Tuesday 3rd May 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough win the game but lose the joys of football
Our opponents today were a close-knit group of Crystal Palace fans who are going to Wembley on 21 May but today they visited our theatre of dreams, at Farrow Fields, looking in fine fettle after the watery troubles of winter, in the warm sunshine of a glorious spring evening. I think many of us were still dreaming after the first miracle of Chislehurst last Sunday when we registered a great victory against Riverside Wanderers. There was a touch of complacency in our game and an expectation that vital stats would get a boost across the board. Co-Manager Roger French had generated copious figures in a quest to better last season’s points, score a hundred goals and two new pretenders were challenging for the golden boot and there were “opta” stats to massage. By chasing points I feel we lost the point of it all and our opponents taught us the lesson that the serious purpose of football is to provide joy (as Leicester City fans know). I suspect in years to come football philosophers will discuss whether football stats were a case of science killing art, metrics killing joy.
There was not much joy on Des Lindsay’s mien when the game started. He had produced the second miracle of Chislehurst last Sunday when he settled his arrears and he noted ruefully that he had gone from being paid to play football to not being in the starting XI after he had paid up. The look of utter incredulity on my face prompted him to add that he had the programmes to prove it. He did though take the opportunity to press his claim for the goal of the season by reminding two thirds of the management of his stupendous header (on the same pitch) against CUACO Vets on 13 September. Mick O’Flynn (possibly) and Patrice Mongelard are great believers in democracy and would not want to influence a free vote. However, our advice was that a player who had played twenty-two games without experiencing the joy of a kit wash might struggle in that ballot, irrespective of the technical merit of his entry.
Roger French, Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles;
Colin Brazier, Paul Scotter, Ian Shoebridge, Rob Lipscomb;
George Kleanthous, Waine Hetherington.
Strategist: Mick O’Flynn.
Substitutes: Mick O’Flynn, Des Lindsay, Patrice Mongelard, Gary Fentiman, Simon Thomas.
Supporters: Peter Harvey, Mark Harrington, Obi Ugwumba Jr (also linesman).
When referee Mick Gearing got us under way we started with Obi Ugwumba in goal until Gary Fentiman could join us. Gary did so after fifteen minutes during which time Michael had kept a sixth of a clean sheet, and we think without having touched the ball. That does not mean that we were having things all our own way – far from it. In fact many of us could not recall a poorer display (particularly compared with last Sunday’s). The credit for that must go to our opponents who were organised, supported each other, did simple things and took pleasure in what they were doing. They probably do not win many games but they enjoy playing. We were the opposite, frustration grew, tempers frayed, indiscipline spread. Roger French berated most of his own players (with special invective reserved for Des later). I do not think the mood improved even after George Kleanthous had given us the lead on twenty minutes, with an unselfish assist from Rob Lipscomb.
On the half hour we made three changes with Colin Brazier, Steve Blanchard and Ian Shoebridge making way for Obi Ugwumba, Des Lindsay (finally) and Patrice Mongelard. I do not recall many other scoring opportunities for both sides. The Eagles nearly equalised on the break and their lone forward - who had a thankless task all game, lifted a ball against our crossbar after a neat bit of skill. At the other end Des Lindsay had a shot from close range smartly saved by the Eagles keeper much to Roger French’s fury (copiously vented at Des). This was a joyless moment indeed. 1-0 at half time was a fair reflection of the game.
More changes were made at half time with Roger French and Phil Anthony making way for Simon Thomas and Mick O’Flynn. We were calmer and more dominant in the second half and most of the play was in the Eagles half. Patrice Mongelard and Obi Ugwumba had shots that looked good on the eye and were on target. Mick O’Flynn belittled my effort because it looked like I had slipped at the moment of contact and in his view that greatly improved the shot. But I will not let that spoil the joy of the memory. I will also remember some thrilling moves down both flanks with full backs Colin Brazier and Mick O’Flynn shining brightly. It was a welcome sight to see Mick lasting beyond the 55th minute. Simon Thomas laid on a succession of exquisite crosses. Chances were missed. I recall we hit the woodwork two or three times.
Waine Hetherington edged us further ahead with a delicate chip from the edge of the box. Scoring against the Eagles is not a joy for Waine as an ardent Palace fan but he had the comfort of knowing he had just possibly loosened the grasp of Andy Faulks and George Kleanthous on the golden boot trophy. George kept himself in that race when he put away another peach of a cross supplied by Simon Thomas after a silky pass from Des Lindsay. That almost made up for a sitter of a header missed from another Simon Thomas cross and a failure to put the ball away after it had come off the post from an Ian Shoebridge effort. 3-0 was a better reflection of the game but I think a heavier score would have been a tad harsh on opponents who remained sporting and enjoyed the game. I do not recall a bad tackle all game. We waited thirty-two games for a clean sheet this season and now we had two in three days.
We hurried to strip the nets down, locked the goal posts in a kissing position, rushed down to long queues for the showers (another game had taken place on the other pitch with our second team catching up with their winter backlog) and made haste to secure the pizzas. I showered in the referees’ room. Roger French is not allowed in there. Eight pizzas and four boxes of curly fries were shared equally between the two teams. There was a 9th pizza which was reserved, not for Buffet Nemesis Nick Waller (absent yesterday), but for the Club Chairman, Steve Viner, and guests. This was an inadequate thank you for the work Steve Viner had done to prepare for this game in particular setting up the goals. The Club President, Ian Couchman, was there too, behind the bar, supporting the two Farnborough teams on show. I heard that Matt Ellis one of our Young Vets had a slice of pizza which normally would have gone to Roger French. They can compare notes when Roger manmarks Matt on Sunday in the traditional Young Vets v Senior Vets end of season fixture. Not that it will be our last game. We play on for a further three games after that, and the stats will keep growing.
There was time for music aficionado Mick O’Flynn to take a selfie with Eagles player Jan Podsiadly from Rocky Sharpe and the Replays (or was it the other way round). This led Mick to reminisce about his encounter with ex-Python Graham Chapman at the legendary Marquee Club in Wardour Street in 1975 when Mick used to be a naughty boy. Roger French mentioned that other naughty boys had been complaining about the management’s selection and substitution policy which deprived some of full games. The simple truth is that if any player in our team feel they are worth a full game every time in an egalitarian world where supply exceeds demand then another team might provide greater joy.
Simon Thomas joyfully nailed the Dot Cotton award for the season by taking home the kit and providing partner Amanda Sim with another opportunity to display superb laundry skills, command on the sun, and maximum reverence for the FOBG shirt (and shorts and socks).
Talking of reverence - the Eagles team stayed in large numbers and for a moment we thought we would not win in the bar. They helped us fill the club's 100-club draw and claimed the second prize of £20. We saw off the last of them at about 10:30 when Farnborough villager David Smith finally left. But before we could go home the six or seven of us left had to put away 73 chairs and 13 tables to clear the room for the following day’s Montessori classes. The things we do for the education of the young. I feared that if I went home and told Mrs M that was the reason for my late return she might not believe me. Incidentally Ian Couchman waited until we had finished before telling us we had done it the wrong way, having been otherwise occupied counting the evening's not insignificant bar takings.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard – a joyful man who cruised through the game, and is about to go on another cruise.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard