Sunday 15th February 2009
By Patrice Mongelard
“Vets go down 1-2 in rare defeat after failing to top Avery Hill”
Unaccustomed as I am now to reporting defeats, after the heights scaled by Farnborough vets in recent months, this match was indeed an uphill battle. Avery Hill are a cut above many of the other teams we come up against. As a good passing side they made the most of the big pitch as we tired in the latter part of the second half to equalise and then take the lead.
Farnborough lined up with Gary Rosslee in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Toby Harlow, Toby Manchip and Steve Blanchard in defence; Neil Connelly, Paul Tanton, George Kleanthous, and Colin Ebdon in midfield; Paul Smith and Pete Harvey up front. Subs were Chris Bourlet and Trevor Stewart. We knew we were missing a few: Matt Wright, Peter Storkey, Darren Mace, Chris Ponulak, Ian Shoebridge, Roger French and a couple of others we did not know about initially.
Our close followers will have spotted the unfamiliar line up with the two Tobies in defence. A hill seemed like a mountain when news reached the dressing room, and Toby’s ears at the same time, that Chris Webb and Simon Harvey were no longer available. Yet what appeared like a makeshift defence kept Avery Hill out until the last quarter of the game. Toby Manchip discovered that it is just as much fun to defend as to attack and we discovered a useful defender with no small physical presence. Toby Harlow, despite reporting a heavy Valentine’s night in Downe village was a rock on a hillside.
We certainly had cause to regret not scoring more goals in a first half which we dominated. There was a very dubious penalty decision that the Avery Hill player who refereed the game gave against us as Paul Smith was felled from behind in the box as he advanced clear on goal (all in the details - as I note later). Pete Harvey made many intelligent runs and received his usual quota of stud marks. Colin Ebdon seemed rejuvenated after his skiing holiday and made several slalom runs - one of which very nearly brought us a goal. George was industrious as ever and as our fox-in-the-box came very close in a couple of one-to-ones. Neil Connelly and Paul Tanton were more than a match for the robust and mobile Avery Hill midfield. Avery Hill threatened a couple of times from corners – as they usually do but Gary had very little to do in goal. Our goal came after a close range shot from Paul Tanton was palmed out by the keeper to Peter Harvey who was on hand to score and reach double figures for the season and give us a well-deserved half time lead.
So what went wrong in the second half – we had chances, not very clear cut but neither did the other team; possession was more even and the Avery Hill subs seemed to settle in more quickly than ours and they made the most of their assets. They won several corners – one of which saw a fantastic clearance from Toby Harlow from a powerful low volley to divert the ball over the bar when Avery Hill were already celebrating in their mind’s eye. We conceded a free kick in a dangerous place and from the cross Gary could not climb as high as the tall Avery Hill midfielder who nodded into an empty goal. Minutes later Gary made a flying but vain attempt to stop a high shot that flew into the top corner from arguably Avery Hill’s best (and at times over-physical) player. We had one last and very good opportunity to even the scores after good approach work down the right between George Kleanthous and Trevor Stewart but the final pass to a better-placed Peter Harvey never came and that was it.
This was a bitter pill to swallow but an honourable defeat. I suppose now we know how we have made some of our opponents feel this season.
One mountaineering success to report from this game is that Pete Harvey scored again to climb to the top of the goal scorers chart.
Top managers say it is all in the details which we did not quite get right today: a referee that did us no favours, no oranges and no water at half time – the sherpa who carried 12 empty plastic bottles out to pitchside could only have been suffering from altitude sickness. Dehydration may have had something to do with it as our oxygen levels ran low in the last 15 minutes. Avery Hill were better playing at altitude – and that is not just due to the high number of tall players – we understand they are mostly PE teachers.
Man of the Match was Toby Harlow!!
After going up a hill this week for our next fixture we go down a warren where some rather fierce creatures await.