Sunday 7th January 2018
By Patrice Mongelard
Hardy Farnborough come through stiff test
The first game of the year is always hard. Today was made harder for a number of reasons: our opponents obviously, the passage of time since our last game over a month ago, forced relocation to Norman Park, to name a few.
Norman Park in the environs of Bromley is conceptually best seen as the place where you can experience grassroots football. It is not for the pampered. “Groundslady” Meryl Clarke does a great job and was there to hand me a bag of goal nets, pack of pegs and step ladder. She had given us the best pitch (no Hound of the Baskervilles night soil on it) but if we wanted hot showers we would have to walk 80 yards to adjoining changing rooms. Early arrivals Waine Hetherington, Ian Coles, Patrice Mongelard, Kypros Michael, Ian Shoebridge and Obi Ugwumba.put the nets up in both goals and corner-flagged the pitch by the time others dribbled in on a bright, but cold and blustery day. I think Waine was the first to arrive – I saw him in his car as I struggled past with my stuff, first aid bag, balls and full water bottles. It must have been an important phone call that held him back from helping me.
A squad of sixteen players dwindled to thirteen overnight. Thankfully we had managed to find a keeper in Adam Roome (and what a find he proved to be). For our first game since 3 December, and seeking to protect our 2018 unbeaten record, we lined up as follows:
Steve Blanchard, Colin Brazier, Ian Coles, Patrice Mongelard;
Jay Hardy, Waine Hetherington, Ian Shoebridge, Obi Ugwumba;
Kypros Michael, Wisey.
Substitutes: Peter Harvey, Paul Zanelli.
Supporters (inside the windbreak): Met Balaji, Michael Hills, David (Obi Ugwumba’s nephew).
Referee: Paul Parsons.
Decorator of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
The return of Steve Blanchard and Kypros Michael from injury was a tonic for the team. Kypros is our 2017 European Golden Boot Winner but had been out of action since 29 October with a dislocated and broken finger. Kypros showed flashes of his genius today but at times was more European Galoche than Golden Boot and I think, though I may be wrong, the mended fingers have been at the baklava in recent weeks. His sharpness, and hunger (for goals that is) will return.
We played with the wind in the first half. We did not know at the time what a difference this would make. It is a universal trick of footballers’ minds to think that the wind is stronger when they play against it than when they play with it – even though anemometers might say otherwise. Anyway, the flow of the game in the first half was distinctly towards the Inter Vyagra goal. A combination of good defending, goalkeeping quality and Farnborough rustiness conspired to frustrate us. The early half- and quarter-chances fell to us – many to Kypros, but we could not capitalise. Inter Vyagra defended in numbers and were looking to break quickly, particularly down our left where Colin Brazier was kept busy. In fact, we all had to keep busy, partly to keep warm but to match our opponents. We had the greater possession but as we passed the half way point in the first period it was not clear if either team would get a breakthrough. When it came, it fell to us – from pressure we exerted at a corner there was a bit of pinball wizardry in the Inter Vyagra box and hands were involved. Referee Paul Parsons had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. With Peter Harvey off the pitch it fell to Kypros Michael to step up. I could not help thinking about the Christmas card Kypros received from the Paphos taxi drivers Betting Syndicate at that point but Kypros went in low and hard in the bottom corner. The Inter Vyagra keeper was finally beaten but it had taken time and effort.
Paul Zanelli and Peter Harvey joined the fray on the half-hour with Obi Ugwumba and Wisey taking a break. This did not alter the pattern of play but the comfort of a second goal did not come until near the end of the half. This time Kypros was provider as he looped a cross to the far post where Jay Hardy slipped in to guide the ball home with a sliding connection. The question was would two goals be enough when Inter Vyagra had the wind in their sails. I will not hide from you that we had trouble at times coming out of our box, let alone our half. An unchanged and balanced back four kept us in it (even if I say so myself) aided in no small way by Adam Roome’s goalkeeping. This report would be a travesty if I did not mention one acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar when Inter Vyagra were pushing hard for an equaliser. I am not sure any of the many other keepers we have had in goal this season would have pulled off this save. The Inter Vyagra right back (I am not sure where he was in the first half) with an oak furniture build, had a mule of a kick which he was happy to try from thirty or forty yards given a glimpse of our goal. Adam’s excellent hands were kept busy.
Midway through the second half Inter Vyagra had pulled a deserved goal back after we failed to clear the ball. It was not all one-way traffic though. We did fashion some scoring opportunities – Wisey and Peter Harvey had the best of them but the Inter Vyagra keeper was no mug either. He too was pulling off eye-catching saves. The comfort of a third Farnborough goal never came. Peter Harvey was taken so roughly from behind in the box that the thrust caused him to part company with one of his boots. Moments before he had floated an exquisite ball to the far post for a waiting Wisey but said big unit in the Inter Vyagra defence plucked the ball out of the air like a ballet dancer. In the end we held on – everyone had to put a shift in though, and we made the most we could of our substitutions in the second half to preserve our advantage as Ian Shoebridge, Obi Ugwumba, Kypros Michael and Wisey alternated places. We did not tarry to bring the nets in or to exit the changing rooms.
A word of praise and thanks for our opponents. They gave us a tough examination today, played with the right sporting attitude, competed well and contributed in equal measure to an entertaining game. I regret we were not able to extend our usual hospitality to them (they treat us well at their place) as a return to Farnborough was not on their route home. In fact, not many Farnborough players came back to the club today – there were only five of us (with Paul Zanelli dropping by fleetingly later). I am told that some of our Younger Vets had returned to Farnborough from their ‘home’ game in Stone but were taking refreshments thirty yards away as the crow flies in the Woodman. Of course, you cannot expect five players to consume two trays of sandwiches so the Sunday teams benefited – manager Vince Wray enjoyed the vegetarian ones in particular even if he was not quite sure what he was eating. Five players did the analysis (and drink) for the entire squad, and my return home, a quarter of an hour shy of five o’clock, drew the comment from Mrs M that she was beginning to wonder whether to cook me any dinner. This is serious stuff I thought and there has to be behavioural change. But before speaking to her about her behaviour I thought it wise to check my horoscope in the Sunday Times Style magazine – and there in black on white – and I am not making this up, were the words “For now, silence is best”. Mrs M said I was silent as I fell asleep on the sofa!
Man of the match: Jay Hardy who guided us home with vigour and verve.
Man of the match: Jay Hardy