Sunday 23rd September 2018
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets lift Deano curse in biblical deluge
The West Farleigh Vets ground in Charlton Lane (ME15 0PB) is the most picturesque we encounter on our travels. It is usually sunny when we go down there but today heavy rain deluged the Kentish Weald. To me the pitch retained its scenic charm in its rural, albeit wet splendour. I did wonder briefly though if we would get eleven players to get out of bed to make their way there. It helped that three of our number – Brazier, Parsons and Salako were ‘locals’. A squad of twelve had dwindled to ten when the referee blew his whistle but West Farleigh sportingly let us have one of their players – a rather muscular man called Martin who played in our midfield briefly but that was not his best position as we found out later. He came out of the tight Farnborough shirt when Jay Hardy joined us on the quarter hour. Chisa Mkala was still on his way, safely I hoped, after Peter Harvey’s aquaplaning episode on the way down which had left him momentarily pensive on the hard shoulder, but thankfully unharmed. The reduced numbers meant that all the players (except a willing and team-minded Paul Parsons) got full games, including Waine Hetherington.
Michael Hills, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard;
Colin Brazier, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Paul Parsons, Ian Shoebridge, Martin;
Late arrivals: Jay Hardy, Chisa Mkala.
Substitute: Paul Parsons (also linesman for 60 minutes).
Supporters: A few sheep.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
The surface was a delight to play on, it had zip but was true and suited both teams’ passing game. I do not think we minded the rain and the wind. There was something mildly heroic about playing football in such adverse weather conditions. Both defences were tight and scoring opportunities were not exactly abundant. Shots on goal were rare even in conditions that would favour the early shot from distance. The singular moments of the first half consisted of some bone-crunching but perfectly fair tackles from Paul Parsons. We forced two corners I think whilst there were none against us in the first half. The insertion of Jay Hardy gave us more threat in the final third. The pairing of Jay Hardy and Peter Harvey up front was music to Colin Mant’s ears because he was now further away from their moaning, particularly as we had the wind in our favour in the first period.
The arrival of Chisa Mkala on the half-hour (in lieu of Paul Parsons) gave us more legs to play the pressing style that Jurgen Klopp favours. A promising free kick in what we must now call Peter Harvey territory did not yield the usual goal. At the other end we were able to contain West Farleigh’s Deano, our nemesis in many past games but today well shackled by the Farnborough back three, including at one point with the use of a rustic tackle from Patrice Mongelard that Deano thought had removed one of his kidneys (figuratively speaking, of course). Seriously, the entire game was played in excellent spirit and the referee had no trouble at all from anyone. As the half drew to a close the momentum was starting to shift in our favour but we were wary of playing against the wind in the second half.
As often happens now, the second half was rather positive for us. Even West Farleigh would agree that we created the greater number of chances. Colin Brazier, enjoying the freedom of the wingback position (not bad this back three system after all, especially if one is not part of the three!) found himself close enough to goal to have two or three shots that made it worth his while getting out of bed. On the other flank Ian Shoebridge was putting in quite a shift, linking well with Peter Harvey down the right. The West Farleigh player who had started the game in a Farnborough shirt was now firmly ensconced in their goal and he pulled off a string of eye-catching saves. A dive low to his left to keep out a crafty Peter Harvey low shot was more than good. But his best was the point blank save with his feet that he produced to keep out a Waine Hetherington shot from two yards out after Peter had carved his way through the West Farleigh defence to set him up. Jay Hardy and Chisa Mkala also threatened with intent. It was only a matter of time I thought but time was running out.
Dave Salako in our goal was marginally busier in the second half than the first but it was mostly routine stuff until he had to dive sharply to keep out a twenty-five yarder that fizzed off the wet turf. He goes down well for a big man, and more importantly he did not spill anything. Nor did the farmer whom we saw gathering sheep behind our goal. We do not think it was a spot of sheep rustling, or any form of other activity with sheep, nor was it a prelude to boarding the Ark despite the rain.
With about five minutes left we got our breakthrough – Liverpool-like gegenpressing from Chisa Mkala had won the ball before he released Ian Shoebridge on the right – Peter Harvey made his decoy run – Shoey kept advancing before lifting a cross into the middle of the West Farleigh defence for the smallest Farnborough player Jay Hardy. Jay leapt, contorted his body, craned his neck, whipped his head to impart further power to the ball with a meaty yet deft contact that sent the ball in the direction that the West Farleigh keeper had come from as he followed the flight of Shoey’s cross. It was too late for the keeper to readjust his momentum, shuffle his feet and claw the ball out. He got hands to it but was defeated by the arc of the ball, the geometry of the goal structure and Jay’s acrobatics. We held out for a memorable win.
And so we had our first clean sheet against West Farleigh since we started playing them on 2 October 2011. Those Farnborough players who were not there today should weep in the morning – including the two who preferred to go to the Greek Islands this weekend (not together I hasten to add). More importantly perhaps scholars of FOBG Vets folklore will note that this was probably the first time we had won an away game against a team with a Deano in their line-up.
Nine of us made our way back to the public house – The Good Intent, to enjoy our opponents’ hospitality. In Mick O’Flynn’s absence I was lured to a vacant seat underneath a sign that said “Bullshit Corner”, amidst much tittering. I noticed too late, after a photo was taken. Hot chips and sausages helped warm our soaked-through frames.
Man of the match – the overwhelming feeling that today was more about the team than about individuals was reflected in the voting. Seven players came through the ballot and of these five could not be separated with two votes each: Jay Hardy, Michael Hills, Waine Hetherington, Ian Shoebridge and Chisa Mkala.
Manty had the most sausages.
Man of the match: Loads!