Sunday 26th April 2009
By Patrice Mongelard
“Vets regress with 4-1 defeat against Cudham”
Statistics do not lie. On 21 September 2008 we managed a 0-0 draw against Cudham, who arguably fielded a better team on that day. Our self-belief and confidence this season owed much to that game. Today all that drained away in the spring sunshine when so much effort was spent elsewhere on the London Marathon. And we felt the Farnborough of old had returned – lazy, sloppy, no cover for the defence, a fair bit of bickering and recrimination, low presence in the opposition box, ball given away, stray passes, poor tackling etc. This was not a very enjoyable experience for playing and reporting, and the best thing about the game was the sunshine.
The team on the starting line today was Matt Wright in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Steve Blanchard, Chris Webb and Roger French in defence; Paul Tanton, Ian Shoebridge, Neil Connelly and Colin Ebdon in midfield; Craig Belgrave and Paul Smith up front. Subs were Trevor Stewart, Toby Harlow and Simon Harvey (all of whom came on). We were missing a few, in particular, our first three choices for the goalkeeping position.
The first twenty minutes or so suggested that there may be some truth in rumours that Cudham were not quite the team of old. We matched them but no team fashioned any clear cut chances in that period. We attacked more and that tended to leave us exposed to rapid breaks and from one such moment came the first Cudham goal as a cross-cum-shot went in under Matt’s body. Matt had been excellent until then. We became hesitant and Cudham took advantage with a second goal that owed more to us than to them.
Harsh words were said at half time. Our Manager Toby Harlow talked of the worst first half performance by Farnborough this season and we were sent out to enjoy our football. Toby’s motivational technique, which includes not answering his phone to Paul Tanton before a game in order to “pump him up”, seemed to work as we clawed our way back to make it 2-1. Even that goal though lacked conviction – as the keeper diverted a Neil Connelly shot into his goal.
For the next quarter of an hour or so we gave Cudham much to think about as we threatened an equaliser. But some of the failings mentioned above returned as we conceded two further goals – the third Cudham goal was a great strike but we could not help feeling that we had contributed to it. When the final whistle came we welcomed it more than Cudham and our mutterings carried on.
We were reminded before the game that 22 years ago Vic Farrow ran the London Marathon in 4 hours, 39 minutes and 3 seconds. Some of our players would still be running that marathon based on the energy levels they showed today. Nobody minds losing but it is the way it comes about that rankles.
Now that I have mentioned Vic Farrow I ought to mention our referee too – Mick Gearing. In particular, I should recall the moment when Mick put his body in the way of a pile driver on the edge of the box in the first half. We’ll never know if that would have gone in but it will hurt in the morning. That moment apart it cannot be said that Cudham would have felt they were playing against twelve men. Mick was fair throughout as ever, if a little economical – he did at times seem to be practising what I’d call tantric refereeing – the whistle was in the mouth a lot but there was no blowing.
We did see one of our missing keepers after the game: Toby Manchip breezed in for the sandwiches and a beer, his return to Farnborough from Manchester delayed allegedly by a night out with Rio Ferdinand and Jamie Redknapp. I think he mentioned that Rio would be having a routine drugs test this morning. I reckon that if Manchip had one at the same time the presence of hallucinatory substances would be detected.
Man of-the-match was Ian Shoebridge who ran his usual half-marathon during the game.
Two more games left this season: Santos next week. Let us pray that we can restore our faith in the team next week and produce some samba football. We need a good finish to the season as talk of running a second Vets team next season gathers momentum, and performances like today’s do not help.