Sunday 13th March 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough pull it off in Reigate
This is an away fixture that we do not really look forward to. It is neither the people, nor the setting (far from it) but rather it is because of the results we have had there in the past. Our numbers were down too – and would reduce further on the day for reasons unexplained, but perhaps not unexpected, if postings on social media at three in the morning are a reliable indicator of commitment to the red and yellow shirt. We did not have our usual goal keeper, eventually played without two of our three strikers on double figures this season (and the third one started in goal), and our “South American” (you know who I mean) was missing too and there is nothing to add about him in this week’s match report. If truth be told, we feared that Reigate would want to avenge their defeat earlier in the season by doing a number on us. We had a secret weapon though in Ian Shoebridge, playing his first game in months after injury. Still it was a glorious sunny day, crisp, dry and with a fresh breeze doing its best to blow away the morning mists. The wooden clubhouse had a charm of its own and the mature tennis players, the very young and young ladies lacrosse team at training, and what looked like a croquet foursome, added to the occasion.
The friendly but firm referee, who had a good game played in excellent spirit to manage, had put his head round our dressing room door to say hello, tip us off about respecting the wicket, and warn Roger about his French, well not just Roger. In the end the only bit of Anglo-Saxon was uttered by Colin Brazier (after a miss by Rob Lipscomb in the dying moments that Colin’s granny might well have put away).
Colin Mant, Dave Green, Ian Coles, Colin Brazier
Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracanin, Obi Ugwumba, Roger French, Rob Lipscomb
Substitutes: Nick Waller, Mark Harrington
Supporter and Linesman: Obi Ugwumba Jr and Thomas French.
We opted to pack the midfield with Ian Shoebridge as our lone forward, and a holding midfielder in Patrice Mongelard providing added protection for the back four. Sinisa Gracanin and Rob Lipscomb were to join Shoey whenever sensible, and Roger French was up there too whenever, whilst Obi Ugwumba provided added muscle in midfield. I think our system worked most of the time, and we grew more confident as the half unfolded. Reigate had a mobile forward that demanded respect but over the rest of the pitch the greater mobility was Farnborough’s. To be honest both goal keepers were not really that busy in the opening fifteen to twenty minutes until our offside trap was sprung after the ball was lost in midfield. The Reigate Express had timed his run well and was able to round Waine Hetherington before slotting the ball home. It was not quite against the run of play but we had begun to look like we were more likely to score first, particularly as Ian Shoebridge was getting behind the Reigate defence and playing well too with his back to the Reigate goal, with layoffs that were finding Sinisa Gracanin and Rob Lipscomb in advanced positions. There was talk briefly of putting a second forward on but with Rob Lipscomb and Roger French needing no invitation to neglect their defensive duties, the moment passed.
Five minutes after Reigate scored we drew level. Ian Shoebridge had combined well with Sinisa Gracanin in the Reigate box. Sini drew the foul in the box cleverly positioning his body to shield the ball and wrong foot the lunging defender. There was skill in this and that, to me, was the key contribution which led to our equaliser but the anorak who does the match stats decided to deny Sini the assist. Rob Lipscomb, never short of confidence, despite missing his last spot kick, put the ball away with aplomb. The rest of the half belonged to us – we threatened more goals – well some of us did. Patrice Mongelard had two shots from the edge of the box from corner clearances which found the net, on the tennis courts thirty yards away but you have to be there to miss them. You have to be there to score them too, or scruff them (a new verb for you) as Roger French showed us after the Reigate keeper spilled a low shot from Ian Shoebridge. It was a singularly scruffy goal, more messy than Messi. The ball did not trouble the net but it changed the score to our advantage and Roger had his goal for the season (a reminder to himself that he really should be playing up front).
Nick Waller and Mark Harrington had come on after half an hour to replace Colin Mant and Dave Green. We reshuffled without the disconnection we sometimes suffer, and finished the half strongly. At half time Waine Hetherington felt able to swap places with Obi Ugwumba. We were not concerned about this. We knew Michael could do a job between the sticks, and the creative flair which Waine now added to the midfield would not go amiss.
It took us a while to get going in the second half. Reigate had the breeze in their favour and their half time talk had rallied them. Michael needed his strong wrists to repel a powerful shot and Nick Waller had a senior moment with a header back to our keeper that reminded everyone why Nick is our undisputed own goal specialist, as well as one of our best headers of the ball. The score was still 2-1 in our favour when Patrice Mongelard and Roger French made way for the second coming of Colin Mant and Dave Green. I think we were still adjusting our positions when Reigate equalised with a smart turn and low shot from their most dangerous player. I will be honest with you – at that point we were worried. Reigate looked the more likely to edge ahead and nearly did but for a stupendous save by Obi Ugwumba that would have delighted Michael Jr. Most of us – and all of the Reigate team, will have thought the powerful Reigate shot from distance was dipping into the far corner but for the intervention of a hand from Michael which diverted the ball against the underside of the bar. The rebound was grabbed by a cool as a cucumber Michael, who made it seem like he did this all the time in his back garden and meant it all along. That was a turning point.
The rest of the game – another twenty minutes or so, was ours. The team settled down and the opportunities started coming and going. The next goal was going to be critical. In fact it was clean, clinical and coruscating. It came courtesy of Ian Shoebridge, twenty yards out on the right, after he controlled a pass from Sinisa Gracanin, on the run, looked up and instinctively lashed the ball high into the opposite top corner in a fluid movement that the Reigate keeper knew little of until he heard the ball stretch the postage stamp netting. At that point the question was not whether we could hold on to the three points but whether we could add more goals to ease our nerves. I do not like naming names especially as this was a great team performance but Mark Harrington, who put in a great all round display in several positions, Waine Hetherington, Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Shoebridge and most notably Rob Lipscomb missed more than decent chances to score from close range. Rob Lipscomb in particular could not explain how he missed a tap in at the far post after sterling work from Dave Green who crossed the ball. At least this was better than Rob’s explanation for not passing the ball to Obi Ugwumba in the first half, because “Michael blended into the Reigate background” too well.
We held on for a lesser-spotted win at Reigate, with Patrice Mongelard back on for the last five minutes to stiffen the defence after Ian Coles came off as a precaution with a hamstring feeling a bit tight after tracking the Reigate Express all game.
Buffet Revenant Nick Waller made his presence felt as a pile of cheese and ham sandwiches, crisps and cheesy biscuits disappeared like the morning mists. I could not help noticing that the Reigate players were not eating any food and I was worried that Nick was eating their share too, but not enough to put me off my own consumption.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge, back to remind us of what we have been missing, with a goal of the season contender, an assist, and tireless intelligent running all game.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge