Sunday 19th December 2021
By George Kleanthous
Christmas Cheer as Senior Vets finish Year on a High
There was a bit of confusion over the venue for today’s game as we arrived as instructed at the STC Ground in Ivor Grove, New Eltham only to find it extremely quiet with nobody there except one individual who informed us that our opponents don’t play there anymore and in fact moved several years ago to the Pavilion pitches on Footscray Road. Fortunately, our early arrival meant we had time to rectify this hiccup as this was less than a 2-3 minute drive around the corner so a major disaster was averted. *Note to club admin that we should reflect this change in our correspondence going forward. The next 10 minutes was spent making a flurry of phone calls to every player to ensure they got the message for the correct venue. Mission accomplished and our squad of 12 were all present and available in plenty of time for kick off. One footnote is that it has been said that the pitches at Ivor Grove have historically been fairly agricultural at this time of year so the switch to the Pavilion was a real bonus as the pitches here are notoriously good and this was the case today with the pitch being in excellent condition and not heavy underfoot at all.
FOBG Squad: Tom Girling (GK), Colin Mant, Waine Hetherington, Peter Harvey, George Kleanthous, Sinisa Gracanin, Jay Hardy, Dave Morgan, Simon Thomas, Joe Skinner, Diccon Kaenzig, Danny Hetherington.
Referee: 9 /10. Controlled the game well and fairly.
Kit sponsor: The Dog and Duck, Outwood
Manager: George Kleanthous.
Interim Chief Football Correspondent: George Kleanthous.
The team talk was brief, consisting mainly of taking advantage of the venue change and it allowing us an opportunity to play on another very good surface.
There has been a theme of late that we have been sloppy right at the start of games and afforded our opposition the luxury of taking a 1-0 lead which we have mostly gone on to overcome. With the quality of today’s opposition, I don’t think that would have been a good tactic and so it was important that we chose today to start strongly and make the most of our limited opportunities. We did struggle mightily for a period in the game but that came right at the start of the second half, not the first and I think that had a big part to play in the final result. More of that later.
The first 20 minutes of the game were fairly even, and it was mostly spent between Farnborough making a few half chances that were squandered and the opposition being kept at bay only attempting several long-distance efforts that were of no real threat to our goal.
The first goal came our way when Diccon Kaenzig was played in behind the Eltham defence and produced a smart finish.
A further stint of Farnborough pressure resulted in a few corners in quick succession and one of these resulted in Peter Harvey lofting in the perfect cross for Jay Hardy to rise highest and glance a perfect header beyond the keeper to put us 2-0 up.
Farnborough’s third goal followed soon after. Dave Morgan made a timely interception from just outside the penalty box from his left back position and he then went on a mazy run that seemed to take him past one player, then another, then another, seemingly just being able to flick the ball past each opposition player as they lunged in to try take the ball from him. His run started from his own left back position and as he weaved onward and across the pitch and ended up 40 yards further forward out towards the right, he then played an absolutely dream ball, splitting the defence with a slide rule pass which set Diccon in behind the defence and he made no mistake finishing with a coolness that has now seen him hit a purple patch, scoring 5 goals in the last 2 games.
Farnborough scored a fourth before half-time, Joe Skinner, driving a well hit accurate cross straight to Jay who had run between their two centre backs, controlled really well and jinked round the keeper to slot home.
This was not to be Joe’s most significant contribution to the game. Right on half-time, Joe was wiped out by a terrible tackle from behind and his reaction as you would expect was an angry one which resulted in him putting his head in the direction of the offending player. What followed was a messy affair of handbags involving several other players, mostly trying to calm the situation down but to prevent tempers flaring further the manager George Kleanthous decided to defuse the situation completely by informing the referee that he was removing Joe from the game so everybody could calm down. The gesture was appreciated by both the referee and the opposition, barring the one player who continued to remonstrate his anger, despite him kicking the hole thing off with a tackle that could easily have caused significant injury. He remained angry and impetuous throughout the rest of the game and would for some reason throw himself to the floor on several occasions claiming foul play, even when no contact had been made. Funnily enough, it was mainly when Joe was near him that he would fall over.
4-0 at half-time and Farnborough were in complete control. Simon, Colin, Sinisa and Dave were defending extremely well and mopping up the odd threat comfortably. Sinisa always looking assured on the ball regardless of pressure around him and Colin battling hard and winning most aerial battles as he always does. The opposition were heard to say that the game was tight, and they were still in the game. They were but we just didn’t know it at this stage. In fairness, it is not often that a 4-0 half-time score reflects how even a game had been and the reality was that Eltham had some extremely talented players, and they could play a bit, so we needed to be careful. Despite this, the Farnborough manager's half-time message was straight forward; change nothing, do nothing different as despite their threat we had coped easily and were in complete control. Only us self-destructing could possibly change the flow of the game.
Guess what happened next?
With the second half barely a minute old, Farnborough did exactly what they needed to give Eltham a ray of hope and we were completely asleep when we backed out of several challenges and allowed their forward to muscle through and get fortunate in that he bustled through to get a shot off, Tom came out bravely and managed to smother it but it deflected back onto the forward and squeezed in just inside the post. 4-1.
Within a couple of minutes, Farnborough were at it again, we decided to continue to play a high line, which worked extremely well in the first half when the slope of the pitch favoured this play, however, with Eltham playing up the slope, the ball was holding up and they were now frequently getting in behind us. This happened twice and within 15 minutes of the restart we suddenly found ourselves in a tight game and the score was back to 4-3. Additionally, arguably their best player (quite a young gun in truth) missed a couple of sitters right in front of goal and only a few yards out which would have brought them level, but he blasted high and wide to keep our lead intact. In hindsight, continuing to play a high line was probably an error from the manager and should have been relayed to the team sooner to ditch this tactic as it was clearly costing us.
A turning point in the game came when their strong centre forward who was having more and more influence fell awkwardly and was taken off injured. It initially looked serious but thankfully he was seen after the game walking around a bit better and hopefully he will make a full recovery soon. This event alongside the fact that Eltham smelt blood meant that they decided to push forward in larger numbers, but this as always creates compromise defensively and Farnborough seized an opportunity on a breakaway, which saw Peter Harvey run down the left wing and cross low for Diccon to complete his hat-trick. We had a bit of breathing space again and it also seemed to lift the team as we regained our composure and started to look dangerous again. Waine, George and Diccon were able to get their foot on the ball more in midfield and so release the pressure on the defence and when Dave unfortunately had to be substituted after injuring his calf, Danny Hetherington come in at left back and was a more than capable replacement, providing the side with a good outlet when going forward.
In almost a carbon copy of our fifth goal, we carved another breakaway, Eltham were short on numbers, and we made them pay when this time Jay netted his third to complete his hat-trick. Eltham seemed to run out of steam, and they were undone one more time when Jay received the ball inside the area turned both the defender and keeper inside out with some deft footwork which was a mixture of Mo Salah’s tight control and a silky Cruyff turn, leaving all around him in knots, the goal now at Jay’s mercy and he slammed the ball into the roof of the net, 7-3.
Peter Harvey could review his day's effort and think he had an unlucky day as he hit the post twice, once from a free kick and another from an effort where he was at least 30 yards out when he lobbed the keeper only to see it hit the base of the post and come out, but today he contributed much more than that as he had four assists which led directly to goals and this effort is deemed worthy of a mention in this match report.
The majority of the man of the match votes were split between the two goalscorers with Jay just edging out Diccon by 5 votes to 4.
Man of the match: Jay Hardy