Sunday 2nd November 2008
By Roger French
Having just about caught the convoy as they left for only our second away game this season against Wickham Park Vets and managed to secure a parking space in the compact car park well away from pitch side I enquired of Patrice as to the possibility of making it three match reports in a row. His reply was rather abrupt and gave the distinct impression that he was not in the right frame of mind – something to do with Harry Houdini…I think. Anyway I am back on the case for today but Patrice assures me he will cover next week’s game against Baltic Exchange (so long as Liverpool don’t lose at home again) as I will not be there.
It’s great having a large squad these days as with 3 people unavailable from last week plus the continuing injury to Gary “The Cat” Rosslee we were still able to select a team from a squad of 15 players and bring along a couple of spectators. It also allowed for the return of Toby “Farnborough’s No 4” Manchip in goal despite informing Vic that he had a broken arm – just as well I didn’t actually make it to the clubhouse bearing in mind how late I was and Vic’s response to the said No 4 along the lines of “Don’t ****ing wind me up this time of the morning”. As it was we lined up as follows having determined that FNo4’s arm was in fact OK:
Toby Manchip (GK)
Patrice Mongelard (RB)
Matt Wright (CB)
Chris Webb (CB)
Chris Bourlet (LB)
Ian Shoebridge (RM)
Neil Connelly (CM)
Chris Ponulak (CM)
Colin Ebdon (LM)
Paul Smith (CF)
Paul Tanton (CF)
Steve Blanchard Snr
Steve Blanchard Jnr
Considering how much rain had fallen on Saturday the pitch was looking remarkably good – no doubt this was due to the rather noticeable slope allowing water to flow downhill. We kicked off up the hill (luckily for those who came on as subs in the second half) and immediately took the game to Wickham as we have now become accustomed to. The game was very much end to end stuff and very good to watch for the “large” crowd gathered on the touchline who provided plenty of encouragement – the game is so easy to play when you are watching!
Chris Bourlet was an early injury victim but with plenty of subs on the touchline he was replaced by Darren Mace at left back who was later described as a chunkier version of Ashley Cole. The backbone of the team has been strengthened this season with Matt Wright, Neil Connelly and Paul Tanton adding a bit of youth to our vast experience and providing a bit more running. Chances were being created with Tant going very close to beating the extremely young Wickham vet in goal (they did ask us if we minded them using their Under 17 keeper before the match).
Smithy had his fair share of opportunities and also supplied a number of passes to Tant and Shoey but we were unable to get the goal we deserved. As it was Wickham grabbed a brace and this knocked us out of our stride for a brief period. Wickham took this opportunity to crank up the pressure and it was down to the star jumping FNo4 to keep us in the game combined with the post and crossbar.
We survived this period of pressure and hit back just before the half-time whistle with an excellent strike by Tant who placed the ball in the bottom corner to beat the despairing dive of the 17 year old keeper. The first half had seen another excellent team performance with Shoey putting in a lot of work in midfield up and down the left flank and we were back in it.
Half-time jaffas were consumed and the tinkerman brought on Simon Harvey for Colin Ebdon. We were now playing down the slope and had Wickham on the back foot although some of our shooting was a bit off target but at least it kept Joe Storkey busy ferreting around in residents'' gardens trying to retrieve a number of balls and doing an excellent job I might add. The game continued at a high tempo (well relatively speaking for a Vets game) but we still could not get an equaliser.
Changes were made with all subs getting an opportunity to get involved and finally our chance arrived with a rather fortuitous penalty after a Wickham defender had fallen in the box onto the ball. Up stepped Smithy who crashed the ball off the cross bar and into the gardens lining the pitch – still no equaliser but off went Joe on another search and rescue mission.
Time was running out and we continued to press forward with 3 at the back and Matt and Chris W pushing forward. This eventually paid dividends when a cross was swung in from the right to find Tant in the middle of the box to hook the ball into the back of the net for a deserved equaliser. Wickham upped the tempo from the restart and we regrouped to bolster our defences to ensure we were not robbed of a “point”. But not long after, the full time whistle went to end a very evenly contested game which either side could have won. As Pat said last week, last season we would have expected a bit of a hiding but this season a draw could been seen as a disappointment such is the turnaround in our play.
The scores for MOM were close but eventually Shoey was the deserved winner for his endless running throughout the game and versatile approach having played right midfield in the first half he then played left midfield in the second either that or he was too knackered to change wings.
It is worth mentioning that this time last season after 9 games we had a goal difference of -25 having let in 41 goals compared to our stats to date which show a goal difference of +3 with goals against of 23 – a vast improvement and one we want to keep going.