Sunday 23rd January 2022
By George Kleanthous
Farnborough record first clean sheet of the season to help secure another win
On Friday afternoon it looked like we were only going to be able to field a bare 11 but by Saturday afternoon, we had swelled that number to 13 and this was to prove extremely important as injuries would mean that we would end up needing all available resources. We played over at Stone Recreation Ground and the weather was perfect for football. There was a nice cool temperature and not a whiff of wind. The pitch is probably one of the largest we play on which should suit our style of play and it was in very good condition so by kick off time we were looking forward to the task in hand.
FOBG Squad: Tom Girling (GK), Colin Mant, Michael Hills, Waine Hetherington, Peter Harvey, George Kleanthous, Sinisa Gracanin, Jay Hardy, Simon Thomas, Kypros Michael, Chisa Mkala, SUBS: Giles Foister, Gordon Thompson.
Referee: The ref was one of their players who gave up his opportunity to play in order for us to have a referee, so we really appreciate this, and he did a good job.
Kit sponsor: The Dog and Duck, Outwood.
Manager: George Kleanthous.
Interim Chief Football Correspondent: George Kleanthous.
The conditions were just about perfect for us to be able to showcase our possession football as the pitch was decent and very wide and so we felt we should be able to find lots of space in which to regularly find a teammate and get back to the passing play which we have tried all season long to make our identity. It would have definitely constituted a wasted opportunity had we not been able to fulfil that brief, and this was the message relayed to the team in the pre-kickoff team talk.
We started confidently and were enjoying the lion’s share of possession; the passing was good and the opposition were not being allowed to see much of the ball. There seemed to be so much space and it felt like we had more than one option with every pass we hit. We would pass from side to side, backwards, forwards, out to the wings, through the middle, it didn’t seem to matter as we were comfortable and with every passage of play, we felt it was just a matter of time before we broke the deadlock and got the goal our play deserved.
For the first 20-25 minutes, other than an opening goal, everything seemed to be going very well. Too well. It was around this time when we were suddenly hit with our first bit of adversity. Waine Hetherington had been playing in the middle of the park, orchestrating things as he usually does when he attempted to hit one of his trademark long passes, however as he put his foot through the ball, he went down in pain clutching his thigh. He said he felt it “pop” so it would appear that he may be set for an extended period on the sidelines, we are hoping that it’s not too serious and he is back soon. Giles Foister came on as Waine’s replacement. This meant a reshuffle was necessary, so Giles stepped in at centre back and we moved Sinisa Gracanin into centre midfield.
Not long after, the first goal did come, and it was Farnborough who found it. Chisa Mkala had worked his way to the by-line and was able to cut the ball back across the goal inside the 6-yard box where Kypros Michael put his head on it from barely a yard out for an easy finish.
Soon after, there was more good work from Chisa where he made a surging run into the box and was almost through on goal when he was taken down and the referee correctly awarded a penalty. This was despite protests from some of the opposition that the initial foul had occurred just outside the box, however, without the luxury of VAR to waste several minutes deliberating the obvious, the penalty decision stood. George Kleanthous stepped up to take what would be his 6th penalty of the season, finding success on all 5 previous attempts. Unfortunately, he hit a weak shot at the right height for the keeper to parry the ball up into the air and there was half a chance of scoring from the rebound, but the ball was scuttled away, and the score remained only 1-0.
This setback didn’t seem to deter Farnborough and they remained on the front foot, and it wasn’t long before Kypros Michael drove into the penalty area, got in behind the defence to cut a ball back across the box from the by-line for Jay Hardy to be in the right place to tap the ball in from a yard out, 2-0 and finally some breathing space.
Half-time arrived and we were feeling good about ourselves, and the only disappointment was that we felt we could have had a healthier lead had we played the ball around a little more swiftly.
A weekly report is not official without some reference to our goalkeeper Tom Girling bailing us out by making a decent save or two. Today is no exception. It was during a period midway through the second half when the opposition carved out a very good chance for themselves and an extremely well hit shot looked destined for the bottom corner, but Tom dived full stretch low down to his left and miraculously turned the ball away. Apparently, a certain member of our team who happens to be a Cockney Red suggested that it was reminiscent of a certain phenomenal save made by Peter Schmeichel against Roma in the Champions League some years ago. I haven’t seen that save myself, but I would wager Tom's save would be hard to better. My own take is that there was a hint of “Gordon Banks” about Tom's save. Once again, our bacon was saved at an important moment by some outstanding goalkeeping.
As the game ticked by, a comedy moment was supplied by Kyps when he came flying into the box to get on the end of a cross whipped in by Peter Harvey to apply what should have been a simple finish, however, he caught it on the full volley and hit it so hard that it crashed against the underside of the bar and flew out to safety. Sound funny? No? What if he was standing (by his own admission in the bar afterwards) only 20 centimetres out? The expression easier to score was made for moments like this. Kyps often gets a ribbing for his goals to chances ratio perhaps not being particularly high, but I think even Kyps would have difficulty not scoring this chance if it was ever presented to him again. I’m thinking he would probably score 99 times out of 100 but it was something to behold to be present for the 1% time that he did miss. Ronnie Rosenthal eat your heart out.
There was a spell during the second half where maybe we switched off a little, but Lads of the Village should be given credit for continuing to battle away and keep themselves in the game. One of their players in particular was in the wars today, he felt the full force of Giles Foister’s knee accidently hitting him in the back of the head as they both fell to the ground, he had earlier fallen awkwardly and hurt his shoulder, he caught his foot in the turf trying to turn away from a defender and twisted his knee, all of this meaning he was forced to leave the pitch but he showed true fighting spirit and came back on again which showed great resolve. This was reflected in the rest of the opposition who kept themselves in the game right to the end, and they were unlucky that at 2-0 the one time they did finally break our back line (which had been strong throughout with our regulars Michael, Colin and Simon containing the opposition very well) they had a goal chalked off by an early whistle from the referee who pulled the ball back to give them a free kick after one of our defenders gave away what could only be called a professional foul.
We huffed and puffed and made a couple more half chances, one hit the post from a shot / cross that George sent over but the game was finally wrapped up when a nice piece of interchange play led to Jay getting in behind the defence, looking up to find an unmarked George inside the 6 yard box and Jay unselfishly pulled the ball back from the by-line and laid the ball on a plate for George to slide the ball home from only a couple of yards out.
*Eagle eyed readers may have noticed a familiar theme with the goals we scored today. In a previous match report (against Bird in Hand), it was stated that making an easy pass to a better placed teammate, rather than try a difficult angled shot would lead to more goals. It is no coincidence that today 3 pieces of unselfish play directly led to us scoring all 3 goals, none of which were more than a couple of yards out. Simplicity is sometimes the hardest task to perform.
The game finished 3-0 in what was a game played mostly in the right way by both teams, Simon Thomas did try his hand at making new friends and there was some ongoing chatter throughout with him and a couple of the opposition but one particular exchange with the referee led to the ref warning us to temper the foul language being used; especially with a team of 14-15 year old kids deciding to take up residence on the top bank to watch our game. The disappointment was that most of the colourful vocabulary being used was from Farnborough players inter team bickering.
On a final note, it was great to see Gordon Thompson return after a long layoff with injury. He came on to replace Chisa who felt his hamstring tighten which was probably caused by the number of miles he had clocked up in a very good performance.
The votes were spread all over the pitch today with no fewer than 7 different players receiving a vote. It was marginal but the slight overall majority went to Sinisa and there can be no argument to that. Sini was rock solid in defence before being manoeuvred into a central midfield position where he looked just as comfortable. He continued to have a positive influence throughout the whole 90 minutes.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin