Sunday 20th September 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
By George, Senior Vets nick it
First a correction to last week’s match report – Roger French’s new added responsibilities at the club are not those of a Pitch Maintenance Coordinator but those of a Terrain Improvement Tsar. Talking of terrain, what a lovely surface we played on today at the home of Sanco Super Vets in Dulwich Village, arguably the “Wembley” of all the grounds we play on. It looked even more glorious in the bright autumn sunshine and the warm still morning in leafy surroundings. Our number had dwindled to thirteen overnight – Phil Anthony being dogged by car trouble in Sheffield and no, before you ask, he does not drive a Rover.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Lyons, Steve Blanchard, Obi Ugwumba;
Des Lindsay, Waine Hetherington, Colin Mant, Simon Thomas;
George Kleanthous, Andy Faulks.
Substitutes: Roger French, Sinisa Gracanin.
Supporters: Jo Colyer, Hannah Kleanthous, Obi Ugwumba Jr.
Supporter numbers were down for this away game: Jo Colyer had come to watch her intended Andy “Audi” Faulks (she showed me her ring); Hannah Kleanthous was taking a break from reading Harry Potter to watch dad George weave his magic; Michael Jr was there, as always, to see if he could pick up any moves from the old man (unlikely he told me).
Both teams aspired to a passing brand of football – midfield was congested, but the greater attacking intent was with us as we took the game to Sanco. They defended in numbers and were compact up to the sixty yard mark but had trouble penetrating our defence. To be fair we were not having much luck either. Too many high balls, sloppy first touches, over-dribbling and the very good Sanco keeper was vigilant. We forced a string of corners which were in truth wasted just as were the Hollywood balls we were playing from deep. To the neutral’s surprise, against the run of play, Sanco took the lead on the quarter hour. Their big unit in midfield, playing with what looked like Polaroid goggles, caused some disarray in our box, the ball was recycled to their sharp forward who evaded two tackles, turned and finished smartly low in the bottom corner. Sanco had scored a good goal with their second serious assault on our goal. The first one, only five minutes into the game, had fallen to the same player (who has Farnborough connections I understand) after he sprung our offside trap but he scuffed his shot.
We huffed and puffed to no avail, and it was difficult to see where our equaliser would come from. There was not much cohesion, method or solidarity in our play. Individual players were trying to do too much on their own where a more collective approach was called for. Sinisa Gracanin and Roger French came on for Des Lindsay and Obi Ugwumba on the half hour. We moved a few players about into more natural positions and there was a better rhythm to our play. The breakthrough came with five minutes left to half time. Waine Hetherington cut in from the left, leaving two SANCO defenders in his wake. His shot was blocked but the ball fell to George Kleanthous in the D and he quickly wrapped his left foot round it to steer the ball low past the diving Sanco keeper. This was a deserved equaliser.
When play resumed after the free half time oranges, we carried on where we left off and the pressure on the Sanco goal increased. Surely it was only a matter of time we thought. Sanco were playing on the break but could never get the numbers required in our box to create real danger. So we built from the back, through the middle, down the flanks and the chances kept coming and going begging. Simon Thomas, Sinisa Gracanin, Andy Faulks and George Kleanthous all had a go but their efforts were either saved or wide, particularly the many shots from distance. Waine Hetherington was a whisker away from giving us the lead after latching on to through a lofted through ball from Patrice Mongelard, nutmegging his marker, and seeing his dipping shot go inches wide.
On the hour we brought Des Lindsay and Obi Ugwumba back on for Waine Hetherington and Colin Mant. Next time Des has a conversation with his GP he might want to mention the word hyperhidrosis, judging by the moisture he left in Roger French’s Farnborough hoodie running the line on a hot day. The re-introduction of Des and Michael gave us a more muscular presence and we pressed on. Yet, as often happens in football Sanco nearly took the lead again, after a long ball was half cleared by Gary Fentiman, idle for most of the second half, only to fall to an unmarked Sanco player thirty-five yards out with an empty goal ahead. The shot went wide and we had our warning. Our efforts redoubled – Sinisa Gracanin had a low shot well saved by the keeper from a few yards out. Sini will probably feel he had not quite adopted the right body position. We drew two great saves from the Sanco keeper within seconds – first George Kleanthous got behind the Sanco defence and from three yards out he blasted the ball against the keeper’s head at the near post. The rebound was volleyed at the far post by Andy Faulks but the Sanco keeper had somehow got to his feet and glided to the other post to make the stop. We were not quite sure how much time was left – the referee who had to change boots at one point, may or may not have been adding time, and there were interruptions for injuries to Sinisa Gracanin, and to the big Sanco unit who ran himself into the ground. Earlier the same player had a memorable, but innocent and accidental, coming together with Roger “Pickfords” French in the centre circle – both missing the ball, and making the sort of wince-inducing contact that keeps casualty departments busy on Sunday mornings. Thankfully both emerged unharmed.
With barely five minutes left we played the ball out of our defence on the right – Patrice Mongelard deftly finding Des Lindsay in space and he combined with Andy Faulks to put George Kleanthous clean through. George did the rest with a crisp finish to give us a victory that was deserved on the balance of play. No doubt Sanco would then have been hoping for a draw such was the resolute way they had defended, and how well their keeper played. Both teams competed well but without any malice.
Unusually, I was not able to partake in the après-match hospitality which I am reliably informed consisted of chips, sausages and buttered bread. My absence and that of Buffet Dyson, Nick Waller, will have left plenty for our team mates. The conversation probably turned to wedding bells at some point, at least between Andy Faulks and Simon Thomas, as Amanda Sim, Simon Thomas’ fiancée, appeared with toddler Daisy – she may even have flashed the engagement ring. Yes, dear reader, Simon had proposed just after the superb job Amanda did with our kit a fortnight ago. It all comes out in the wash, they say – clearly if you want to check if your partner is marriage material the Senior Vets kit is the supreme test.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous, with two goals that he pulled out of his locker. And to cap a good day for us Steve Blanchard won the match card £10 jackpot in the bar.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous