Sunday 5th December 2021
By George Kleanthous
A determined Farnborough side sparkle in Beckenham
It wasn’t looking promising for a fixture to be played this weekend due to several factors. Firstly, our original opponent pulled out on Friday and informed us that they were unable to field a side, however, after some relentless searching and calling around other teams, by Saturday lunchtime, we were able to find an opponent. That opponent just so happened to be the same side that last weekend inflicted our first loss this season to an official Veterans team. After much scrambling around, the opponents' contact, Lee, confirmed he was able to get a side out and so as long as we were OK with playing the same opponent two weeks running, then game on. We had arranged between the teams that we would play this fixture at our home ground as we had played last week at theirs.
Then came the heavy rainfall and so yet again the fixture was in jeopardy. It is no secret that despite a considerable amount of time, effort and expense over the last few years our pitches still struggle mightily with drainage and so it was no surprise that on Sunday morning, we got the dreaded update from the groundsman that our pitch was unplayable. It appeared that the combined efforts of both teams had been for nothing. We called Lee to give him the news, but he saved the day as he offered to switch the fixture to their ground. Foxgrove Road, Beckenham has always been a very good pitch and the playing surface one of the very best we play on each season. Despite the downpour, Sunday was no exception, and the pitch was in outstanding condition.
FOBG Squad: Tom Girling (GK), Colin Mant, Waine Hetherington, Peter Harvey, George Kleanthous, Sinisa Gracanin, Kypros Michael, Jay Hardy, Dave Morgan, Simon Thomas, Danny Mullins, Dean Murphy, Barry Grainger.
Referee: Paul Parsons.
Kit sponsor: The Dog and Duck, Outwood.
Manager: George Kleanthous.
Interim Chief Football Correspondent: George Kleanthous.
The pre-game team talk consisted of taking the opportunity to swiftly avenge last week’s defeat. It’s not often that revenge can be exacted so soon but it was clear that it was an opportunity not to be missed….and it wasn’t.
Since the beginning of this season, there has been a clear message of how the team is trying to adopt a passing / possession game and never has it been more effective than in the first couple of minutes. Straight from the kick-off Farnborough put together a passage of play which involved almost every outfield player touching the ball and at least 20-25 passes were exchanged before it ended with an early opportunity that just went wide. It would have been the perfect start, however, there seemed to be a real energy flowing right through the team and the tone was definitely set by this start.
Beckenham are a very good side, and they deserved their win last week, but I think they would be honest enough to admit that during the first 45 minutes of this game they struggled to get to grips with Farnborough’s play and would have been surprised by how well we were playing. Usually, this can be the case and a team does not get its reward, however, today Farnborough turned this dominance into goals and looked very good for their 3-0 half time lead.
For all of the crisp passing and good attacking play, the first goal was actually a little fortunate in that a good move down the right led to Simon getting a sight of goal and he decided to shoot from outside of the box and although he didn’t catch it as well as he would have hoped, it was enough to beat the keeper who could only parry it into the net. The goalkeeper would have been disappointed not to have done better but the lesson here is if you don’t shoot you don’t score.
A lot of our good attacking play was coming from our right side and several times Danny Mullins' direct running and strength was causing the opposition problems and one particular passage of play between him and Kyps should have led to a goal, but the shot was blasted high and wide when it deserved better.
Waine Hetherington was playing slightly further back than in previous weeks with George Kleanthous being told to clear off and play slightly higher up the pitch and this worked well as Waine’s vast array of accurate long passing was very effective and it put us firmly on the front foot several times.
The second goal came by way of a penalty after Peter Harvey was taken roughly from behind just as he showed a nice spin to turn away from the defender. There was no argument from the opposition. Pete is a great example of total commitment to the cause and his “all in” attitude to win every tackle and fight for every ball is why he gets fouled so often. George Kleanthous took on the responsibility and made no mistake from the spot.
More chances came and went and Farnborough continued to create openings but some wayward finishing kept the score down until Kypros Michael who was continually getting into good positions decided to put one away to get his usual goal.
In between this good play, Beckenham still offered the occasional threat and it must be said that last week their goalkeeper made several good saves, this week our own goalkeeper Tom Girling was in spectacular form and the save he made from their strong centre forward was outstanding, pushing an absolute thunderbolt of a shot onto the crossbar. At that point this would have put them right back into the game but saves like this inspires confidence right through the team. It wasn’t to be Tom's only brilliant save. There were a couple of one-on-ones which resulted in some big chances falling to Beckenham but Tom was in inspired form and made very important saves at the right times for us.
In the second half, Beckenham decided to give up trying to play through the midfield and so began hitting long diagonal balls right over the top of our back four. This is a testament to how well organised our defenders played, they were marshalled fantastically well by our centre backs Sinisa Gracanin and Colin Mant, both had very strong performances and kept their dangerous players very quiet. Alongside them our fullbacks, Simon Thomas and Dave Morgan were both very solid and looked comfortable on the ball which is an extremely valuable quality and one which will please the manager and make his team selection extremely easy if they continue with this level of performance.
As Beckenham pressed hard to try and get back into the game, we scored a fourth goal after we broke down the left with a counter attack, this time Barry Grainger releasing Kyps with a beautifully weighted pass (one of many from Barry who has great vision and his passes rarely miss their target) and Kyps surging down the wing, cutting in and squaring it to Jay Hardy for an easy tap in. It is no surprise that Jay got onto the end of this move as his relentless running and graft he gets through is unparalleled and the mileage he gets through each game is incredible. His hard work is rewarded by this type of goal as it gets him on the end of so much that the team creates. What probably surprised Jay the most was Kyps squaring it rather than shooting himself but this unselfishness is the one ingredient that we would like more of from Kyps. He is such a dangerous player and gets in so many great positions, way more than any other player which is a testament to his overall play but some coolness in front of and around the goal would make him an even more daunting prospect for our opponents.
As the game crept to its conclusion, there was a little frustration creeping in and there were some robust challenges raining in, one challenge on George rendering his shin pad useless and leaving a substantial stud mark and gash on his right shin, which matched nicely with the stud mark he was gifted on his left shin from another fairly heavy challenge in the first half. Football is still a contact sport at amateur level and so no complaints, unless these challenges were applied with malice and definitely no sign or hint of that at any point in this game.
Just before the end, our resistance was finally broken and ruined what would have been a very well deserved clean sheet, the opposition crafting a chance after a decent spell of pressure which was smashed into the roof of our net from 8 yards out. Credit is due to Beckenham for their perseverance.
The only blight on a very good day for Farnborough was that Dean Murphy had come along to help out the Senior Vets and he sadly had to be withdrawn near the end of the game after injuring his hamstring. We hope it’s not too serious and he is back playing again soon.
Man of the match:
The man of the match votes were split between a few players and that is to be expected being that this was our best performance of the season and every player played their part. In the end it was our keeper Tom who won the day and deservedly so as he was always able to make the important saves at the right time. After one save with only a few minutes left, one of their players said to me that Tom had probably had the best performance and made some of the best saves he has seen in years. To his surprise, I disagreed with him and said “Nah, he plays like this every week”.
Man of the match: Tom Girling