Sunday 11th October 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets lack thrust for happy outcome
The pitch at Woolwich Barracks, home of our opponents today, Inter Vyagra Super Vets, is a superbly drained surface. I am hoping that our two pitches at Farrow Fields in Farnborough will become like that after Roger French gave them six inches this week. No, titter ye not, it is not Roger indulging in a spot of ‘herbophilia’. In fact he was instrumental in the application of a Verti-Drain procedure which spiked the soil to a depth of six inches and heaved it at the same time to crack the subsoil and address compaction, all to help us win against water in winter (that is the theory at least). The question today though was whether we’d have the tools to crack our opponents’ hard nuts.
First though, to raise the tone which you are perhaps not expecting, here is a bit of architectural history which might have escaped our team. The Woolwich Royal Artillery Barracks was built by architect James Wyatt between 1776 and 1802. When finished its southern elevation provided, at 329 metres, the longest architectural composition in London. And I am sure we would all like to be reminded that Ha-ha Road, from where we gained access to the ground is named after a ditch really. Purists will tell you a ha-ha (or ha-ha wall) is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier while preserving views. The design includes a turfed incline which slopes downward to a sharply vertical face, typically a masonry retaining wall. The Crimean War Memorial in the grounds would have brought a lump to Mick Gearing’s throat.
Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracanin, Mick O’Flynn, Obi Ugwumba;
Des Lindsay, Stephane Anelli, Ian Shoebridge, Waine Hetherington;
George Kleanthous, Colin Mant.
Substitutes: Roger French, Rob Lipscomb, Simon Thomas.
Supporter: Obi Ugwumba Jr.
The pitch though well-drained was not even in places, and the bounce of the ball needed watching. There was more of a breeze than we thought and the sun was out. What can we say about the first half? We edged it in terms of possession, in fact that can be said for the whole game, but Inter Vyagra showed a bit more penetration. Our foreplay was good, down both flanks initially but it was in the centre of the Inter Vyagra defence where we were not coming through. Crosses went in but they were too short or too long, or too close to the keeper.
Long range efforts did not really trouble the Inter Vyagra keeper. Inter Vyagra had nippy forwards to trouble us running with the ball and we held out until the 42nd minute when a quick low cross into our box evaded us all and the Inter Vyagra forward in splendid isolation was left with a simple tap in. In truth we had begun to lose vigour on the half hour when Ian Shoebridge, Stephane Anelli and Obi Ugwumba made way for Roger French, Rob Lipscomb and Simon Thomas.
We had more oranges than we could eat at half-time and beyond, as our opponents had kindly given us a bag to add to the ones I had brought along – Des Lindsay did his best to prepare for his Spanish holiday next week when he'll be taking in lots of fluid.
We did not start the second half well. Performance anxiety crept into our game and players started having a go at each other. Inter Vyagra doubled their lead after fifty-five minutes with a close range header from a ball that we thought Gary would pluck out of the air. There was a muted call for offside but I think the Inter Vyagra forward had showed that timing is everything. We were the architects of our misfortunes largely – worse was to come. Mick O’Flynn had had enough and beckoned Stephane Anelli back on the pitch as he felt his calf begin to harden.
Things were not looking good on the hour when George Kleanthous and Des Lindsay made way for Ian Shoebridge and Obi Ugwumba. Roger French had been taken out by a sniper from the Barracks whilst attempting an overhead kick to put the ball into touch, and he also managed to almost knock himself out whilst heading a goal kick.
We could sense though that Inter Vyagra were starting to play conservatively and let us come on to them. Once Michael and Rob Lipscomb rediscovered the art of civilised conversation we went looking for a way back into the game. It came from the cultured left foot of Waine Hetherington as he curled a twenty-yard free kick where it could not be saved.
All the good work was undone when Gary Fentiman called for, caught and then dropped the ball at the near post from an innocuous Inter Vyagra corner. The ball fell on the smallest Inter Vyagra player standing next to Gary and Roger French on the goal line, and was bundled in. I had had enough as I felt something stiffen in my groin area, and George Kleanthous came back on for me to give us more of an attacking threat.
We had a good penalty shout, we thought, turned down, though in the main the referee was fair to both teams but seemed to get more stick from Inter Vyagra. Shades of last week were felt as we pulled another goal back with less than ten minutes left. Ian Shoebridge had broken through on the left, entered the box and struck a low shot that the keeper parried but Waine Hetherington snaffled the loose ball and lashed it into the net. The last action of the game was a Farnborough corner where we had nine players including Gary Fentiman in the Inter Vyagra box but it was too late.
Aprés-match hospitality was enjoyed in full view of the sunlit architectural marvel in from of us. A copious supply of hot sausages (more happiness for Colin Mant), buttered slices, cheddar chunks, faux prawns, sausage rolls were washed down as both teams chatted after a game where there was not a single discordant note between us and our opponents. Even Simon Thomas shook hands with an elderly opponent after a rare tackle from him.
Man of the match – Sinisa Gracanin, for a solid display at centre-half in an unaccustomed position that he is growing into.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin