Sunday 10th April 2016
By Colin Mant
Seniors taken to the cleaners, so to speak
The annual game against Avery Hill brings with it a physical challenge that we have traditionally struggled against, not that there are any nasty tackles or overly robust tussles for the ball as Avery play a clean competitive game. But with some "youth", fitness and pace in their ranks, it makes for one of our toughest tests. A stiff breeze blew on a splendidly sunny spring day, welcoming us to Farrow Fields. After all of the games scheduled for the Saturday being called off due to waterlogged pitches, there were doubts overnight, but the pitch in the main was good, with only a couple of patches needing a light forking before the game.
We, of course, have our own physical specimens, and this week we welcomed back Buffet Nemesis Nick Waller, although one of our ranks dropped out the night before, tweaking a calf while on their way up to bed, limp forward Mick O'Flynn! Mick had to content himself as lead-manager, assisted by Colin Mant, in the absence of Patrice Mongelard, who had relocated the sun-lounger he normally deploys in the right-back position to the Isle of Madeira to celebrate his 34th wedding anniversary, and Roger French, who was attending a "Meerkat Experience" in celebration of son Thomas' 10th birthday - which I'm sure was an enlightening afternoon for the meerkats. Mick Gearing presided over the game with his usual tantric presence, where the whistle may touch the lips, but may never be blown.
Phil Anthony, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Colin Brazier;
Dave Green, Rob Lipscomb, Sinisa Gracanin, George Kleanthous;
Waine Hetherington, Simon Thomas.
Substitutes: Des Lindsay, Colin Mant, Obi Ugwumba, Nick Waller.
Supporters: Obi Ugwumba Jnr (linesman), Vicky Tanner, Hannah Kleanthous, Sini's daughter Jody, Pete Harvey (showing dedication in his bid to join the seniors next year), old tin-ribs himself Ian Shoebridge. It was also a pleasure to meet Simon Thomas' Mum and Dad, who had travelled up from Plymouth to watch their son play for the Guild. After they had watched Simon play like that, his parents must have sensed how tortuously arduous the journey of the Pilgrims must have been after leaving that port nearly 400 years ago for the new world. (Only kidding Si, winky-pokey tongued thingy - you were my MOM maybe!!)
Avery Hill started the game with purpose and poise, while we were guilty of repeatedly giving the ball away. A lack of cohesion and composure permeated our game and we looked as if we would contribute to our own undoing with pass after pass finding an Avery shirt, often in dangerous areas. In one such incident, with Colin B attempting to break on the left, where a simple ball would have found him, a wayward pass to the Avery player gave him the opportunity to play their winger into the space that Colin had vacated, done like a kipper. Although Avery wasted that chance to punish us, we could not rely on our luck holding for too long.
Our defence was by far the busier one, and nothing was sticking with our attackers to relieve the pressure, with the wind also affecting Gary's clearances. After Avery had won a corner, it was then noted that the corner flags that had been put in our changing room to bring up, had failed to appear where needed. It was left to me and the Buffet Nemesis to return to the clubhouse to fetch them. In that period of absence I returned to find we had conceded and I am told that a ball across our defence was cut out and, despite a last-ditch tackle, the ball was despatched past Gary. We did begin to wake up, but our lack of movement gave our ball carriers little opportunity to pick a pass, but when we did the Avery keeper had to smartly save at the feet of Simon. We toiled on for 10 more minutes before our first raft of substitutions, with Colin M coming on for Colesy, Michael replacing Sini, Des replacing Dave, and Colin B moving aside for Nick. The formation remained 4-4-2, or 2-2-1-5, depending where we gave the ball away, with some re-jigging of personnel as Simon slotted in at right-midfield and Des given a forward role. The half ended 0-1 and Avery may have felt their lead should have been more.
After geeing ourselves up in the interval, the second half was much improved, although we still gave the ball away far too much. While we had not had much in the way of chances in the first period, we earned a free-kick on the edge of the Avery box, which Waine eyed like a man intent on stealing the golden-boot from the absent Andy Faulks - more on that later. Waine stepped up and curled a delicious left-footed effort around the wall, forsaking power for guile, which just beat the far post. Pushing for the elusive goal, a corner somehow found its way to Des and the Farnborough fashionista showed considerably less guile, (literally) smashing the ball from six yards out into a tree behind the crossbar instead of the net. What Pat would have said about that is best not to reflect on, but I'm sure I heard a rattle of a sun-lounger in the distance. We looked for an equaliser but it was Avery who dealt the next blow. After thwarting another wave of attacks, the ball was recycled from the right side with deadly intent to the far post, where the Sniper was unable to leap higher than the Avery forward, whose downward header was placed perfectly inside the post, evading Gary's dive. On 60 minutes we stirred the pot, with Waine exiting for Sini, Steve for Colesy, Dave for Rob, and Colin B for George. Simon re-joined the forward line, with Colin B dropping into LM, Dave at RM, and Sini in his familiar midfield territory.
Despite the blow, we did manage to pull one back; Michael fed the ball to Des who beat the keeper with a thumping shot at his near post from the edge of the box. On 80 minutes Phil came off for Rob, who after two minutes was subbed off for George. Mick threw the kitchen sink at it ordering three at the back, and it was this attacking statement that saw the game finally killed off. Another breakdown in our play saw another wave of Avery players surge towards our goal, and though we had been lucky that their attacks had often lacked a final ball, or a shot with any venom, their final goal was deserved on the balance of the game. Gary tipped a shot onto the underside of the crossbar, and the Avery forward pounced quicker to nod in the rebound from two yards. There was time for Simon to join his parents on the sidelines for Waine on 85 minutes. Mick gave a final toot to bring the match to a close, with Avery deserving of their victory. 007 was distributed to those within spraying distance in the changing room.
The atmosphere in the bar was good as always, and Pam had provided us the fuel we needed to replenish our energy levels, with sausages in finger rolls, crispy bread crumbed chicken bites, crisps and tortilla chips, potato croquettes, an array of salad, and the delights of the sub-continent with some Bombay Mix for those with a taste for spice. Des was to purchase a fishier dish from the roving seafood man, a bowl of jellied eelsﾅas minging as his joggers I reflected. Avery left early, but they were keen to arrange a two-legged affair for next season which I'm sure, if we could find a slot, they'd be more than welcome. Once again we prevailed in the bar, the usual suspects in truth, with one, often portrayed as the buffet hoover, notably being the only one munching on the celery and carrots - although he'd probably consumed 10 sausages by then maybe. We were later joined by Chairman Steve Viner and wife Sarah, popping in for a Farnborough half, with Des Fallon also joining the merriment. We were eventually moved by the cleaners getting the nursery ready for Monday, hence the headline, after being taken to them by Avery you might say.
Talking of cleaners, one of our ranks scrubbed up quite nicely as (former!) Golden Boot winner Andy Faulks tied the knot with Jo Colyer the day before. We of course all send our warm wishes for a lifetime of happiness to them both - oh, and a fully firing Compo back on Sundays!
Man of the match: Ian Coles, the anchor we needed in choppy waters, especially in the first 25 minutes.
Man of the match: Ian Coles