Sunday 2nd February 2020
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough open post Brexit Golden Age by coming from behind with panache
This souvenir edition marks the first game played the Senior Vets after our liberation from EU tyranny. It required a tour de force to get a game this week after our original opponents exited. We were able to strike a deal with a new team after twenty-one attempts. Greenwich Challenge were an unknown quantity but their Twitter feed, and pre-match warm up routine, presaged a tough encounter for us, and so it turned out.
Cognoscenti of our reports might recall previous editions have included titles of episodes of “On the Buses” and “Dad’s Army” as well as the 100 words Cambridge University deemed Fabio Capello needed to manage England. As a jeu d’esprit, today’s inaugural Brexit report includes many European words. The first reader who identifies as many of these words as possible gets a free aperitif.
First though, a zeitgeist detour to reflect recent media froth which left some football fans choking on their breakfast croissants. Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, called for a ban on sports talk in the workplace because it could exclude women and lead to laddish behaviour. Well I have news for Madame Francke. As a champion of neuro diversity, I have been looking for a woman that likes football but all the good ones appear to be taken. And, of course, laddish behaviour is not de rigueur among the Farnborough Senior Vets.
Late additions, one no-show and the frisson of having to find a new keeper moments before the game added to the challenge for today. With Matt Angelo’s withdrawal at 4.43 am, we had no guardian angel, no backstop, but Jordan Glen came to the rescue.
FOBG Ensemble: Jordan Glen, Matt Ellis, Sinisa Gracanin, Jay Hardy, Simon Harvey, Waine Hetherington, Michael Hills, Ian Lyons, Colin Mant, Kypros Michael, Chisa Mkala, Joe Skinner, Simon Thomas, Gordon Thompson.
Referee: Paul Parsons
Impresario: Mick O’Flynn
Tifosi: Tony Harvey, Rob Mckie, Patrice Mongelard, Kayleigh Richards, Claire Skinner
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard
We now have control of our borders, money and laws but control of this game was harder particularly in the fierce wind. We ended up with a game of two halves and this is no cliché. The playing surface was the same for both sides, a bit heavy, lush, bobbly but the wind favoured one side over another in each half. This said even though we were playing into the wind the early chances fell to Farnborough. Kypros Michael, Gordon Thompson and Jay Hardy all had half decent opportunities in the first quarter hour to edge us ahead. The Greenwich tackling was not for the faint-hearted. A couple of their defenders and their central midfielder let it be known that bonhomie would be in short supply. Referee Paul Parsons was kept busy today (with more yellow cards flashed in this game than for the whole of last season).
Once they had weathered our initial thrusts Greenwich began to use the conditions to their advantage. Our passing got laboured and we began to play some loose balls at the back. That is how we gave away a penalty after twenty-five minutes with Jordan Glen bringing down their forward after having come off his line to tidy up a defensive reverie, and overrunning the ball before barrelling into a Greenwich forward. The spot kick was converted with aplomb. Our malaise was not over. Ten minutes later, a vicious Greenwich free kick was whipped in from the right, harvesting a gust of wind, skimming off the top of Joe Skinner’s head and using the power imparted by his neck muscles to nestle into the top corner. It was not quite a farce but things were not great in the Farnborough camp. A substituted, semi-injured and tired Jay Hardy threatened to go home in a fit of pique but was persuaded to hang around for the second half after a herbal relaxant. Despite the adverse scoreline snake oil salesman Mick O’Flynn was in no doubt that we would turn things round and the doomsters and moaners would be proved wrong as we unleashed our potential with a fair wind in the second half.
And what a half this proved to be. Matt Ellis and Chisa Mkala had been introduced towards the end of the first half and together with midfield maestro Sinisa Gracanin set about the task in hand. The half was barely five minutes old when the central tackle-happy Greenwich midfielder conceded a direct free kick in a dangerous area. Up stepped Matt Ellis, to shake things up with a twenty-five yarder that swerved, dipped leaving the Greenwich keeper to grasp thin air as the net bulged. Ten minutes later a muscular run by Chisa Mkala took him past three defenders on the wing before he crossed the ball for Kypros Michael who produced a superb connection to guide the ball low into the bottom corner. It did not take long for the coup de grâce, administered by Matt Ellis after Jay Hardy had cut through the heart Greenwich defence with a Riverdance step. Matt still had work to do but was the epitome of sangfroid as he lifted the ball over the Greenwich keeper. The Farnborough crowd went wild. The impasse had been broken.
To their credit Greenwich then came back into the game and there was as much of a risk of an equaliser as of another Farnborough goal. The Greenwich keeper pulled off some great saves in ones on ones to frustrate Kypros and Chisa. At the other end Farnborough had to defend with spirit and players were booked on both sides after a contretemps or two. Ian Lyons made a muscular return after months of injury, libero Michael Hills, scrapper Simon Harvey, steady Manty and bearded wonder Joe Skinner were in the thick of it. In the end the entente cordiale between both teams just about survived. Simon Thomas had to use all his thespian skills to calm things down once or twice. Referee Paul Parsons likes to let the game flow but could not quite be his tantric self today as he asserted his authority with his whistle and his yellow card.
A re-match with these worthy opponents is a distinct possibility.
There was no schadenfreude in the changing room, just a few sans culottes and enfant terrible Colin Mant’s lucky panties held aloft. Ann Francke would take a dim view of Manty.
To our chagrin we had to move this game to Norman Park from our home in Farnborough and consequently there was no après-match hospitality, so no canapés, hors d’oeuvres and other buffet mignons morceaux to tell you gourmands about.
Man of the match: today’s man of the match making strides towards the Farnborough Ballon d’Or is Joe Skinner, whose faux pas was forgotten, forgiven and fortunately missed by daughter Claire.
Man of the match: Joe Skinner