Sunday 15th March 2009
Vets outplay Maidstone (2-0) in uninspiring and gritty game to record 8th win of the season
The omens for this game got better when it was switched to Farnborough during the week. I for one have had too many long journeys home from Maidstone to ruminate on yet another defeat. Today it was Maidstone’s turn and our journeys home, though short, will have been good, in keeping with the spring sunshine.
That same sunshine though seemed to turn some of us into dozy bumblebees, as we missed chance after chance and played without much urgency or intensity. This was not a memorable or pretty game and as I reflect back on it I am getting twinges of writer’s block which have got me reaching for my “Football Lexicon”, Leigh & Woodhouse, Faber & Faber £9.99, for inspiration. Writing about this game against Maidstone is almost as hard as playing it.
Our starting line-up was: Gary Rosslee in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Chris Webb, Toby Manchip, and Toby Harlow in defence; Matt Wright, Paul Tanton, Colin Ebdon and Simon Harvey in midfield: Paul Smith and Pete Harvey up front. Subs were Trevor Stewart, Darren Mace, Roger French, Ian Shoebridge, and Chris Bourlet – all of whom came on.
As the game started the Maidstone keeper was heard to remind his team that he was not a keeper. He soon provided evidence that this was correct as he made a hash of a goal kick and presented Pete Harvey with an easy chance to give us the lead. In a way that easy, languid goal appeared to set the tone for us as chance after chance was created - several of which were unchallenged close range shots, but we missed them all.
In the midst of all this Maidstone played their usual brand of muscular snarling football – some of their tackling was late, some we felt had a hint of malice. Pete Harvey was taking a lot of punishment – he will now have stitches to his head courtesy of a boot (sadly requiring a half time visit to Farnborough hospital), to add to the bruising (today’s was like a Maori body tattoo the length of his arm from last week’s game) and stud marks he usually displays. Although these are indeed badges of honour surely Pete cannot enjoy this and referees will have to give him more protection. No harm with the manager having a word with the referee about that before the game, instead of telling him about the free drink he is entitled to (which whilst true could be misconstrued in opposition quarters).
Talking of protection we coped with the Maidstone attack without too much difficulty in the first half though they were not without danger. Although we started with two Tobies in defence, that did not last long as Toby Manchip succumbed to his urges to forage forward. Observers from the touchline talked of worrying acres of empty space at left back. But I can testify that Toby (Manchip that is) was in our box at least once to make a very important headed clearance at one point in that half.
As is often the case now – we reached half time wondering how we had only one goal to show for the possession we had enjoyed (well we have an idea about that – see end of report) and fearing that it may not be enough. Changes were made – Toby Harlow decided inexplicably that he would rather go and watch Chelsea and after all his first half hints, Toby Manchip was put into the attack in place of hospital-bound Pete Harvey. Roger French and Trevor Stewart came into the defence to add experience and discipline. We cannot deny that Maidstone gave us a sterner examination in the second half – a combination of luck, poor finishing by them, good positioning by Gary Rosslee, and back to wall defending kept Maidstone out.
As we weathered the Maidstone attacks we began to get the upper hand. Toby Manchip began to have influence. He burst into the box, got to the by-line and had a close range shot come back against the foot of the post into the path of Paul Smith who failed to make the right connection. Toby’s finest contribution came soon after in the form of a surprisingly intelligent reverse pass to put Matt Wright through to goal where he finished with the composure and accuracy others had lacked, to put the result beyond doubt.
2-0 up we decided to put a lid on things and put fresh legs on – Chris Bourlet, Ian Shoebridge and Darren Mace came on in the last quarter to help us preserve our advantage. It was good to see Ian Shoebridge back – to do his usual job of knitting our play together and making intelligent passes, now with improved vision. By then Toby Manchip had been replaced and promoted to caretaker manager – but thankfully only for ten minutes or so.
Not much happened off the pitch - at one point a large husky-type dog turned on its owner, and tried to eat another dog - it was not possible to confirm if this was the Maidstone mascot.
Man of the match – Chris Webb – for an unyielding, no-nonsense game in defence that gave us only our second clean sheet of the season. Others stood out – Matt Wright and a sober Paul Tanton in the centre of midfield in particular had to withstand much of Maidstone’s physicality. Clearly the younger vets made a difference – as one Maidstone player said to me ruefully.
Back to the malaise in the team – in particular in the forward play where we do not make the most of the situations we create. Selfishness is a virtue in centre forwards but it can also turn into a vice. There were many moments in this game where a pass to a better placed colleague would have yielded more and calmed our nerves. More of that and perhaps we would not have been puzzled (this week unlike last week) by the vote cast for Paul Smith in the man-of-the match stakes. I don’t think it came from my nan or did it?
Report : Patrice Mongelard
Having been notified earlier in the week that this away fixture to Maidstone had been changed to a home game it was rather amusing to hear tell of a certain Toby Manchip who apparently had booked a romantic Saturday night at a hotel near Maidstone in anticipation of a short journey to the game today. Instead he had to get up early and ended up racing the Maidstone team up the M20.
So on a gloriously sunny day Toby H’s team selection included both Tobies in the back four with a squad of 16 and so it was we lined up on the top pitched as follows:
Gary Rosslee GK
Pat Mongelard RB
Toby Harlow CB
Chris Webb CB
Toby Manchip LB
Simon Harvey RM
Matt Wright CM
Paul Tanton CM
Colin Ebdon LM
Paul Smith CF
Pete Harvey CF
Subs: Roger French, Trevor Stewart, Chris Bourlet, Ian Shoebridge, Darren Mace
Referee: Micky Gearing
It was rumoured that Maidstone were struggling for players and were looking to the emergency loan market to make up their team but as it was they managed to field 12 players albeit with a stand-in keeper of reduced height who was heard reminding his players of his lack of keeping experience prior to kick-off. This lack of experience contributed to our opening goal after 10 minutes when a poor goal kick was collected just outside the box by Pete Harvey and returned with interest over the head of the keeper and into the back of the net.
Maidstone are no pushovers and have a number of uncompromising players in their team as Pete Harvey found out a number of times as he added to his collection of cuts, bruises and stud marks. We defended our lead very well usually with three at the back as our wandering star at left back was often seen vying for position with Smithy up front in between making vital headed clearances in our penalty area.
We created a number of first class chances but unfortunately missed them all keeping the tempo and pressure at a high level. Things got pretty physical at times and the unfortunate Pete took an accidental kick to the head after stooping low to head the ball resulting in a nasty looking cut across the top of his eye which resulted in the first change of the half as once again Toby turned to me to take over in attack only for him to instantly change his mind and put me at left back. It was of little consequence as no sooner had I stepped on the pitch as replacement when Micky blew the half-time whistle – all I can say I’m glad we don’t pay per half but at least I managed to stay on my feet this time!
The second half continued with the usual multi-substitutions and saw Maidstone turn the screws winning numerous corners and desperately pushing for the equaliser with long range shots which luckily were mostly wide of the mark or once again safely gather by Gary. Despite the pressure we continued to create chances with Smithy getting a hatful of shots on goal but failed to convert any. Romeo Manchip was next up as he charged through the box and unleashed a shot which cannoned off the foot of the post across the face of goal with Smithy unable to turn the ball in.
Romeo was soon to turn provider as he played Matt in with what he termed a reverse ball pass and away went Matt to get our second and earn us some breathing space. We weathered the last 15 minutes with all subs coming on and doing their bit and we ran out worthy winners for the first time in 9 seasons as far as my experience goes. Even the dogs watching on the embankment got caught up in the physical side of the game as one of them tried to incite a riot and ended up attacking its owner.
Man of the match went to Chris Webb for another solid display at the heart of defence as we continue to work our way towards our target number of wins for the season.
Report : Roger French