Sunday 29th January 2006
By Colin Mant
Farnborough Vets travelled to the Croygas Ground, Wallington, buoyed by the return from injury of stalwarts Ian Couchman and Kevin Wolstencroft, hoping to break their duck and seal their first win of the season.
With Pompey and Couchey starting on the bench, Toby Harlow named a line-up of Toby ‘the Juggler’ Manchip in goal, a back four consisting of Chris Bourlet, Steve Blanchard, Patrice Mongelard and Ian Coles, the midfield engine room featured Paul Scotter, Chris Ponulak, Toby Harlow and a guest appearance from Thirds regular Colin Brazier. Late arrival Colin Mant and Dave Asseltine were assigned the duty of firing the bullets to win the Battle of the Baltic and it was conditions consistent with that region of the world that greeted the Vets. A rock hard and icy pitch made conditions hazardous, but an undaunted Baltic informed us they had played on worse!!
The play started gingerly with both sides wary of the underfoot conditions and both sides looking to make their mark on the game. Both teams applied early pressure but Baltic got the breakthrough when a diagonal ball entered FOBG’s box between defender and keeper and their striker lifted the ball over the advancing Toby to give them the lead.
These days the Vets are not the pushovers they once were earlier in the season and soon equalised when Paul Scotter whipped in a corner and Colin Mant, to everyone’s surprise including himself, seemed to shin the ball in from close range to bring the game level. More a case of ball to player than player to ball, but they all count. However with Farnborough creating more and playing with more confidence of late it was against the run of play when Baltic regained the lead. With the ball pinballing around on the edge of the box, and no one able to clear, it fell kindly to a Baltic player and his well-struck shot fizzed into the bottom left corner from 18 yards.
Once again though Farnborough quickly equalised through a set piece. Chris Ponulak’s long-throw was flicked on by Dave Asseltine and Colin Mant’s first effort was parried by Baltic’s keeper but stabbed in on the second time of asking to take him to top scorer on 7 for the season. With half-time beckoning Dave Asseltine had the opportunity of taking us into the break in front, but he put Paul Scotter’s cut-back into the box inches wide to keep the sides level.
The second half saw us go to sleep slightly, and Baltic made a couple of changes to press forward with more confidence, and a couple of warning salvoes seemed to wake us up and inspire us. With Toby Harlow snapping away competing for every ball like it was his last and Chris Ponulak trying to provide a creative spark we pressed for the elusive first win. Kevin Wolstencroft replaced the solid Chris Bourlet and Ian Couchman came on for Dave Asseltine but opportunities came and went for both teams, the most notable when Couchey’s late far post header somehow hit the surprised Baltic keeper from close range and the half-clearance fell to Colin Mant at the edge of the box who fired high and handsome of the target. Toby Manchip continued his excellent form this season with another man of the match performance, producing a brilliant point blank save which looped onto the bar and over and the game looked destined for a more than deserved draw. But in typical Farnborough fashion there was a final twist in the tale, and with the game in injury time Baltic threw one more ball into the box. Toby Harlow won the header, but the ball fell fortunately for their striker who prodded the ball the ball into the net to break our hearts once again and leave us choked on a day when a win wouldn’t have been a harsh result on the opposition.
All in all though the performance was probably our best of the season with us matching Baltic in all departments. We competed for every ball, the team seems to be gelling well with the new faces settling in, and the understanding between players is improving. If we can improve on winning the second ball that first and oh-so sweet victory will soon be on the cards.