Sunday 30th August 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets suffer bloody nose and shattered hopes in derby opener
And so it begins – the first game in a roller-coaster season of thirty-eight games for the Senior Vets. It will get better. It will get worse. Life mixes despair and hope in equal measure on the whole. Football does marginally more on the hope side, I think. The beginning of a new season promises a fresh start, a clean slate; new kit occasionally, new tactics, novel formations, sometimes new players or managers; past frailties are forgotten, injuries overcome, ambition and aspiration restored; time is turned back and a new dawn breaks. And then reality bites. We scored first and last in today’s match – the problem was that our opponents scored nine times in between. It could have been worse – yes we gave them some help, but Orpington Vets fully deserved their win, and they had the game’s outstanding player who helped himself to at least four goals and a brace of assists. They were also more than the sum of their well-articulated parts. Both teams got what they deserved.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Mick O’Flynn
Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Lyons, Ian Shoebridge, Simon Thomas
Colin Mant, George Kleanthous
Substitutes: Stephane Anelli, newly-engaged Andy Faulks, Obi Ugwumba, Roger French
Supporters: Isabelle and Thomas French, Jane Martin, Pam Shoebridge, Neil Connelly, Bunny Beston, Obi Ugwumba Jr, Teresa Blanchard and granddaughter Georgia; Emma, Santino and Sofia Anelli; Amanda Simm and Daisy Thomas.
Steve Blanchard became the first granddad to play for the Senior Vets this season – thankfully little Georgia slept through the Farnborough performance (like many of our players you might quip). There are some things that infants should not witness. A few regulars from last season were missing – and they will be forgiven for thinking this was a good game to miss.
On an overcast but dry day, with not much breeze and on a lush surface referee Nick Kinnear got us under way. There was not much to choose between the sides, for the first five minutes. Then, briefly, we flattered to deceive. Ian Shoebridge lashed a loose defensive clearance into the Orpington net from twelve yards. Five minutes later Orpington drew level, and on the half hour the score was 4-1 to them. The keeper blamed the defence, the defence blamed the midfield, the midfield blamed the forwards, the forwards blamed everyone behind them – you get the idea. The truth was that individual and collective failures were compounded by the quality of the Orpington play. Andy Faulks, Obi Ugwumba, Stephane Anelli and Roger French came on for Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant, Sinisa Gracanin and Simon Thomas to steady HMS Farnborough. We had shipped two more goals when Nick Kinnear mercifully blew to end the first period. By then we had lost Ian Shoebridge to a calf injury and thespian Simon Thomas had resumed his role as a midfielder cum winger whose script lacked the words tackling and tracking back.
You will have noticed that I have not actually reported on much football so far. There is a reason for that and I trust I do not have to spell it out for you. The second half was marginally better from our point of view as we made the Orpington keeper work harder. It did not look too good though at first as two defensive lapses brought two more goals for Orpington Vets. First, Mick O’Flynn, who used to play for Orpington Vets but please do not read anything into that, was flat-footed as he admired the flight of a cross, and the connection made with an Orpington forehead, to propel the ball into our net. Soon after Roger French brought an Orpington forward down in the box as only Roger can, and although Steve Palmer got a hand to the penalty it was not enough.
At 8-1 down all we could hope for was to keep it to single figures. To say otherwise would be a lie. Mick O’Flynn, Ian Lyons and George were pulled off on the hour for the second coming of Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracanin and Colin Mant. Almost immediately we got a goal back – a sumptuous cross from Simon Thomas was met athletically on the volley by Stephane Anelli at the far post to reduce the deficit. This restored the bounce in Simon’s coiffure since the end of season presentation evening when he had been miffed to lose the tiff of the quiffs as he came up against one that was longer, thicker and harder than his own.
The last quarter of an hour was incident-packed. We were forced to make two more changes. Simon Thomas who recently appeared in the BBC series “Casualty” fed a hospital ball to Roger French and the ensuing coming together with an Orpington player left Roger clutching a bloody nose and muttering accusations of an elbow. But any such contact would have been accidental, more nose to elbow than elbow to nose you could say, and the only intemperate moment of the game passed as Roger went off for nasal ablutions and Mick O’Flynn slipped back on for seconds. Orpington got a ninth goal and nearly added to it. Ian Coles went off injured for the last ten minutes and Ian Lyons was back on to see us get our third goal. A pile driver from Andy Faulks was parried and Colin Mant was in the right place to profit. His shot could have gone anywhere but it found the net with a finish that was crisp and technically difficult. Last season we had to wait until our thirty-fifth game for Colin to finally get on the score sheet. I hope we do not have to wait that long for his next goal.
We scored a third as many goals as the opposition but even in the absence of Buffet Turbo Nick Waller, we managed to eat three times as many sausages as them. French bread, crisps, celery sticks, spring onion, cherry tomatoes, potato croquettes and pork pie completed the comfort eating – all supplied by the catering firm of Shoebridge and Martin.
Man of the match: Stephane Anelli who gave us a bit of hope. We’ll need it. We lost 5-1 to next week’s opponents in the corresponding fixture last year. It can’t get any worse, can it?
Man of the match: Stephane Anelli