Sunday 24th February 2019
By Mark Harrington
FOBG Vets boss Marcus Allen said his side “to a man” won their battles and fought for the result as his side took all three theoretical points at the John Roan Playing Fields.
FOBG Vets striker Alan Fines scored the only goal of the game after skilfully shifting the ball on to his preferred (only) footballing foot and volleying the ball in to the John Roan Vets onion basket; but it was Paul Tanton who collected the Players' Man of the Match for a performance of old from the crafty winger/forward. A poor start by both teams – and that was just turning up – kick-off was delayed placing many of the squad’s afternoon commitments at risk. Matt Kerby was worst affected as he was scheduled for an afternoon of misery at Soft Play, made even more disappointing considering his rich vein of form at Air Jump in recent weeks.
Having arrived at the ground on time, FOGB Vets manager Marcus Allen, Dean Murphy, no.1 supporter Paul Murphy and Neil Pearce were greeted by closed gates and no sign of activity. With the gates eventually finding their way open, the players sat in the changing rooms awaiting the rest of the squad to arrive. With game time fast approaching it was looking like 5-a-side was on the cards with Allen readying himself for a start - Allen would then discover the rest of the squad outside claiming they’d arrived on time. This blatant inability to get to away games on time was overlooked due to the opposition having no players, no kit, no referee or linesman come 10:29 of the am – absolute shambles. With the opposition all over the gaff trying to get out the changing rooms, the Guild Vets focused on their warm up, taking the opportunity to measure the distance between goal and roadside with their shooting, applying a few token hamstring stretches and jogging randomly across the pitch. Dean Wyatt showed another level of professionalism by conserving all his energy during the warm-up, firmly staying rooted to the spot during a game of keepy uppies, whilst Si Davies got his eye in (literally) with short little passes in between players – great when you’re in a circle. His first touch of the game would later prove he needs to get on the ball during warm-ups.
Mateus Maximus Fireus Cabius better known as Matt Wright did the Vets a turn, donning the gloves between the sticks and sliding in to the lycra keepers' kit like a pepperami into its casing. Looking hot, and being a bit of an animal, he was duly warmed up in the way that is customary with Alan Fines and Jon Gasson blasting the ball at him from 6 yards out. With the time fast approaching what felt like Tuesday, the game finally kicked-off with FOBG Vets very own Mike Dean (Allen) pumping air down the whistle, supported by one linesman using a shirt as a flag – classic Sunday football. Good pitch conditions were overlooked by a clash of kits - blue and yellow stripes of the John Roan spare kit complementing beautifully the red and yellow stripes of FOBG. The Guild’s inability to find a 5 yard pass to their own players during the first 15 mins of the game was later attributed to this early clash of colour. Having stopped to change the John Roan kit the game started to flow. The early game plan from the opposition was fairly transparent, looking to punt the ball straight through the middle of our back four for their lively centre forwards to chase down and finish. Both vertically challenged (or is Jon just massive?), the John Roan strikers had half chances – one misplaced through ball with a lucky bounce (i.e. Neil Pearce missed the chance to clear) and a cut inside from their left with a poor finish straight into Matt’s hands.
After those early lapses it was fair to say the Farnborough back four found their rhythm. Joe Champ got his sweet left going, knocking balls inside to Matt Kerby, down the channel to an ever running Damien Preston or direct to Paul Tanton’s feet. Big Jon Gasson was having none of it in the air (standard) and none of it on the ground either, cutting out a few half balls and stepping in to break down their forward play before laying it off nicely. Frank Pearce was seeing most of the John Roan action on the right side of defence as John Roan seemed to favour their left midfield and an on-rushing Bob Marley look-a-like named Troy. Working like a Trojan (cheers Gary), Troy was met with the usual committed tackles from Pearce breaking down their efforts. As a result Pearce would quickly change from defence to play building, working the ball inside as well as out to the right and a flying Dean Murphy working the channel. Time and time again this proved fruitful for space, great knocks over and an abundance of corners.
Whilst enjoying the majority of possession and spending most of the first 45 minutes in the John Roan half, an onslaught of precision in-swinging corners from Murphy failed to result in any real clear cut opportunities. A few more direct runs at their back four gave the only real highlight of the first half. A Fines Rabona in an attempt to slide it across the box to an oncoming Tanton prompted the John Roan number 10 to express his“surprise” before being educated by Gasson regarding Fines’ other foot. Some solid defensive headers from John Roan kept the Guild at bay but the momentum was clearly with those in yellow and red. With a fairly uninspiring first half coming to an end, some wayward challenges were caught by referee Allen. Some fairly unnecessary language toward Allen resulted in a free kick being awarded to Farnborough and stern words being issued by the official towards the offending John Roan midfielder – it was like listening to Jonathan Agnew complaining about the sandwiches at Lords as Allen commented “I won't tolerate that thank you, I think not, this isn’t Sunday reserves.”
0-0 then at half-time and with the Guild gathered around, the general consensus was that the game was there for the taking. The tempo was to be upped and the passing slicker. Pearce kindly volunteered to come off giving Si Davies game time after his recent eye injury. Davies would move into the middle of the back four with Neil Pearce shifting right.
From the off John Roan were met with a different proposition. Damien Preston working tirelessly down the left was starting to wear their full back down. More would come of Preston’s efforts later. With more space appearing in the middle of the park – also due to John Roan moving their best midfielder out – Dean Wyatt (aka Rhino) was starting to benefit from his extra energy saved during the warm-up, breaking down play, mixing it up, nicking balls and genuinely being a nuisance. With space and time Matt Kerby was now having a commanding presence in the middle of the park, spraying his balls left and right,utilising Murphy on the right to great affect for more cross balls and intricate one-twos with Fines and Tanton.
On 60 minutes (ish I think) the hard work paid off. This reporter can’t actually remember the detail of the goal as it’s now Tuesday and amnesia has seen to that. However, some football lead to some more football that looked good and exciting to watch and between Farnborough’s goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and Paul Tanton the ball found its way to Alan Fines who shifted the ball neatly before launching a half volley with flames behind it past the helpless John Roan keeper. 1-0 to the Guild then and a thoroughly deserved lead.
With John Roan now chasing the game a few half chances for the home side would ensue. Good positioning by the back four was backed up by Pearce keeping up with play and spotting every single offside run –including a lobbed shot that would find its way in to the FOBG net despite the best efforts of a scrambling Wright. Wright showed a turn of pace akin to a tuk-tuk in Bangalore traffic to keep the ball out (we think) only to spot the offside had been awarded. With John Roan bemoaning our linesman Pearce duly educated them for “playing off the shoulder” and the offside rule including offering hand gestures for clarity. Ever honest Pearce would later suggest he’d “done a Wenger” and not seen some of the things the home side moaned about.
With the end of the game and victory looming it would be easy to assume a lack of discipline would present itself. Surprisingly, both sides continued to work hard and keep their discipline until a high, lonely ball over the top - probably from one of Wright’s snowball goal kicks - changed the mood. With the ball bouncing high toward their keeper some would say a half chance was there to be contested. With a move resembling crouching tiger, Preston flapped a fairly innocuous boot at the descending sphere. At the same time an onrushing John Roan keeper came to punch. What ensued was handbags at dawn. Cries of high feet and claims of contact from the home keeper were met with vigorous retort from Preston. Having exchanged colourful descriptions of one another the descent persisted with each focusing on their respective follicle challenges – one being removed of hair and the other sporting an ever increasing Philip Schofield salt and pepper two-tone. Interviews after the game gave Preston the opportunity to clarify the contact (there was contact) which he denies, instead focusing on getting down to Boots for some Just for Men.
With the comedy over, thoughts turned to seeing the game out for a second successive clean sheet and selecting the FOBG Man of the Match – a no-brainer on today’s performance as Paul Tanton got all 37.5 votes. Despite a poor warm-up, Tanton was ever available throughout the game offering up, taking the ball in and moving it on slickly to keep the momentum. Some lovely little drag backs, turns inside and use of his massive frame ensured the ball was retained as well as cleanly distributed. A drag and go from Tanton in the first half saw him take out two of the home players in one magical moment David Copperfield would have been proud of. Off the ball he was working hard to chase down and win it back. The second half saw some lovely exchanges with Kerby, Murphy and Fines including a solo run by Tanton, cutting in from the right, dancing round a player or two before unleashing a low drive only bettered by a falling goalkeeper with long arms.
With 90 minutes concluded a hard fought - and deserved victory by a single goal - was ended by the sound of a whistle. A tired squad did the obligatory “cheers mate” with the opponents before making their way into the changing rooms and a subsequent pint of rehydration. As ever the players were appreciative of their manager’s efforts both on and off the pitch including kit duty. Tanton was praised for arranging the game and all wished the boys recovering a speedy recovery especially last season’s boss Mark Harrington and Mrs Shipps.
What’s next? Farnborough OBG Vets travel to Toby Vets on Sunday (kick-off 10.30 GMT) at the John Roan Ground. Toby Vets recently beat Sanatogen 8-2 so a strong performance will be required by the Guild this Sunday.
Line-up: Wright, Pearce (Davies 45), Pearce, Gasson, Champ, Murphy, Kerby,Wyatt, Preston, Fines, Tanton.
Man of the match: Paul Tanton