Sunday 24th January 2010
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough artists come back at Baltic Exchange in 2-1 win
At last, after weeks of cancellations we had a game and made our way (eventually for some) to somewhere on the other side of Biggin Hill to take on opponents who had beaten us 3-0 on 8 November. But today we felt we had a stronger squad and for the first time in weeks we had a recognised goalkeeper, in Steve Palmer making a very welcome return to the team.
Farnborough lined up with: Steve Palmer in goal; Nick Kinnear, Steve Blanchard, Patrice Mongelard and Roger French in defence; Ian Coles, Toby Manchip, Sinisa Gracanin and Colin Brazier in midfield; Paul Smith and Ian Shoebridge up front. Rod Loe, Mick Ingram, Paul Bell and (after a little while) Andy Faulks were the subs.
The game started with a minute silence in remembrance of a Baltic Exchange player who passed away earlier this week following a road accident. Watching from above he would have seen a tough but fair game, played on a heavy pitch with the outcome uncertain until quite late with his team giving a very good account of themselves against a Farnborough team regaining its self-belief after weeks of poor performances.
Generally we struggled to have the same impact as Baltic in the first half. We had as much if not more of the ball, strung a lot of passes together but did not achieve the same sort of danger or penetration that Baltic generated. They were more direct, quicker in the midfield, their two mobile forwards stretched our back four which was often left exposed by our midfield. Steve Palmer was thankfully vigilant and rushed off his line to clear danger when necessary.
The Baltic goal when it came – 15 minutes or so into the game, was not entirely a surprise though we were disappointed with the manner of it. The cross swung in from their right did not look that dangerous until their centre forward muscled himself into a good position to get to the ball first and nod it in from close range. Baltic were to hit the post soon after and that woke us up. We pressed hard, forced several corners, had a few long-range shots and Patrice Mongelard supplied several crosses from the right. Toby Manchip produced a memorable header that came off the crossbar from one such cross. Less memorable was his tame 25-yard free-kick that should have been left to the dead ball specialists in the team. Although we finished the half 1-0 down we sensed that by end of that half we had began to gain the upper hand and could look forward to the second half.
And what a half we produced. Roger French and Nick Kinnear made way for Andy Faulks and Rod Loe. The first ten minutes or so were a little inconclusive as we adjusted to the new positions. Baltic could still threaten – and produced a lob from 18 yards that looked like it had gone in until Steve Palmer produced a contortion of great agility to tip the ball over. This was a good omen – our last match in December had been lost 5-0 with five chipped or lobbed goals. Paul Bell and Mick Ingram came on for Toby Manchip and Colin Brazier fifteen minutes into the half.
We found our second wind. Suddenly we were quicker to the ball, became more compact in defence with Patrice Mongelard taking on the role of the holding (and shouting) midfielder and we began to penetrate the Baltic box more often – from the flanks and from central runs in particular by Ian Shoebridge and Paul Smith. It was only a matter of time before we would score.
When our first goal came it was a piece of great artistry carved out of the primeval mud – that would not be out of place in the other Baltic Exchange in Gateshead, as Paul Smith produced a delicate chip from 20-yards that left the Baltic keeper rooted to the spot as he admired the arc of the ball taking it into the bottom corner.
Another exhibit for Gateshead – came ten minutes later as we went after maximum points. Andy Faulks had been lurking menacingly on the edge of the box and was there when he controlled a misdirected Steve Blanchard header on his chest and produced a dipping half-volley that looked like a goal from the moment he struck it. It flew past the keeper and landed in the same bottom corner where Paul Smith’s shot had a little earlier.
After that we could have made it 3-1 as Paul Smith caused more problems to the Baltic defence from the right and Paul Bell – a Geordie, narrowly failing to make his mark at the Baltic Exchange. There were a couple of final hairy moments in defence as we had to deal with some Baltic corners but in the end our win was well deserved. The four Farnborough subs that came on today played their part in full and it is fair to say that for the first time in weeks we feel optimistic about future games – not least because of the confidence that Steve Palmer’s return has brought us. We are unbeaten this year and hope to keep it that way.
The mood in the clubhouse after the game was good even after lukewarm showers – with well-filled sandwiches, sausages and chips. There were even a couple of Toby Manchip jokes – one about his early substitution being a ploy by the management team of French & Mongelard to deny him the man of the man vote which by the way went to Ian “marathon-man” Shoebridge; and another about the outcome of the FA cup replay between Leeds and Spurs which I will not repeat.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge