they had only ten players. Afterwards, there was talk of Roger having had his best game for Farnborough as Avery Hill’s centre forward. I could not possibly comment on this – only to say that we are the kind of club that will make our substitutes available if the opposition are short. Roger toiled manfully for Avery Hill, gave us at least two uncomfortable moments when better finishing could have satisfied his obvious desire to score against his team mates.
We would have had another player today – in the form of Mick O’Flynn but he revealed to Roger French in an intimate email, that he had withdrawn due to anxieties about his performance on Sunday mornings, and he was not sure if would be able to raise his game. Still we were very pleased to welcome Michael back, after an extensive break on international duty. Michael was to put on a solid display against a physical side.
Mick Gearing was our magisterial referee. In class today were our fans Isabelle and Thomas French (Master French moved up a year this week); Rebecca Coles who did not have a single sausage today; Pam Shoebridge and Jane Martin who were on canteen duty with their award-winning tucker, and Ian Shoebridge (still injured but carrying out various janitorial tasks which we do not think involved putting the showers on today unless we got there after the hot water ran out). Chris Webb and two Webb pupils were glimpsed on the touchline, but did not stay for extracurricular activities. Steve Palmer’s partner Karen had her own sun lounger on the touchline as she caught the rays on this beautiful sunny morning.
Make no mistake this was not an easy test. The Avery Hill invigilators may well have gone away thinking we had cheated. A draw would probably be the result if this Farnborough performance was re-marked but we’ll take the points – the second week running when we have scraped through without achieving the highest grade.
To say both teams laboured to establish a pattern of play in the first fifteen minutes would be fair comment. Both sides struggled to master the bouncy ball on an unyielding surface and there was not much fluency to be seen, passing moves rarely went beyond three phases. There was also very little to separate the two teams. Avery Hill were dangerous on the break particularly with the ball over the top for their nippy right winger to latch on to, and they had a number of big units who could block out the sun at corners. The balance of play was marginally in our favour, but without clear chances being created. Colin Brazier produced our most eye-catching early attempt with a shot from an overlapping run that was not too wide of the post.
The introduction of Andy Faulks (replacing Michael) after twenty minutes (after he had sat his detention for poor timekeeping) gave us more of a menace up front but it was Avery Hill who took the lead midway through the half. This was a text book move – we lost the ball in a hesitant midfield action, it was recycled quickly over the top to the Avery Hill express on the right (by none other than loanee and co-manager Roger French – ed) who penetrated our box, drew a good save from Steve Palmer but the rebound fell to another Avery Hill forward who shinned the ball home from three yards out in the bottom corner, beyond the reach of the covering defender Patrice Mongelard.
Our reply did not take long – five minutes later Andy Faulks took a pass from Colin Brazier, broke free on the left and planted a firm right footed drive low into the bottom corner from just inside the box. This was our crispest moment of the half, before the end of which we saw a very good save from the keeper in response to a Waine Hetherington right foot shot, an acrobatic volley from Colin Mant which did not quite hit the target, and an outrageous left foot shot from Patrice Mongelard which would never hit the target in a month of Sundays.
Colin Mant made way for the second coming of Michael at half time. We took the lead fairly early in that half – after George Kleanthous was felled in the box, and the normally penalty-shy Mick Gearing was left with an easy choice. It was telling that Avery Hill did not dispute the decision. George grabbed the ball before anyone could claim it and gave us the lead. I never watch penalties being taken, whether for or against us. I was told it was not a convincing strike but it did the job. Normally we would push on from this but to their credit it was Avery Hill who showed the greater desire and energy from then on (even with Statler in the front line...are you sure? - ed). We had to defend furiously. We were saved by the woodwork twice; Steve Palmer produced two blinding saves, and we even managed to survive a scrum when the Avery Hill front row nearly carried the ball into the net amidst a tangle of bodies from a corner. That is not to say that we did not create chances of our own – the trouble was that they fell to the wrong player, or at least to the wrong foot as George Kleanthous’ neat crisp shooting deserted him as he put two decent half-chances in the woodland behind the Avery Hill goal.
Colin Mant came back on for the last twenty minutes for Rob Lipscomb, who had stiffened up, with tiredness, after doing it three times this weekend, having played a double header for Andy Faulks’ team the day before. Rob had to rise to the occasion again before the game was played out as he had to come back on for an injured Waine Hetherington with ten or so minutes left. There was time for Colin Mant to be taken roughly from behind as he was hacked down by an increasingly frustrated Avery Hill defender who could see the sands of time ticking away. The final whistle brought the sort of relief one feels after coming out of an examination hall, knowing that revision had paid off.
The clubhouse was buzzing, in part as our Young Vets, under the stewardship of Paul Tanton, a living Farnborough Old Boys Guild legend, had registered their twelfth consecutive win, a tremendous achievement, possibly unparalleled in Farnborough history, which would have pleased Vic Farrow enormously. We munched contentedly on a vast assortment of goodies, laid on by Pam Shoebridge and Jane Martin (though, inexcusably Ian, Jane had to buy her own drink).
Man of the match: Nick Waller who was immense today, but refused to add to his immensity by having only a small surplus roll at the end, when there were larger baps there.
Man of the match: Nick Waller