Sunday 29th October 2017
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough birthday boy puts a finger of icing on the cake
There was no danger of anyone arriving late for this game given that the clocks had gone back the previous night (we all had tasteful reminders on the team WhatsApp) though Jay Hardy almost did. Perhaps he had not set his alarm. It is worth arriving early at the home of today’s opponents to take in the view of architect James Wyatt’s sumptuous creation. Yes, we were making a second visit this month to the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Today’s opponents were an unknown quantity but came highly recommended as their manager (Baz) had been educated at the same establishment as Mick O’Flynn (and it had not done Baz any harm). The question was whether our big guns would carry the day – particularly as Peter Harvey was looking to score today on his 51st birthday. Who would have the last laugh in Ha Ha Road?
The Farnborough regiment lined up as follows, on an initially overcast and breezy day:
Steve Blanchard, Colin Mant, Mick O’Flynn, Patrice Mongelard;
Sinisa Gracanin, Jay Hardy, Obi Ugwumba, Waine Hetherington;
Kypros Michael, Simon Thomas.
Substitutes: Peter Harvey, Michael Hills.
Supporters: Leanne Bennett, Jodie Gracanin, Steve Hills and partner Sarah (all supporting Michael Hills and no doubt proving a great comfort at the end of the day).
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn
We started very well, fashioning a string of scoring opportunities which were all spurned, or saved well by the Ashburnham keeper. Simon Thomas and in particular Kypros Michael will have rued their misses, many at close range. At least we were creating the chances. We had a measure of control which meant the flow of the game was largely towards the Ashburnhan goal (aided a little perhaps with the breeze (which died later on). Our opponents would mount occasional raids into our box and we were not always convincing in how we dealt with these incursions but our line held though we had to be wary of set pieces.
Midway through the half Peter Harvey and Michael Hills came on for Jay hardy and Simon Thomas to add more forward momentum to our attack. Soon after, following a Kypros Michael nod to the Paphos Taxi Drivers Betting Syndicate, it transpired that Kypros had suffered a dislocated (actually broken, as he discovered later) finger as he fell after missing a header from three yards out. He “popped it back in” but he feared the injury would interfere with one of his more pleasurable pursuits. Kypros eventually scored after coming round the back and getting at the end of a free kick from Colin Mant to flick the ball beyond the Ashburnham keeper who until then had been equal to everything we threw at him.
Quite how we did not extend our lead before the half-time whistle is bit of a mystery. It became clear that as the game wore on there was more to Ashburnham than met the eye, if I could put it that way and you could sense their confidence growing as we did not get the cushion of more goals.
Obi Ugwumba and Waine Hetherington made way for Jay Hardy and Simon Thomas as the second half resumed. What a half that was, packed with incident and four goals. There was another goal which came early in the proceedings after Simon Thomas swept the ball into the bottom corner after Peter Harvey had threaded a low ball through the heart of the Ashburnham defence. This smart finish was ruled out for offside (with only Simon protesting). It is fair to say that our goal came under more pressure in that half. It was not quite a turning tide but we no longer had things our way. It was a more equal contest with our opponents suddenly matching us physically. Yet we edged further ahead after an inswinging corner from Peter Harvey was turned in for an own goal. Michael Hills and Colin Mant were in the vicinity of the ball, but none of them laid a finger on it, so to speak. By then it was also apparent that the Ashburnham keeper was hampered by a knee injury.
We then had what I would call our hara-kiri moment – ten minutes of ineptitude which allowed Ashburnham to score twice and hit the bar. Their equaliser was disputed heatedly and wrongly by us as the ball had gone in straight from a gem of a corner. Sinisa Gracanin - by then running the line - had the grace to concede the ball had crossed the line. We had made what we thought were our final substitutions by then with Sinisa and Kypros going off for Obi and Waine.
For a moment at 2-2 it was anybody’s game. We continued to have the clearer cut chances but we were also liable to throw it away from a quick break by Ashburnham. Jay Hardy and Obi Ugwumba had to dig deep in midfield where the Ashburnham muscle was concentrated. We then had our second finger trouble of the day as Michael Hills suffered a fracture and dislocation of a finger and had to come off. Michael rushed off to hospital after the game, from where he sent us pictures of his finger – and sparking a debate about internal examinations in the NHS, but before he left he had, reportedly, cast his Man of the Match vote for Colin Mant.
Our other player with a dodgy finger Kypros Michael was back on for the final minutes and he was to play a key part in the outcome of the match. You could say it was a two-finger affair. With minutes left Kypros was upended in the box and fell theatrically to the ground. Usually that is Obi’s job. To the neutral it looked like Kypros had over-egged it (a bit like Ashley Young from the team he supports) but the penalty was earned and given. Kypros offered the scientific but fanciful explanation that his dislocated finger had affected his balance. His finger will affect a lot of his behaviour but balance is not one of them, I suspect. The barracks have no doubt seen worse injuries.
Anyway, Peter Harvey stepped up and buried the spot kick with aplomb. There was barely time to restart the game.
3-2 felt like a fair reflection of the overall game but our opponents would have had their hopes of a draw raised. They certainly earned our respect. The return fixture at Farnborough on 13 May should be interesting, and I am sure will be played in the same spirit.
The cold beers in the scenic wooden clubhouse were excellent – the first pint especially, as it was paid for by our opponents (I told you their manager Baz had had a good education) to make up for the absence of solid food. The sunlit grounds in front of the barracks were a delight for the eye. The Crimean War monument in the distance brought Farnborough legend Mick Gearing to mind. He’ll be showing his war medals off in a couple of weeks.
Finally – a word to thank the referee today for an excellent performance. He is an ex Inter Vyagra player and that team shares the ground with Ashburnham Wanderers and I think that meant he was under extra local pressure but he was scrupulously fair and did not miss much.
Man of the match: The finger of fate selected Steve Blanchard today.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard