Sunday 21st February 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Bitter sweet return to grass and sand of home for Farnborough Senior Vets
The old place looked the same as I stepped out of the car, and saw familiar faces smiling sweetly. In truth this game had been shrouded in doubt all week and maybe some of that doubt percolated into our psychology. First our original opponents West Farleigh Vets could not raise a side, but Cudham United were found just down the road. Then we had the usual hydrophilic tendencies of our pitch to contend with, but in the end found ourselves back where we used to play, fifteen weeks after our last home visit. After today I fear our fans will not mind if we do not return for another fifteen weeks. When we awoke from today’s reverie and looked around us, Cudham were walking away with all the points and we realised we only win in our dreams these days. We have now lost as many games as we have won and drawn. We concede 3.136 goals per game and have a negative goal difference of -7. We have scored 62 goals. A test for the arithmetically challenged lads, how many games have we played, and do not cheat by looking at the tables on the website (almost as complex a challenge as deciphering Galileo's formula for calculating the trajectory of a planet or in this case a football - ed). They make grim viewing anyway.
Patrice Mongelard, Roger French, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard;
Obi Ugwumba, Simon Thomas, Rob Lipscomb, Kypros Michael;
Andy Faulks, Waine Hetherington.
Substitutes: Colin Brazier, Colin Mant, George Kleanthous, Mick O’Flynn.
Supporters: Alan Brazier, Isabelle & Thomas French, Sinisa Gracanin & adopted daughter Jodie, Hannah Kleanthous, Amanda Sim & Daisy Thomas, Obi Ugwumba Jr.
We had forgotten how much there was to do for home games. Away games are much easier in a sense – fewer responsibilities. We got to our top pitch to find the goals chained and the tide had gone out. A not inconsiderable patch had been turned into a beach scene but without the weather, and the Brazilian Women’s Beach Volley Ball team were nowhere to be found. I won’t dwell on what was there to see, I’d rather forget some of it, and it did not get better once the game started.
I am not going to bore you with a lot of football today because we did not produce much of it. We were world class for the first two minutes when three or four Cudham players lost their footing but after that it all went downhill. We dominated possession but did nothing with it. Cudham had better positional sense than we did, were more patient and happy to soak pressure and hit us on the break. Gary Fentiman had less to do than his opposite number who enjoyed a bit of luck after a quarter of an hour when a Waine Hetherington header – applied to a far post cross from Andy Faulks, beat the keeper, came off the base of the post, travelled across the goal to the other post, past a prostrate Waine Hetherington on the ground who could not apply a limb to get the ball over the line. Waine swears that the ball came off one of the wheels of the goal and therefore from behind the line. Goal line technology would have resolved the matter, of course, but we have to sort out the drainage first. In the meantime better finishing would help. We missed several gilt-edged opportunities – Andy Faulks had a one on one which defied explanation until I remembered that one of our players had ventured the suggestion that Andy looked like a George Andrew Romero film extra when he turned up this morning.
We made four changes on the half hour – with Kypros Michael, Andy Faulks, Steve Blanchard and Roger French making way for Mick O’Flynn, George Kleanthous, Colin Mant and Colin Brazier. The pattern of play remained the same – now it was George’s turn to miss chances. I think the Cudham defence and their keeper deserve credit for the goalless score at half time. Cudham had grown into the game. Whilst they had not created a lot they had forced a few corners and could pose a threat on the break given the tendency of our midfield to go walk about.
Nobody said it, but at half-time we felt it was only a matter of time before we would score. We had three great chances in the first five minutes of the second half which fell to Waine Hetherington and George Kleanthous in the six yard box. There was still not much to worry about at the other end, we always had covering players, and Cudham were playing only two forwards against four defenders occasionally joined by midfielders though their main job was to frustrate us. In the 55th minute Mick O’Flynn’s hamstring went – something or other used to go after 55 minutes, now it is just the 55th minute, regardless of how long he has been on the pitch – and Kypros Michael was back on. On the hour we made our final changes: Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles and Waine Hetherington went off and Andy Faulks, Roger French (at right back...are you sure - ed) and Steve Blanchard came back.
The last half hour was more even. Cudham must have sensed that we were there for the taking and we could play a month of Sundays and we would still not score. In the 70th minute disaster struck and the Cudham forward who had been a thorn in our side and never stopped running (an example for our lads I thought) got his reward as he forced the ball home from a defensive mix-up. I am not going to say who was at fault for the goal – the expression “netball defence” was used later in our post-match inquest, sorry, analysis. Some were closer to the action than others but in reality it was a collective failure. For the last twenty minutes we huffed and puffed, waved our arms about a lot (Simon Thomas’ semaphore impressions far out on the right wing were in vain) but never really looking like we could get back in the game. Some last ditch tackles from Cudham preserved their advantage. Some tempers got shorter – Rob Lipscomb waved his usual handbag, the midfield blamed forwards, the forwards blamed the defence, the defence blamed the midfield – you get the picture and the minutes ticked away.
George Kleanthous had a great opportunity towards the bitter end to square the ball to an unmarked Waine Hetherington with a gaping goal at his mercy but George claims not to have heard him. There seems to be a wider hearing problem in the team and Mick O’Flynn is toying with the idea of selling second hand hearing aids. As I watched from the sidelines the poverty of our game, the lack of fitness, desire and intelligence in our game, was hard to bear, in my 503rd game for the FOBG Vets. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. We got what we deserved. The team with greater belief had come on top. We are now a soft touch, a bit like the match ball thought Colin Brazier but he forgot to moan about that as he had so much else to moan about.
The FOBG kitchen fed the multitude – the slow roast sausages nestling in a hot dog roll were a delight and the prawn crackers were a welcome surprise in the Year of the Monkey. Chunks of cheddar, mini scotch eggs, pork pies and crisps made up the rest of the welcome home party food. The Chef wisely put some aside for me as I tarried sweeping two dressing rooms, and a corridor, without the proper tools for the job. I suppose I was fortunate that Buffet Drainage Channel Nick Waller was absent today.
Next week we play a team called Santos. I wonder if they’ll have any fans with hair of gold and lips like cherries.
Man of the match: I wanted to vote for Sinisa Gracanin, but that was not allowed. The referendum gave today’s prize to Ian Coles (the only defender apart from yours truly to have had a clean sheet today).
Man of the match: Ian Coles