Sunday 25th March 2018
By Patrice Mongelard
Catford enjoy every BST minute of it
How did we lose this game? The meerkat would say “Simples – you did not deserve to win”. Nobody would quarrel with this. Catford wanted it more. We were complacent, unprepared, ran out of ideas and players. This was a shock to the system – our first defeat of 2018, and a shock to the cistern so voluminous was the manure we produced. The football we played was inept, woeful, devoid of solidarity, hunger, desire, energy, confidence, imagination. There was no cohesion, pattern of play or strategy at work. We were missing players but so too probably were our opponents. Those of us who turned up went missing. Catford, with a fired-up Roger French, defended like the Norman Hunter Appreciation Society, without Norman’s finesse at times. Moreover, we could not cope with their quick breaks from midfield, or the ball over the top. And they had one female fan who gave us an equally tough time.
A squad of over twenty players had whittled down to sixteen by close on Friday. Ian Shoebridge dropped out on Saturday, and Simon Thomas followed on Sunday morning. Jay Hardy overslept.
Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard, Ian Lyons, Patrice Mongelard;
Sinisa Gracacin, Waine Hetherington, Michael Hills, Obi Ugwumba;
Peter Harvey, George Kleanthous.
Substitutes: Colin Mant, Mick O’Flynn and when he eventually turned up, tardy Jay Hardy) .
Supporter: None (we did not deserve any).
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
We had the temerity to score first after about ten minutes. Michael Hills had sprung from the right midfield position to cut in and gather a diagonal ball from George Kleanthous and rounded the keeper to finish with aplomb. At that point although we had made a shaky start I am sure I was not the only one who thought this goal would be the first of many. I was right but not in the way I hoped. There were warning signs from Catford early doors – the injury that cut Steve Blanchard’s game short after three minutes did not help but we had an able replacement in Colin Mant (the 2008 FOBG Vets Golden Boot – more on that later). There were warning signs from Farnborough too as we showed signs of hesitancy and sluggishness in defence and midfield.
Catford rattled in three goals in a golden twenty-minute period aided and abetted by us (including now linesman Steve Blanchard). It always feels worse to concede goals that follow the same pattern because it reveals an inability to learn from mistakes, and a despairing truth of the human condition; yet, we had a glimmer of hope after George Kleanthous had finished smartly with a crisp half volley to convert a pass from Waine Hetherington who has escaped the clutches of his markers on the left wing, after picking himself off the floor. At 3-2 the situation was not beyond repair. The introduction of Jay Hardy after thirty-five minutes had stiffened our midfield but on the other hand Peter Harvey had his legs bitten and an injury to his back was setting in as the half ended. Mick O’Flynn also joined the fray before half-time with Phil Anthony making way.
We started the second half better than Catford and had them penned in but we could not capitalise on our territorial advantage. The moment that best captures this reality came from a free kick that George Kleanthous earned after another tangle with Roger French. After things calmed down George whipped the free kick in – the keeper spilled the ball into the path of Colin Mant. Some say Colin was an inch from goal line, others say a foot, some even say a yard. The keeper was out of the equation, Roger French was not around, it was just Colin, the empty goal – and, just in the corner of Colin’s eye, a middle-aged woman in a bright yellow dress and a vivid green hat about to enter the nearby Homebase to purchase some shrubs for her suburban garden. You guessed it – a momentarily distracted Colin cushioned the ball on his instep and lifted it onto the top of the bar.
Not long after, Catford extended their lead with a goal that was identical to their third – a free kick from outside the box which eluded Rob Faulkner’s outstretched frame low into the bottom corner. To compound matters Peter Harvey was hacked from behind by the President of the Catford Wanderers branch of the Tommy Smith Appreciation Society and could not continue. There then followed a tactical masterstroke as Colin Mant was drafted into the forward line. The clocks had gone forward an hour overnight – and now we had gone back ten years by restoring our 2008 Vets Golden Boot to our front line. The passage of time has not been kind to Manty’s finishing skills. Phil Anthony came back on for Peter Harvey and Obi Ugwumba replaced Sinisa Gracanin for the last twenty-five minutes. Any hopes we might have had of reducing the deficit vanished at that point. In truth they vanished much sooner.
We huffed and puffed to no avail. Catford added a fifth in the dying minutes and the lesson ended.
The après-match was not exactly a sparkling affair. Autopsies are not joyous occasions. Even the copious buffet failed to cheer us up. Mick O’Flynn had slipped away to go to a Picasso exhibition. The dislocated tableau we had presented in Catford was a sort of homage to “Guernica” I thought; until a better analogy for the game came to mind on the drive home – Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. Colin Mant would surely agree that art really does imitate life as he reflects on his Ronnie Rosenthal or Kypros Michael moment.
The one moment of comfort I had today was to see my brothers Nicolas' name on the Catford Wanderers Tennis Honours Board – Singles Champion in 1998 and 1999 and Doubles Champion in 1998.
Man of the match – arguably the one exception to our general malaise today, George Kleanthous with the lion’s share of the thirteen votes recorded today. Steve “it was 0-0 when I came off” Blanchard was so appalled by our performance that he tore up his ballot paper.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous