Sunday 3rd January 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets lose 2016 unbeaten record
Dear readers, you will be as pleasantly surprised as we were to see this game was played. The vista of empty playing fields after empty playing fields along the A20 and elsewhere, under leaden skies in unadulterated diluvian gloom, on the way to the Old Colfeians ground in Eltham, did not exactly lift the spirit. Nor did the fact that the first ten players at the ground were ours but the opposition trickled in – and in the end they had fourteen players to our thirteen. They were also able to provide a referee from their number who did an excellent job.
The Old Colfeians manager had offered the view late last night that the weather had not been that bad, and he was hopeful the game would be played. It was not until I got talking to the first opposition player to get there today that I found out their manager was now based in Norwich. The key though was the amount of money they had spent on drainage in recent times – a lesson for Farnborough I thought, in the unrelenting drizzle.
Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Colin Brazier;
Rob Lipscomb, Sinisa Gracanin, George Kleanthous, Simon Thomas;
Waine Hetherington, Andy Faulks;
Substitutes: Ian Lyons, Mick O’Flynn.
Supporters: Steve Blanchard, Michelle and Hannah Kleanthous, Roger French.
We had a number of revenants in the side today after absences. Another revenant, not in the side, was Roger French who ran the line for the second half, having declined the referee’s whistle on account of his poor knowledge of the laws of the game. It goes to show that you can still play the game without knowing its laws – and that, I would postulate, applies to most of us.
We started as well as Old Colfs and the initial ten minutes were even as both sides tested each other. Old Colfs had two double wardrobes in the centre of midfield and we struggled to penetrate their defence. They then showed the greater bite and incision in the opening period and were rewarded after twenty minutes with a well-taken goal by one of their two outstanding players today, and the one with the most striking coiffure we have come up against this season.
We did well to restrict them to one goal in the half, with a combination of good saves from Gary Fentiman, tackling and covering by our back four aided on rare occasions by a midfielder. We could see that we were not competitive or energetic, or positionally smart in midfield; that we lacked numbers and mobility in their box and that too often some of our players (who know who they are) were carrying the ball, looking to beat two or three opponents instead of passing the ball. Doing something about all that was complicated because of the presence of opponents as Jean-Paul Sartre once said. Old Colfs also seemed better able to use the width of the pitch which was not inconsiderable.
We brought on Mick O’Flynn and Ian Lyons on the half hour for Sinisa Gracanin and Simon Thomas. There was now more talking on the pitch, but also less penetration. The other outstanding Old Colfs player, a slight and youthful presence with a full head of dark hair in the centre of their defence was more than equal to our threat. Said player even allowed himself the luxury of an acrobatic bicycle kick to clear his lines, quite a sight for arthritic fifty somethings. It was far from clear as the half-time whistle went where a Farnborough goal would come from, as it could not be said that we had tested the old Old Colfs keeper so far. However, Mick O’Flynn’s half-time pep talk gave us heart.
Old Colfs made a number of changes at half-time and I think we took advantage of that as we had the better of the early exchanges in the second half. Gradually there was more of the play in their half and we limited them to occasional breaks. The corners and free kicks started to mount up in our favour. On the hour Andy Faulks put a free kick on a postage stamp at the far post for Rob Lipscomb to draw a point blank save from the Old Colfs keeper. The danger was not over as Mick O’Flynn recycled the ball back to Andy Faulks who let fly from just inside the box. The ball must have moved through the air as the Old Colfs keeper appeared to grab it but it squirmed out of his grasp and into the onion bag. The Committee on dubious assists will award the assist to Mick but some of the members might well vote for the keeper. At least this pass from Mick came off unlike the back heels which I think are best left to fashionista Des Lindsay.
Waine Hetherington and Rob Lipscomb made way for Sinisa Gracanin and Simon Thomas for the last half hour of the game. For the next fifteen minutes there was only one team likely to score – we got behind them and only the lack of a telling final ball prevented us from edging ahead. We found the top of the bar from a set piece. Old Colfs had to be at their best to keep us out and they were. The last fifteen minutes were a frustration for us – we were pressing for a winner but got caught. Old Colfs found the net twice more – the first with a deflection off the hairstyle I told you about, and the second after we had carelessly misplaced a pass in midfield and a quick incursion in our box was crowned with a well-placed low shot that beat Gary Fentiman’s outstretched frame. It was a bitter pill to swallow but we had to, because we had not made the most of the phases when we were dominant, and Old Colfs finished better than we could. Rob Lipscomb had come back for the last ten minutes or so for Ian Lyons but to no avail.
We were disappointed but also glad to have been able to play a game. We did not even mind the fact that only two showers were dispensing hot water, and that Waine Hetherington’s ablutions were as protracted and thorough as Andy Faulks’ were spare. We might have struggled to get enough players in the Old Colfs box but we had no problem outnumbering them in the bar – despite the absence of vittles. Papa Buffet Nick Waller had chosen the right game to go missing. Roger French joined us to dry his posterior on the radiator after he had slipped over whilst retrieving the ball running the line. It looked like he was having footwear issues à la Brazier though Colin said he would be happy to take a stud if it could get in. Roger seemed genuinely pleased to be in our midst again but would not reveal what New Year resolutions he had made.
Man of the match – Colin Mant, not bad for a player whose podiatric wellness was questioned, in a spirit of Christmas jest, recently. The two Cols and one Ian claimed the lion’s share of the votes today – somehow fitting against Old Colfeians. Our fe deserved one vote at least but did not get any despite some excellent saves which kept the score respectable.
Man of the match: Colin Mant