Sunday 20th May 2018
By Patrice Mongelard
A game too far as Farnborough taught a lesson at University ground
This will not take long. Sometimes less is more. The venue was one of the loveliest we have experienced in many a season – the Queen Mary University Ground, Perry Street, Chislehurst BR7 6HA. The immaculate pitches, mown to perfection, looked resplendent in the morning sunshine. Our opponents were an unknown quantity although we knew three or four of their players who have turned out for us this season, including their manager Paul Zanelli (who is coming on tour with us next weekend). In a way we were sounding out potential opponents for next season. I look forward to our Young Vets playing them.
In retrospect it might have been sensible not to play on Thursday 16th. Today was our 31st game of a long season marred by nine cancellations, and a bit of rest ahead of our three-matches-in-three days tour to Lille next weekend might have been wise. But we are where we are and we were certainly put in our place today.
Phil Anthony, Ian Lyons, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard;
Jay Hardy, Michael Hills, Sinisa Gracanin, Simon Thomas;
Waine Hetherington, George Kleanthous.
Substitutes: Steve Blanchard, Peter Harvey, Franco Petrozzi, Ian Shoebridge.
Supporters: Mick O’Flynn, Steve Hills, Sarah Hills, James and little Max
Director of Football: Mick(aldinho) O’Flynn
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard
We were 3-0 down after 15 minutes, undone by a combination of pace, good passing and a bit of bad luck. Our back five had a combined age of 278 and it showed. By comparison, the Rolling Stones, just starting their own latest tour, have a combined age of just 16 years more. The pitch seemed enormous and we struggled to cover the ground, we were outnumbered in midfield and it was difficult to counter the incursions at pace into our box. After the initial shock of playing against intelligent footballers with young legs and good organisation we stemmed the bleeding so to speak. The four substitutes on the half-hour gave us a more solid and competitive edge. We fashioned a few half chances but never really made the most of them. 3-0 did not feel harsh at half-time.
A big unit with pace and hunger appeared for Bird in the Hand at half-time and he quickly made his mark scoring two or three goals in no time as he muscled and bustled his way into our box. It turned out he was two years shy of his fortieth birthday. And as if they needed help scoring goals, we duly obliged. Michael Hills was unfortunate in driving a goal-line clearance against Dave Salako’s back into our net. Things looked bleak at 8-0, and the score line now felt harsh; yet somehow you could say we won the last quarter of an hour as we scored the last two goals. By then we had had the misfortune of losing Jay Hardy to what looked like a broken hand. Steve Blanchard’s hamstring had tightened up and we barely had enough players to finish the game. Players who had gone off were pressed back into service. David Salako pulled off a couple of great saves to keep the score to single figures.
Our opponents had eased up a bit and brought on some of their older players but the damage had been done in two devastating pulses of three goals and they could bask in the sun, and in the glory of a job well done, against a team which whilst not quite a gerontocracy might have wished the game was played two decades earlier (for us at least). To their credit they did not rub our noses in it and the game was played in very good spirit.
Peter Harvey and George Kleanthous kept going. George earned an undisputed penalty which he was allowed to convert, and five minutes later he notched his second after an unselfish assist from Peter. The scoring completed an exciting race for the Golden Boot, won by the slimmest of margins by Peter Harvey’s seventeen goals to George’s sixteen. George now faces the prospect of icing and resting his groin for five days before our tour. At the time of writing I have no information on Jay Hardy’s injury and how serious it is. We wish him well and a speedy recovery. He needs his hands.
The quality of the facilities extended to the showers and to the upstairs bar with a panoramic view of the grounds bathed in sunshine. Several Vets teams were present. Sausages, hot dog rolls and caramelised onions appeared. Taking one for the team, I had the last sausage. Colin Mant could not believe how long it took me to claim the item. The mental struggle was immense, given my promise to Mrs M to moderate my intake. There was a further test (which I passed) when another Vets team (Charlton Park Rangers) invited us to finish their jug.
This was not the best way to end a season, ahead of our forthcoming tour. Our figures read P31, W11, D7, L13, GF 73, GA 79. We used 48 players in total. There is considerable room for improvement.
Man of the match – Sinisa Gracanin, just edging out George Kleanthous on a very tough day in the office.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin