Sunday 23rd February 2020
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough weather turbulence to nick it in extra time
This game had adversity written all over it. There was doubt about whether, and where, it would be played. Then we struggled to find a referee until team player par excellence Phil Anthony put his hand up in the pub on Friday night. The late availability of Sinisa Gracanin (also confirmed in the pub) helped Phil to come forward as he felt Sini was an adequate replacement who would not weaken the team in his absence. Manager Mick ‘Tantric’ O’Flynn hurt his back on Sunday morning depriving us of his legendary tactical acumen. We were down to twelve players, still one better than our opponents who had the bare eleven which meant both linesmen were Farnborough folk.
Storm Ciara blew in a fortnight ago and it was Ciao football. Then the menace of Dennis blew the next game out of the water. That was the third weather-related cancellation in 2020 alone. And they say momentum is everything in football. With our home pitch in the advanced stages of being converted into a wetland habitat for migratory flamingos we found ourselves at Norman Park again for the second time in as many months. The playing surface itself was not bad for the time of year, the rain held off but not the wind which made playing the sort of football they would wish very difficult for both teams throughout the game.
FOBG Squad: Matt Angelo, Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Sini Gracanin, Jay Hardy, Waine Hetherington, Michael Hills, Colin Mant, Kypros Michael, Joe Skinner, Simon Thomas, Gordon Thompson.
Referee: Phil Anthony
Fans: Patrice Mongelard and Kayleigh Richards
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard
With corner flags bending in the wind and the goal nets billowing like sails on the Cutty Sark we had most of the wind-assisted possession in the first half, won numerous corners and yet found ourselves 1-0 down at half-time. A defensive mix-up had resulted in Santos taking the lead after a quarter of an hour or so. Our normally assured technicians in midfield were not finding their touch. Our three nominal forwards, Kypros, Jay and Simon were all over the place and seemed to have confused themselves and their team mates.
Santos were robust, combative and there was nothing saintly in the tackling from two or three individuals. Their keeper was not to be underestimated and he even had luck on his side when our threat of an equaliser was most manifest. A masterly twenty-yarder from Sinisa Gracanin flew past the keeper’s grasp, crashed against the underside of the bar, came down with force, rebounded behind the keeper up into a sensitive area that left him gasping for air as he dropped on the ball inches from the goal line. Our frustration was palpable, allied with the realisation that Santos would have the wind behind them in the second half. The half-time talk revealed Simon Thomas was having an existentialist crisis coping with a 3-4-3 formation as he thought we were playing a 4-3-3.
Things did not improve initially in the second half. We fell behind further on the hour after a quick transition by Santos. One minute we outnumbered them in their box and the next minute it was two against one in our box as a cross was brought down and the ball stroked into the net beyond Matt Angelo who had little choice but to come off his line. There were similarities between both goals by Santos – both smart finishes well-taken technically, both against the run of play, both capitalising on Farnborough shortcomings and naivety.
We had the greater possession again, found ourselves in the Santos box often but the final pass and shot lacked belief. Tempers were getting frayed. Things were said and done. Referee Phil Anthony was tested but kept a lid on it. Michael Hills was shaping to walk off before things got out of hand but was persuaded by Patrice Mongelard to show solidarity with his team mates in difficult times.
Relief then came. With about twenty-five minutes left Sinisa Gracanin imposed his class on proceedings. A cut-back from Kypros Michael on the edge of the box was imperiously dispatched first time with a sweet, clean, technically perfect connection that propelled the ball in a powerful trajectory a foot off the ground into the bottom corner. This was the best riposte to the verbal abuse that Sini had endured moments earlier from the follically challenged centre half.
Taking heart from this we pressed hard for an equaliser. The Santos keeper made several crucial saves. We missed some decent half chances with Simon Thomas and Kypros Michael prominent. A defensive mix-up in the Santos defence resulted in a tame clearance landing on an unmarked Jay Hardy’s chest by the penalty spot. Jay created a moment of calm around him, brought the ball down and stroked it into an empty net with the Santos keeper having been lured off his line by his own player.
At 2-2 things got frantic but there was not long to go. Santos defended like demons.
Looking like he had over-indulged on Valentine’s Day Moussaka, Kypros Michael appeared leggy, lethargic and listless at times. It might have been a clever disguise to lull Santos into a false sense of security until extra time. Just when most players were anticipating the final whistle, with the thought that a draw would be a fair result - Kypros struck like a Greek warrior coming out of a Trojan Horse. Waine Hetherington mastered the ball in midfield before releasing the Paphos Express who bustled his way past the last defender, held him off over five yards before letting his lethal left foot do the rest. For the second consecutive game this February at Norman Park we had climaxed late and overcome a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 win. We seem to like coming from behind there.
Santos were clearly not overjoyed with this turn of events, put a lot of pressure on referee Phil Anthony, in vain, to penalise Waine Hetherington for an infringement in the build-up. There was nothing saintly about some of the language and posturing that followed. This left a bit of an aftertaste. There were fewer handshakes than we are used to at the end of the game. My invitation to our opponents to come back to our club in Farnborough made before the game was understandably perhaps seen in a different light after the game. It meant that a handful of us had to eat all the food but we took one for the team, with a bit of help from Vince Wray and his boys. News of an alleged incident in the changing room back at Norman Park nearly put me off the beef mini-pasties I was polishing off. It seems that Meryl had walked in on Manty in his lucky blue panties. She must be traumatised and I can only offer my apologies on behalf of the club.
Next week – the fifth home game in a row on paper – I would not bet on it being played in Farnborough.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin, a Ferrari in the midst of Austin Allegros.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin