Sunday 2nd May 2021
By Patrice Mongelard
Empty-handed Senior Vets hit for six again
This report will not take long. It could be an essay if I were to answer Mrs M’s question when I came home – “Why is everybody so much better?”. Life is too short. And yet the figures do not lie – five games played since we came out of lockdown at the end of March. Five defeats – goals for 6, goals against 28, not enough kit for all the players, confidence low, morale not great, tactics all over the place, several players out of shape, team ravaged by injuries. Apart from that everything is fine.
The Queen Mary University Ground in Chislehurst (BR7 6SD) is the best ground we play on currently. Superb setting, playing surface of great quality (we cannot blame the pitch in any way). We had ideal conditions today, albeit a tad overcast, but there was no wind, the morning nip had evaporated. And we were up against a classy outfit that play the game in the right way.
FOBG Squad: Matt Angelo, Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Giles Foster, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, George Kleanthous, Colin Mant, Kypros Michael, Patrice Mongelard, Andy Osborne, James Rutter, Joe Skinner, Simon Thomas.
Kit sponsor: The Dog and Duck, Outwood.
Supporters: Aaleya Hawker, Archie Hawker, Claire Mills-Skinner, Lorna Stewart, Gordon Thompson.
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
Chief Impact Officer: Phil Anthony.
I cannot claim that we went into today’s game expecting to win. Past encounters between our two teams did not allow even cautious optimism to be countenanced. Yet the first twenty minutes or so were even as we moved the ball just as fluently as our opponents; but they had one telling advantage and that was the 52-year-old up front – quite simply the nippiest quinquagenarian I have seen. And he could play a bit too. He showed the early signs of danger and it was no surprise when he broke the deadlock accelerating clear and tucking the ball away from close range. Five minutes later he set up the second goal although the shot took a generous deflection off Steve Blanchard. I spared our blushes temporarily by clearing off the line from a Bird in Hand corner. I will resist the temptation to write a paragraph on my intervention, as Simon Thomas feared I would.
We had our share of the ball but could never really threaten in that first half. A couple of corners came to nothing. We could not find the incision we needed in their box. We did not finish the half too well. We took less care of the ball than they did, found it hard to build sequences of passes. Trying to play the ball out of defence or making anything of goal-kicks proved a challenge. We gave away the ball in a dangerous position and were punished shortly before half-time. Bird in Hand thoroughly deserved their 3-0 lead at half-time.
The second half was young when the speed merchant broke free from the halfway line, pushed the ball behind our last defender, went round him and then angled his run on our goal to give himself the widest perspective to bamboozle Matt Angelo and slip the ball home. On the hour he made it 5-0 after cushioning a pass just inside our box with his back to goal, turning smartly, beating his markers and producing another clinical finish. Not long after, Bird in Hand must have thought they had a sixth when a sweetly-struck left-foot curler was on its way towards our goal only for Matt Angelo to produce the save of the day at full stretch to palm the ball round the post.
Bird in Hand then introduced a much younger player in their defence. This was hardly necessary but he looked very good – I think most of us would, surrounded by players who are thirty years, or more, older. I did pass a comment about this to an opposing player who took umbrage at my remark and felt moved to point out that this had no bearing on the score. Fair point – but clearly winning meant more to him.
We were still trying to play our football and gave glimpses of what was possible. Half chances came and went for Andy Osborne, Kypros Michael and Simon Thomas. Ambitious shots from distance (sometimes from the wrong foot) were never going to beat their keeper. I felt we deserved something by way of a consolation goal but it never came even when the other team made rare defensive mistakes. Instead, with five minutes left, Bird in Hand punished a defensive mistake of ours as we tried yet again, unwisely, to play the ball out from the back. They scored with a fierce shot from close range that came off the underside of the bar.
It is possible to lose a game heavily and yet, in an odd way, still enjoy the experience. There were more encouraging signs in our play but our standards have slipped, undoubtedly. Our opponents were gracious in victory and invited us to share a few hot dogs and enjoy the services of a mobile bar. This was most welcome in the leafy setting. We spent some time trying to answer Mrs M’s question above. One player who will remain nameless offered the explanation that “Compared to me, that tree is quick”.
Finally, a word of praise for the referee today - Alper. It helped that there was not a bad tackle in the game which was played in excellent spirit (except for the brief exchange I had with one churlish player) and he showed excellent judgement in not awarding what would have been a very harsh penalty to our opponents (with the score at 5-0).
Man-of-the-Match: Sinisa Gracanin, by an overwhelming margin, gradually regaining his fitness after Covid, and a player who would not be out of place in our opponents’ team.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin