Sunday 19th April 2009
By Roger French with a second report by Patrice Mongelard
As we approach the end of the season we find ourselves with the best defensive record across all games at the club with only 5 defeats from 21 games played. One of those rare defeats was against today’s opposition having suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat in February so alot was at stake as we strived to reach our target of 13 wins for the season.
Pre-match banter revolved around a game played in the week by some team that played in blue against the reds which ended in a draw and as it turned out this game had a lot of similarities with the reds snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. This week’s team selection was hampered by the early kick-off in the Tottenham game but we still managed to field 16 players lining up as follows:
Gary Rosslee (GK)
Pat Mongelard (RB)
Steve Blanchard (CB)
Matt Wright (CB)
Roger French (LB)
Ian Shoebridge (RM)
Paul Tanton (CM)
Chris Ponulak (CM)
Paul Storkey (LM)
Paul Smith (CF)
Craig Belgrave (CF)
Subs: Colin Ebdon, Trevor Stewart, Chris Bourlet, Darren Mace, Toby Harlow
Referee: Micky Gearing
Spectators: Joe Storkey, Chris Webb & mini-Webbs
The first bit of positional manoeuvring involved Vic with his digital camera and 16 camera shy vets as Vic attempted to capture our vast squad digitally (having switched to wide angle) for this season’s team photo which has been missing since September – only 7 months late. With the glamour photography over Micky got the game underway suspiciously dressed like an Avery Hill sub under an overcast sky.
The first half was end to end stuff with fast flowing football (relative to age I hasten to add) from both teams. Chris Ponulak was covering a lot of ground in midfield whilst ex-pupil Craig Belgrave (how old does that make Chris I wonder) was providing an excellent target man up front in only his second game for the Vets. Matt Wright was having his usual solid game at the back winning vital headers and making last ditch tackles. Gary Rosslee in goal made a number of class saves which more than made up for the one lapse in concentration.
It was Farnborough who took the lead as Craig’s cross into the box was inadvertently handled by an Avery Hill defender. Our regular penalty taker, Smithy, graciously gave the ball to Craig who calmly slotted the ball home for the opening goal. Avery Hill are not the sort of team to roll over easily and upped the pressure. A speculative long range shot looked to be well covered by Gary but a moment’s lapse in concentration saw the ball squirm through his hands and into the back of the net for the equaliser.
The Vets dug deep and surged forward. The ball was played in the air into the box and the keeper had it covered but he too must have taken his eye off the ball as he spilled it into the path of Craig who had the simple job of guiding it into the back of the net to put us back in the lead – this provided some consolation to Gary. Just before Mick could blow the half-time whistle Smithy received the ball wide on the edge of the box and in one smooth move turned and lofted a mighty shot into the far corner giving the keeper no chance. As Toby remarked “he does know where the net is does Smithy”.
Conscious of the number of subs eagerly waiting on the sidelines halftime saw some changes with Colin Ebdon coming on for Shoey and as a result I now found somebody in front of me as Storkey was now officially playing right midfield.
The second half continued with bright sunshine but our play was not as bright as the first half. Defensively we conceded two soft goals to allow Avery Hill to draw level and despite some good moves up front we didn’t actually test the keeper enough to regain the lead. Things got a bit niggly in the second half with Micky having to deal with a lot of moaning about decisions but luckily it didn’t get out of hand.
All subs got a runout including the manager himself who replaced a weary Tant late on in the game and it was he who was heard to shout “keep your shape” only for the reply from the stands of “you’ve got to get some shape first” to the portly ginger one. The game ended in an honourable draw which on reflection was a fair result as both teams contributed fully to the entertainment value.
Back in the clubhouse the votes were taken for man of the match and it was a very close thing with Matt just edging it ahead of Chris Ponulak. Talk once again turned to the creation of a second Vets team for next season and now is the time to get some commitment from prospective players. As it was Storkey offered to run the second team and this was promptly seconded by a number of players before he could change his mind.
We now only have 3 games left and will need to win them all if we are going to achieve our target starting with Cudham at home next week…a tall order but wouldn’t it be good if we did?
“Vets almost make it a great week for football for manager with 3-3 draw against Avery Hill”
Those who missed this game will have been spared the droning of our manager Toby Harlow, like an old gramophone with a stuck needle, reminding Liverpool and Arsenal fans and any one else within earshot - what a great week this had been for his club Chelsea. Yes – today Toby was the world president of the appreciation society for football club-owning Russian billionaires (Russian acronym is B*ST*RDS I think). He wisely left the Chelsea flag in the boot of his van. No doubt there will be a stampede to congratulate him when his club have won the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League.
Anyway back to what we’d like to think was the most important football game in Toby’s calendar this week. It ought to be as we were reminded of Toby’s affection for Farnborough when a rather genteel 20-year old match analysis written with quill pen in a lined exercise book, was read out in the bar after the game, featuring a Toby Harlow who was “half the man” he is now (his words).
The team today was Gary Rosslee in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Steve Blanchard, Matt Wright and Roger French in defence; Paul Tanton, Ian Shoebridge, Paul Storkey and Chris Ponulak in midfield; Craig Belgrave and Paul Smith up front. Subs were Trevor Stewart, Darren Mace, Chris Bourlet, Colin Ebdon and Toby Harlow (all of whom came on).
Although we had not played since 5 April when we lost 5-2 we were up for it and it was no surprise when we went ahead with a well-taken penalty by Craig Belgrave. Craig and Chris Ponulak were probably the first teacher-pupil combination to play for the Vets or any other Farnborough team. A case of Vets getting younger and older at the same time – if that is not too much of a riddle. As Chris sagely reminded his daughter Annie before the game “I used to teach him, now he is a man”. I am not sure if Chris taught Craig any football but Craig certainly knows a thing or two about this game and he was a handful for the Avery Hill defence throughout.
Gary Rosslee – coached from behind the goal by Toby Harlow, made a number of now customary good saves to keep Avery Hill at bay. He even brought his considerable weight to bear on the Avery Hill number 10 in a wince-inducing mid-air collision (I should know – my bruising from a similar contact with Gary 8 weeks ago has only just faded). Our joy increased when Paul Smith hit an instinctive half volley from the edge of the box – not unlike the goal Fernando Torres scored against Blackburn last weekend - to put us 2-0 up. But 2-0 became 2-1 when Gary Rosslee made his contribution to a bad week for keepers (remember Cech, Reina, Fabianski) by inexplicably fumbling a shot from distance that he seemed to have well covered and appeared to pull into the net from the wrong side of the post. We shall never know if his gloves malfunctioned or if the advice from behind from Toby Harlow caused this aberration. But the goalkeeper’s curse struck again at the other end when the Avery Hill keeper dropped an easy catch at Craig Belgrave’s feet for him to poke into the net from close range, and restore our two goal advantage. Not a bad return for Craig with his third goal for the Vets in only his second game – our now joint top scorers Pete Harvey and Paul Smith will be glad the top goal scorer award is not decided on a goal per game average.
The second half brought a number of substitutions for both teams. Avery Hill also had the wind behind them and began to press us. Arguably their best player got them back into the game with a well-taken goal. He later informed Paul Tanton in one of those spicy asides that one often gets in closely contested games that he was, or had been, a Ryman’s League player – if only we’d known we could have had a reporter from the local gazette there. He would have seen the same player get a third to make it 3-3, after our defence was outnumbered 2-4 when a promising forward run by Matt Wright was ended with a stray pass and Avery Hill counter-attacked in numbers.
We tried vainly to win the game. Matt Wright pushed up. Toby Harlow came on to shore up the defence. Colin Ebdon had a shot cleared off the line. Trevor Stewart came on, and with his knack to be in the right place at the right time with his first touch, nearly put us ahead again with a close range header which was kept out by the Avery Hill player with the largest surface area. Our desire to get something out of the game was very evident in a “Jonah Lomu” moment when Roger French re-located an Avery Hill defender in a “50-50”.
We knew from losing 2-1 to Avery Hill on 15 February that they are difficult opponents with a knack for clawing their way back into games. Then we led 1-0 at half time. Today we led 3-1. In the end we were more disappointed than they were with a 3-3 draw, a fair result given the overall quality of our opponents, but we felt we had done particularly well because we were missing the spine of the team – Chris Webb in defence, Neil Connelly in the centre of midfield and Pete Harvey our top scorer up front. But we showed plenty of backbone. More of that will be needed against Cudham next week.
Man-of-the-match: Matt Wright – in a close run contest with Chris Ponulak who had probably his best game this season under examination from his former pupil.
Lastly two unsung heroes who rarely get a mention in match reports – an omission I am happy to put right: Mick Gearing – the referee, stood up to the whingeing and backchat from Avery Hill who (perhaps because they are mostly teachers) are used to telling people what to do. Mick was robust and fair and appeared less of a “homer “ than the referee we had when we played Avery Hill in February and Vic Farrow who was, I could not help noticing, working alone to get right all the little details that we take for granted – the teas, the food, the tidying up etc. and could do with a bit of help on Sunday mornings - says someone who today swept two dressing rooms, took the kit home, and wrote this match report – and I had the Liverpool fan’s cross to bear as well, as Toby Harlow reminded me before, during and after the game.