Sunday 4th October 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
A point well made by Farnborough Senior Vets
With profound wisdom our Terrain Improvement Tsar, Roger French, foretold this would be a game of two halves after his trained eye sized up the gradient of the huge Belvedere pitch. Also, as he was not in the starting line-up he decided we would play uphill in the first half (I need all the help that I can get these days - Ed). Our substitutions policy, the subject of some robust exchanges in the week, was in full swing as we had sixteen players. This number included Rob Lipscomb, back after a serious injury who was so excited at the prospect of wearing the Farnborough shirt again that he spat his porridge out at breakfast (after thirty-eight weeks of abstinence). The warm autumn sunshine brought our young fans out in force, as well as mascot Caesar come to watch master Phil Anthony do some dogged defending.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Phil Anthony, Sinisa Gracanin;
Des Lindsay, Obi Ugwumba, Stephane Anelli, Simon Thomas;
Andy Faulks, Colin Mant.
Substitutes: Roger French, George Kleanthous, Ian Shoebridge, Nick Waller, Rob Lipscomb.
Supporters: Freya, Kathleen and Thea Anthony, Isabelle and Thomas French, Hannah Kleanthous, Obi Ugwumba Jr.
The opening ten minutes were a nightmare for us. We conceded after barely two minutes from a shambolic corner: we were caught napping, flat-footed, vacant of mind, and were rightly punished as we adopted the Gruyere cheese defence. Three minutes later we still had not turned up when a Belvedere forward slipped into space behind our defence and finished smartly to give them what they must have thought was the beginning of a cricket score. This was not happy viewing for our substitutes and fans. I thought I heard Caesar howling or maybe it was just Roger barking. In truth, we were having great difficulty just moving up the pitch and stringing passes together, Belvedere appeared to have an extra player on the pitch and for the first half hour we rode our luck, more than a bit, not least when Belvedere hit the crossbar followed by the post and missed close range headers. There were rare glimpses of what we could do if we kept hold of the ball and could find the right pass in the final third.
We made five changes immediately before a Belvedere free-kick on the half-hour as Andy Faulks, Ian Coles, Stephane Anelli, Obi Ugwumba and Simon Thomas made way for the five substitutes mentioned above. Normally such changes take something out of us – but not today. Although we failed to create a clear chance in the half we had stopped the rot and George Kleanthous and Ian Shoebridge were starting to ask questions of the Belvedere defence. When half-time came we were in fact in a good frame of mind. We now had the slope in our favour and Belvedere had made changes to their line-up. They brought on a big unit on the right, a double wardrobe with casters, who kept Roger ‘Pickfords’ busy but the service to their forwards was now sporadic and mainly of the long ball variety as we seemed to have got a grip of the midfield. Belvedere appeared to pack their defence, including with some of their most dangerous players in the first half, and seemed content to sit on their 2-0 lead.
Early in the second half Des Lindsay went off and Simon Thomas came back on – this time on his favoured right wing, which eventually helped us a lot. If Belvedere had the first half-hour then it can be said that Farnborough had the last half-hour. The five Farnborough substitutes – after four changes were made on the hour to bring back Andy Faulks, Ian Coles, Stephane Anelli and Obi Ugwumba for Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard, Phil Anthony and Sinisa Gracanin – had a much better half-hour to watch than the first five substitutes.
The momentum was with us. The combination of Andy Faulks and George Kleanthous had an effective period, with good support from Rob Lipscomb, Ian Shoebridge and Simon Thomas as an attacking force. Belvedere defended deep and we started to create chances in quick succession. Ian Shoebridge got a goal back for us after seventy minutes after a quick break and a clever ball across the box from Simon Thomas and “Shoey” tucked the ball away. A few minutes later Shoey rolled another shot agonisingly close to the post. More was to come – Andy Faulks was hacked from behind as he advanced on goal in the box and the penalty was ours. Unfortunately, George Kleanthous blasted the ball over the bar as he leant back at the moment of contact. Andy Faulks sidestepped two defenders on the edge of the box to create space for one of his piledrivers which was repelled by a Belvedere body thrown in the way.
In our dugout we were building up to a climax - shouting encouragement to our players: “It’s men against boys! They (Belvedere) are finished, on the ropes. It’s like watching Brazil (well not against Germany obviously).” We went wild as George Kleanthous was played in by Andy Faulks to beat the keeper and make amends – we were on level terms with eight minutes to play. Could we snatch a winner – no, but we came mighty close. Belvedere were giving away free-kicks all over the place – Obi Ugwumba swung one in from the right straight on to the meaty forehead of Nick Waller three yards out - Nick leapt like a pink Alaskan salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), the contact was good and true, the ball passed a hair’s breadth from the post. In the dugout Colin Mant noted coolly that if Nick had been in our box that header would have gone in like a bullet (for an own goal – another Nick Waller speciality).
The final five minutes were tense – Gary Fentiman had to tip a free-kick over but we held on for a well-deserved point – and we had made a point to ourselves about our resilience, and the value of substitutions. The handshakes were genuine at the end from our opponents; a keenly contested game had passed off without incident. A draw was the right result but, as all football teams do, we could not help wonder about the missed penalty. I must have been pondering this intently as I walked into a metal stanchion at the back of the goal on the junior pitch on the way back to the changing rooms. Roger French’s first concern was for the goal post.
The vast tray of sandwiches (egg mayonnaise, ham, and cheese and cucumber); hot sausages and roast potatoes, offered by our hosts in their cosy bar was very welcome – and despatched quickly as we had Buffet Maximus, Nick Waller, in our midst. Colin Mant looked very contented with a hot sausage in his mouth. I told the Anthony girls a joke about a dog (and an escape of wind) which I hope they will not repeat at school.
Man of the match: Obi Ugwumba, for a muscular midfield performance, and some Hollywood balls that came off and some that did not.
Next week it is Inter Vyagra - a stiff proposition these days.
Man of the match: Michael Ugwumba