Friday 4th March 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Eagles dare but Farnborough clip their wings
Before I tell you about this game I have to take you back to last Sunday’s match to rewrite some Farnborough history. This is a bit unusual and really not something I am keen to encourage as I’d be doing it every week, and my match reports would get longer and never be finished. After all, if any player wants to share their magnificence with the world, they can write their own match report, we could do with more match reports on our website. Simon Thomas had been distressed by my failure to mention that he hit the bar twice in that game. Once is unlucky, twice is careless you might think. Still, it would appear that Simon produced a positively South American piece of technique and skill by wrapping the outside of his right foot, on the run, looking the other way, to caress and curl the ball onto the bar with the keeper transfixed by the terrible beauty of the moment. It was just the sort of flair that English players like Simon are accused of not possessing. As he described it to me vividly I could not explain how the event had not been seared into my memory. So I can only apologise for a senior moment, but cannot promise that I will not fail again to do justice to his talent.
And so to tonight’s game – our first weekday fixture this season, and under floodlights to boot, for a fixture brought forward from Mother’s Day because we care. Referee Mick Gearing last visited Darrick Wood in 1915 (joke) and could not believe how much the place had changed. One welcome change was the new Third Generation (3G) artificial pitch. We had 3G, but big G our usual goal keeper (G), Gary Fentiman, was unavailable, nor was his intended replacement so Eagles super fan Waine Hetherington had to share G duties with small G (George Kleanthous) and Mark Harrington. So you could say we had 3Gs as well as 3G tonight. We also had an unusual visual geometry to contend with as busy pitch markings in blue, red, yellow and white all competed for attention but that was the same for both teams.
Chris Bourlet, Steve Blanchard, Patrice Mongelard, Colin Brazier;
Simon Thomas, Sinisa Gracanin, Obi Ugwumba, Roger French;
Andy Faulks, Rob Lipscomb.
Substitutes: George Kleanthous, Mark Harrington.
Supporter / Linesman: Obi Ugwumba Jr.
We went 2-0 up after five minutes. In what was only the second minute, most of us had not touched the ball, Andy Faulks had run at the Eagles defence and released the ball into Sinisa Gracanin’s path. Sini cleverly made it look like he had not intended it but he managed to redirect the ball without breaking his stride past the wrong-footed Eagles keeper. Soon after Andy Faulks was the provider again and this time he set up the incisive Simon Thomas who had glided into the box from the wing to produce a piece of South American flair with his left foot this time, to tuck the ball into the bottom corner from close range.
In a sense these goals came too early for us. Hubris set into our game. We dominated the next quarter of an hour with crisp short passing, and even celebrated a third goal with a Obi Ugwumba special from a direct free kick on the edge of the Eagles box, a good cocktail of power and placement. We brought on George Kleanthous and Mark Harrington for Andy Faulks and Sinisa Gracanin after twenty-two minutes and thought we would carry on as before. How wrong we were – the Eagles were not beaten, they rallied, got back in the game, created some decent chances and scored a deserved goal which owed much to Waine Hetherington’s confusion as to the skill of the Eagles forward who had tenaciously followed a long goal kick into our box as we missed opportunities to clear the danger. As an ardent Eagles fan Waine could not, so it seemed, bring himself to deny the Eagles a goal – his timing and positioning and hand movement all went awry. It is fair to say that the Eagles finished the first half in a better frame of mind than us. Mark Harrington’s aerial ability had come in handy as crosses and corners threatened our goal. We had lost the cohesion we had shown earlier.
Something else was ebbing away a little and that is the good spirit which we have always had in games between us and the Eagles. Niggly remarks, challenges to refereeing decisions over throw-ins, free kicks, offside decisions mostly from one Eagles player were intruding on the sporting pleasure of the occasion. Referee Mick Gearing might have sub-optimal vision and hearing these days; his movement is now economical at seventy-eight years of age, and his whistle is on a tantric setting - but his mind is sharp and clear and he is a fiercely honest and fair man. So that was a bit off. It carried on early into the second half, with the Eagles manager adding his frustration into the mix, and even one of their fans waving his crutches until it took only the one Eagles player to take himself off the pitch, and common sense prevailed.
We made more changes at half-time with Simon Thomas and Obi Ugwumba going off and Andy Faulks and Sinisa Gracanin returning. Waine Hetherington was back up front, having been replaced by small G in goal. Despite this, our malaise continued into the second half and the early exchanges were more encouraging for the Eagles than for us. They had tightened up at the back and realised that there were acres of space in our midfield because we had lost our discipline, lengthened our game, and had at least five or six players who like lemmings fancied their chances to score. It was against the run of play, ten minutes into the second period when we went 4-1 up from a corner delivered by Sinisa Gracanin. The ball travelled through a forest of legs to arrive where Chris Bourlet was standing and he thrust himself at it with purposeful connection to bundle the ball over the line. His celebration could be heard at Selhurst Park and he went off the pitch as he was spent and immediately substituted and the mercurial Simon Thomas was back on. The Eagles landed the next blow almost immediately, however, with a well-taken goal as a powerful run from midfield was crowned with a shot which found the bottom corner of our net. At that point the neutral observer would not have ruled out a third Eagles goal as our travails in front of the Eagles goal continued. We thought we had edged further ahead when a low shot by Sinisa Gracanin ended up in the Eagles net but was deemed to have got there via a hole in the side netting.
After sixty-seven minutes we made final changes as Colin Brazier was replaced by Obi Ugwumba and Mark Harrington went in goal to allow small G to see if he could creep up the Senior Vets scoring charts from a left midfield position. Mark’s height was useful as he had to deal with corners and crosses. The Eagles had not given up but the last quarter of an hour belonged to us. We reasserted ourselves and resumed short passes and from a neat passing sequence Waine Hetherington unselfishly set up George Kleanthous for a tap in. There was not much of note to report after that, even from Simon Thomas, but if there was perhaps you’ll read about it in the report of our next game.
Having failed to remember Simon Thomas’ sublime piece of skill last Sunday, this time I had forgotten to bring any shower gel but Sinisa Gracanin kindly allowed me to use his Issey Miyake shower gel for men – a toning, cleansing gel that is easy to rinse off and does not dry the skin, for a clean, soft and delicately scented skin. It was either that elixir of youth, or Roger French’s Radox 2-in-1 fennel and sea minerals for men from Sainsbury’s. Sini won the shower gel of the match award whilst Roger French thought Issey Miyake was something one ordered from a sushi bar.
The Eagles might have lost the game but they were 6-1 up in the Woodman public house in Farnborough Village when eight of us turned up at around 10;30. There was no buffet – so Buffet Tectonic Plate, Nick Waller, would have caused tremors but I had taken the precaution of visiting an all-you-can-eat oriental buffet in Orpington some ten hours earlier so I was still full. I had thought I would meet up with two old Italian friends, Peroni and Moretti, but in the end spent a happy hour with two Whitstable Bay Blondes, but don’t tell Mrs M. about that, and the oriental buffet.
Much of the talk in the bar was about what the elegant Simon Thomas tastefully called tractor porn. Roger French produced a picture from his wallet of the object of his desire: a pert red Kioti tractor from Norfolk, lovely lines, good little runner, guaranteed to purr with the right strokes, does not mind getting dirty. He could see himself mounting it, with instructions from his father, to move earth and sand at Farrow Fields, to restore the condition of our two pitches to cope with next winter’s rains. I thought of pointing out that we would not of course need a tractor if we made the Darrick Wood 3G pitch our home ground but thought better of it as I could sense some of the other boys fancied a turn on Roger’s tractor.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin back after an absence of a few weeks following a rib injury, to restore much needed midfield craft and spine to our game.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin