Sunday 11th May 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough Vets football the winner but Younger Ones much happier than Seniors
I woke up this morning wondering if miracles happen in football. My two prayers to the football Gods were (i) Liverpool to win the Premier League and (ii) for the Farnborough Senior Vets to win the annual Vets Challenge match against their younger counterparts. I am now in the football agnostic/atheist zone.
This club occasion, and possibly news of the giant buffet, had brought the Senior Vets out in huge numbers and there was a good showing from the Young Vets and their families too. In all there were around thirty Farnborough Vets on show today. In the ageing society we live in - the elderly were more numerous: we were certainly not sixteen any more but there were sixteen of us booted and kitted out. We would have had twenty but three withdrew during the night, and Colin Brazier’s love of football photography won the day – he took 441 pictures of our match today and a splendid selection of them were reviewed afterwards to much amusement. The camera did not lie and confronted us with images we’d rather not see.
Dressing room banter was OK – a couple of Palace fans (39 points behind Liverpool in the final reckoning after conceding a 90th minute equaliser today), and a smattering of Chelsea and Arsenal fans (2 points and 5 points behind respectively) were giving it large, but I kept a dignified silence whilst repeating one of my prayers silently. The suggestion that Ian Coles had taken part in the Eurovision song contest last night, in drag, seemed to titillate some.
Anyway we started with Gary Fentiman in goal; Ian Coles, Ian Lyons, Mick O’Flynn and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Rob Lipscomb, Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Mant, Ian Shoebridge and Waine Hetherington in midfield; lonesome George Kleanthous in attack. The five substitutes mingling with our fans were: Roger French, Steve Blanchard, Obi Ugwumba, Nick Waller and Andy Faulks. The fans mingling with our subs were Isabelle French, Rebecca Coles and Jane Martin, Michael Junior and American cousin.
We made one adjustment to the starting line-up midway through the half when Ian Lyons went off to clear his head from the night before and Steve Blanchard came on. Apart from that what was the story of the first half – a 0-0 draw? The Young Vets had more of the play, building well from the back and using their big midfield units to good effect and created more danger in our box than we did in theirs. Gary made a couple of good saves and was, I am pleased to say, twice the presence he was in our last game – the eventual 5-0 defeat would have been hard for him to stomach. Referee Mick Gearing’s award of a dubious penalty to the Young Vets was sportingly declined. A shot from George Kleanthous after he had created space for himself a few yards out in a crowded box; a 35-yard free kick from Patrice Mongelard; and a dipping 30-yard half volley from Waine Hetherington were frisson-inducing for us. The Young Vets had more thrills and spills to look back on but the half time stalemate felt right. There were a few free kicks for both sides in a well-contested game particularly in midfield but no malicious intent, at that stage.
There were a lot of passing moves, and attempts to retain the ball, and all the game lacked really was a goal. They were to come later, all at one end.
We wrung the changes at half time – Ian Lyons came back on in lieu of Waine Hetherington. Mick O’Flynn, Ian Shoebridge, George Kleanthous and Colin Mant came off too – replaced by Roger French, Nick Waller, Obi Ugwumba and Andy Faulks. More changes followed midway through the second half as Patrice Mongelard, Rob Lipscomb, Sinisa Gracanin and Ian Lyons made way for the return of Ian Shoebridge, George Kleanthous, Waine Hetherington, and Colin Mant. The last set of changes were masterminded by Mick O’Flynn, his first time in charge of the clipboard – but to be honest given how the second half turned out – it felt like we were just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
So how did we hit the iceberg? Colin Brazier later reported that the Young Vets’ goals came in the 52nd, 62nd, 68th, 80th and 84th minutes – I seem to recall. Their first goal came from a corner when a parry from Gary Fentiman in the six yard box fell fortuitously to Paul Tanton in a crowd of Senior Vets and Paul finished emphatically as he chalked yet another off his looming target of 400 goals for the Guild – only about a score left. The second goal was a personal tragedy for Rob Lipscomb (scorer you may recall of our equaliser last season in the corresponding fixture) as he slid an unwise back pass in the path of jet-heeled Ben Clunn and splitting our defence. Ben did the rest. Colin Brazier captured the sad sight of a prostrate Robin on his back cursing the football Gods.
The third goal was not long in coming again using the pace and penetration provided by Ben for him to latch on to a through ball and advance to beat Gary. At that point things almost turned ugly as Roger French caused a stir with a robust challenge on John Redman which Ben Clunn took exception to and voiced his disapproval several times before things calmed down. There was one other unsavoury moment in the early part of the half when Mick Gearing was berated unnecessarily and loudly for not awarding a corner to the Young Vets. Seeing how badly they wanted a corner Sinisa Gracanin duly rolled the ball out for them to have their precious corner. When they scored their fourth goal off another corner you could see why they made a fuss – as Simon Davies used his physical presence to lash the ball home from close range again in a crowd scene after an initial parry by Gary Fentiman.
The last Young Vets goal was a piece of individual brilliance by Barry Grainger who turned his marker in the centre of our defence and sped towards goal to slide the ball home. It could have been worse – the Young Vets could look back on some misses which on another day would have added to the score. Jim St John in particular seemed to have displeased the football gods. And who could forget the flying save made by Gary with the score at 1-0, to palm wide a fierce Barry Grainger left foot volley from a central position just inside the box. Did we get close to scoring ourselves I hear you ask? Well there was half chance for Waine Hetherington with the keeper off his line which drifted wide; and a three-quarter chance for George Kleanthous who put the ball over the bar from three yards out. In the end after the draws we achieved in the last two corresponding fixtures, this was normal service resumed and we were well beaten by a superior team. Highlights of the first half have even made it to YouTube by searching for Clash of FOBG Veterans.
The buffet was quite something, a vast spread, copious, varied – sausages, chicken thighs and wings, at least four kinds of sandwiches and rolls, crisps, cheddar chunks and cake, lots of it – almond slices, iced sponge, lemon drizzle, flapjacks. It was a good thing that Nosher French and Buffet King Nick Waller brought their A game to the buffet, though Nick’s wolfing was curtailed as he had to go back to look after the family dog. Yet still that was not enough, allied with the modest intakes from others. In the end there was food left over – though the portions of cake on offer found good homes, including maison French.
Today’s “end of season” occasion is usually marked by our awards presentation (excluding the Player’s Player of the Year which is awarded at the club’s presentation evening in June). The awards made today, with a two-page speaking note from Roger French, were the Managers' Player of the Year – to ever-present Colin Mant; the top scorer and goal of the season awards - both naturally to Andy Faulks; the refereeing award to Mick Gearing (something which may well give more pleasure to Mrs Gearing – a rocking cockerel garden ornament); the catering award to Pam Shoebridge (a clematis climbing plant) and to Jane Martin (Lucy & Lee Campervan wine rack); the Dot Cotton award to Rob Lipscomb despite a prolonged absence through injury (a Dot Cotton Che Guevara t-shirt); the supporters’ award to superfans Isabelle and Thomas French (Helix trophy and Match Attax cards) – witnessed by mum Jacqui Vernon on a rare visit to the hallowed place.
Man of the match votes for today's game went to Gary Fentiman for a valiant effort.
Match photographs: Here!
Match video: Here!
Man of the match: Gary Fentiman