Sunday 17th February 2019
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough win first game in February in front of biggest crowd of the season
Is it really three weeks since my last match report? The mind plays tricks I know but today’s weather seemed a monsoon season and a winter away from that of the past two Sundays which brought us our first cancellations of the current campaign. Today we had as nice a mid-February Sunday morning as we could have wished – clear, bright, super dry, still. We also had the bonus of being the only team at home which meant we had the most spacious changing room and the big pitch, and in keeping with the big theme we had our biggest cohort of supporters in a while. Our opponents had made the journey all the way from the Kentish Weald and it took some of them longer than others to get to us. At one point it looked like we might have to loan them a couple of players but tantric referee Jim Grimley delayed just long enough to allow them to come. We nearly had a full house – a notable absentee being Kypros Michael, who had overdone the Valentine’s Day moussaka.
Colin Mant, Michael Hills, Patrice Mongelard;
Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Chisa Mkala, Gordon Thompson, Obi Ugwumba;
Peter Harvey, Jay Hardy.
Substitutes: Phil Anthony, Mark Friend, Simon Harvey, Simon Thomas.
Supporters: Steve Blanchard, Andy Chen, Andy Cobham, Neil Connelly, Mick and Jean Gearing, Max and Tony Harvey, Sarah and Steve Hills, Colin Holmes, Ian Shoebridge, Michael Ugwumba Jr, Gary Willison.
Referee: Jim Grimley.
Linesman: Michael Ugwumba Jr.
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
West Farleigh tipped us off, sportingly, that they had struggled to put a side together and had called on Brobdingnag for extra bodies. They had assembled the tallest collective we have faced this season and the early exchanges left us in no doubt that they had come to Farnborough to do a job on us. In the week when we lost one of the greatest ever goalies, their keeper caught the eye early doors; youthful, agile, good hands and feet, quick reflexes and abundant positional sense. They also had a Deano up front. Farnborough historians will know we struggle against teams with Deanos although we had dispelled that myth on 23 September down at West Farleigh.
Both teams started well without it being evident where a goal was going to come from. We had marginally more territory and the early chances came our way. We were forced to make an early change when Waine Hetherington – the pivot in our holding midfielder role – lost his hamstring and was replaced by Simon Harvey. Soon after we got our breakthrough. Vicious in-swinging corners from Peter Harvey’s left foot were causing difficulty and from one such missile there was a melee in the West Farleigh box. Colin Mant had gone up to cause havoc and it looked from a distance that his legs, and the ball, had turned to rubber as he stood on a wet bar of soap seeking to connect with the ball. Eventually it fell to Michael Hills who had also gone up to cause mischief to lash the ball home through a forest of legs from close range in a central position to register his first goal this season. Michael was delighted to lose his cherry so to speak in front of his family.
On the half-hour, which seemed a long time coming (I think it was the late start that discombobulated our sense of time) our three remaining substitutes came on for Patrice Mongelard, Chisa Mkala and Colin Mant. We then witnessed a tribute to Gordon Banks from the West Farleigh keeper as he tipped a close-range bullet header from our ginger wonder, Jay Hardy, over the bar. Five minutes later the young maestro could not do anything to stop a belter from Jay who skipped past two defenders on the edge of box, spied the keeper had advanced a bit too far out, and flashed a fizzing shot against the underside of the bar and beyond the line.
2-0 at half-time felt the right score. West Farleigh were putting up a solid fight; some of their tackles were well spiced but they had not really threatened Rob Faulkner in our goal bar from a handful of corners where their stature disturbed our tranquillity. We scored early in the second half; too early some might think. Jay Hardy had found space in a crowd to swivel quickly to prod home from a Peter Harvey assist from two yards out. Did a smidgen of complacency creep into our game at three nil up? Perhaps, probably, or more likely did West Farleigh raise their game? It was the latter I think because there was enough spirit and quality in their side to do so. They got back in the game with a crisp and powerful first-time volley at the far post after Phil Anthony lost the flight of a looping cross from the right.
But you cannot keep a good striker down. Peter Harvey had watched Jay Hardy draw level with him on 26 goals, he had even assisted the process. Our many fans at this game will have noticed Peter taking a position on the right wing, encroaching on territory that Simon Thomas has come to regard as his stage. I do not think this means that Peter dislikes Simon’s antics on the wing. It is more that this gambit allows Peter to cut in and unload. This is what he did from the angle of the penalty area with father Tony watching almost in line with the trajectory of the ball as it began its journey from Peter’s boot towards the West Farleigh goal. It was not without purpose or power (although we have soon Peter hit them much harder) but it had meaning and more importantly it had an aura of calm about it which tolerated no interference (it was after all destined to be our 100th goal this season), not even from the keeper who sank low to his knees, opened his hands and eased the passage of the ball into the bottom corner. Peter was as delighted as we were surprised. His dad Tony ventured the thought that some other agency might have been involved in the goal but quickly decided it was a poor joke. I ought to mention that I spotted an article in today’s Sunday Times Style Supplement about people who suffer from FOMOG (Fear of Missing Out on Goals).
At 4-1 we made the final changes as Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant and Chisa Mkala were back on for the final half-hour. Suddenly we became less assured as we switched to a 4-4-2 system that left the midfield exposed. West Farleigh sensed this malaise and took advantage to reduce our lead to two goals with a shot from the right that Patrice Mongelard ought to have blocked. I cannot pretend that we were at our most comfortable or fluent in the last quarter of the game. That is not to say we were not creating chances. Simon Thomas was a quiff away from nodding a Peter Harvey corner home. Chisa Mkala thought he had scored when he managed to squeeze the ball past the keeper after one of his trademark lung-bursting runs but it lacked momentum to beat the covering defender. There was a 30-yard free kick - an Obi Special Delivery - that a lesser keeper would have struggled to keep out. There was an anxious moment when West Farleigh had what looked like a decent shout for a penalty. There was a more anxious moment when a West Farleigh player slowed down clutching his chest. Referee Jim Grimley, calm, authoritative and communicative throughout, stopped play fearing that the Farnborough defibrillator might have to be pressed into service (after being signed out of course) but I am glad to say it was not more serious.
I am glad to say that enhanced match subscriptions today allowed us to raise £65 for Jordan Glen on behalf of Kent Sands United FC, a charity that supports fathers who have experienced the loss of a baby.
On my way back I went into our opponents’ changing room to apologise for the absence of food after the game, very contrite, and conscious that West Farleigh are excellent hosts at their place. I explained that our caterer Leanne was unfortunately not able to feed us, and them, today due to unforeseen circumstances which arose shortly before the start of the game. There was some food in the clubhouse but it was for Matt Ellis’ son’s third birthday party. I had a job holding back Simon Thomas, Colin Mant, Jay Hardy and Gary Willison from joining in but we repaired to the Woodman next door for a swift one on the way home. There, after I had bought the round, and whist chatting to Paul Tanton and Andy Cobham, it was put to me by the imperious Simon Thomas and the mercurial Colin Mant, egged on by (strawberry blond not ginger) Jay Hardy, that I had, for years, hurt their feelings in my match reports. “I am not surprised” said Mrs M “You are often quite rude and blunt about people”. That put me in my place in Valentine’s Day week. I recovered my composure after a small spinach, feta, baby plum tomato quiche and a couple of toasted San Francisco sourdough slices with pastrami and Dijon mayonnaise.
Man of the match – the excellent Jay Hardy who ended up locking up the club at five thirty in the afternoon after leaving the Woodman. Given his occupation I trust there was no danger of him locking himself in. He had certainly unlocked the West Farleigh defence today.
Man of the match: Jay Hardy