Sunday 25th October 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
Clocks go back an hour, Roger French several years and to the clubhouse, but Senior Vets nick all three points
It all started so well. Roger French had one of the opposition’s balls from when we played them on 13 September but we made him give it back to them. The opposition had graciously agreed to switch their kit so we could play in our new blue kit ahead of our autumn curry festival chez Village Cuisine (our kit sponsor). The team photo replay (for the benefit of said sponsor) was a success – the sun was out drying the morning dew in the suburbs of Park Langley resplendent in autumn shades. We were back to a full complement of sixteen players. Even the horologically-challenged Andy Faulks, the only Farnborough player who could manage to be late when clocks go back, arrived in the nick of time. What could go wrong?
Well, the signs were there quite early on as I will explain shortly. First I should record our full cognition that referees have a difficult job at the best of times, and that sometimes they, and the players, do not help. Trivial things like throw-ins can be enough for things to boil over. It is then down to the maturity of the players involved – sadly today we saw more mature behaviour among the 5 and 6-year olds playing rugby on an adjoining pitch.
Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Colin Brazier, Mick O’Flynn;
Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Mant, Simon Thomas, Waine Hetherington;
George Kleanthous, Andy Faulks.
Substitutes: Roger French. Rob Lipscomb, Patrice Mongelard, Stephane Anelli and Des Lindsay.
Supporters: Isabelle and Thomas French, Hannah Kleanthous (sporting a West Ham beanie) and Obi Ugwumba (Snr) who ran the line throughout in his natty threads.
We did not offer a great spectacle in the early stages of this game. Our touch seemed poor, confidence and composure were like hen’s teeth, the link-up play was patchy, the passing approximate, the CUACO box was a no-go area and it was difficult for the five Farnborough substitutes to offer what Simon Thomas reproachfully termed “positivity from the touch lines”. The referee was having a lot to say, too much if truth be told, and the first early incident came from a disputed throw-in, which saw both Colin Mant and Simon Thomas, usually laid back to the point of being horizontal, have heated words with the referee who threatened to reach for the cards in the pocket of his well-pressed shirt. We should have heeded the warning.
Yet we contrived to take the lead after ten minutes when Sinisa Gracanin timed his arrival in the box just right to connect with a George Kleanthous cut back, and finish the move handsomely. To be fair this was at the time against the run of play. To give our opponents credit they did not allow us to build on this, and went searching for a way back into the game. It took a great finger-tip save from Gary Fentiman to keep the ball out of the top corner. When the equaliser came after twenty-five minutes CUACO did not have to try too hard – such was the degree of assistance we gave them. A Farnborough clearance was sent back into our box by one of our own, Waine Hetherington, confusion in our box followed, three Farnborough players were involved (keeper + two defenders), with no sign of the opposition and one of the Farnborough defenders, Mick O’Flynn, applied a delicate and precise finish to steer the ball past Gary Fentiman, as if he meant it. Technically, it was a thing of beauty but of course at the wrong end. The half hour came and we made five changes with Patrice Mongelard, Rob Lipscomb, Roger French, Des Lindsay and Stephane Anelli coming on for Steve Blanchard, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Simon Thomas and Colin Mant. These changes gave us an injection of solidity and energy and we finished the half on the front foot. Des Lindsay was a whisker away from converting a sharp cross from the right from the industrious Stephane Anelli – with a bullet header.
We carried this momentum into the second half. Barely five minutes had passed when George Kleanthous got behind the CUACO defence to poke the ball past the advancing CUACO keeper. Within five minutes we were down to ten men. Yes, you have guessed it, Roger French was dismissed by the referee with great flourish, banished within a hundred yards of the pitch, after intemperate exchanges over a disputed throw-in by the half way line. Yes a throw-in, not a goal, a penalty or a bad tackle. The trouble could have been avoided if the CUACO player involved had come clean but the moment passed quickly and things were said that could not be taken back – it was not possible to turn the clock back so to speak. As Roger trundled back ever so slowly, we reorganised ourselves wondering if the extra man on CUACO’s team would cost us with over half an hour of the game left. Mick O’Flynn’s calf gave up around the 55-minute mark as usual, and Steve Blanchard came back on to shore up our defence.
On the hour we brought on fresh legs as George Kleanthous, Andy Faulks, Ian Coles and Colin Brazier were replaced by Sinisa Gracanin, Simon Thomas, Waine Hetherington and Colin Mant. Waine, looking far more dangerous than in his first stint, made his presence felt almost immediately by curling a twenty-five yard free kick against the base of the far post whence the ball rebounded back into play to hit Colin Mant a yard from goal, and go wide. If it had been a case of Colin Mant hitting the ball the outcome may well have been different. Still it did not matter as Waine’s left peg did the trick five minutes later when a similar sort of ball beat the keeper and we had a two-goal cushion to defend.
CUACO brought on some big units to fill our box and while the chances did not come thick and fast for them we had to defend stoutly and in numbers. With under ten minutes left CUACO pulled one back from a shot that trickled under Gary’s body to his great annoyance, as he pummelled the pitch with his fist. We found out later that this outburst of emotion was down to Gary’s poor arithmetic. He thought that was the CUACO equaliser. He had recovered his poise five minutes later to pull a great diving save to divert a bottom corner-bound shot wide. There was time for Des Lindsay to miss a sitter at the CUACO far post when he opted for a stretching acrobatic volley when a diving header would have done the job. It was a relief when the final whistle was heard – not only for our players, but also for the referee who did a “Joubert” as he exited the ground in a hurry, pausing I am told, to reject the apology proffered by Roger French.
We had the “three points” from the game, but also memories we wish we had not. The talk in the bar was not about the food, as there was none, but about other things like the number of games Roger would now be banned for, by his therapist, and the club, on top of the automatic three-match ban for a straight red card. There was also a mention of the tackle from a silent Patrice Mongelard which felled a CUACO player in the middle of the park which should have brought a response from the referee. There were one or two culturally dodgy jokes which I will not repeat partly as they were at my expense, but they served to lighten the mood.
We had two players who tied for the man of the match – Waine Hetherington and Steve Blanchard.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard & Waine Hetheringto