Sunday 31st January 2010
By Patrice Mongelard
Woeful 2nd half display from Farnborough Vets who go meekly to defeat
In the early morning kick-off Farnborough Vets won against Jack Frost and so this game came to be played. As we tarried to let the sun work on the tundra we had plenty of time in the clubhouse to prepare for this game.
First we decided – in the absence of our kit sponsor Trevor Stewart, off on a skiing holiday, that we would play in a different strip. From the vaults came a strip which was ancient – so much so that it could only be glimpsed on the black and white photographs of past Farnborough teams. The old kit passed the Rod Loe abdominal test but it was then realised our opponents played in red which is our predominant colour. At times during the game it looked like we were playing for the red strip but more on that later. So we ended up playing in a grey/blue kit which made us look like the Star Trek XI. But whereas they were told to “boldly go” the advice we had from Vic Farrow was “don’t f… it up”. This advice was for Toby Manchip put in charge of the padlocks for the goalposts but it could have been general advice for Toby, or the rest of us.
Farnborough lined up with: Steve Palmer in goal; Nick Kinnear, Steve Blanchard, Patrice Mongelard and Roger French in defence; Toby Manchip, Sinisa Gracanin, Andy Faulks and Colin Brazier in midfield; Paul Smith and Ian Shoebridge up front. Rod Loe, Mick Ingram and Paul Bell were the subs. Apart from the absent Ian Coles this was the same line up as for last Sunday’s triumph – but the two performances were light years part, particularly in the second half.
The first half was an evenly contested affair with Farnborough ahead on the number of saves the keepers had to make. Andy Faulks had a left-foot volley that was easy on the eye and well dealt with by the keeper who had the knack of being in the right position each time. Paul Smith had what looked like an empty goal to aim for after the Crofton keeper had fluffed a clearance after venturing to the edge of his box. A pass to an unmarked Colin Brazier at the far post looked like a better option but then again it is Smithy we are talking about.
We looked and felt comfortable – and continued to play well, though without any real clear goal chances, even after Roger French had limped off with a twisted ankle after 25 minutes and been replaced at left back by Mick Ingram. Later on we came to realise what a good job Ian Shoebridge had done in that first half by dropping deep and knitting play between midfield and forward line. The seeds of our undoing were sown in the cosmic dust when he left at half time.
That is not to say that Crofton did not pose questions in that first half. They were working hard, had crafty forwards, feisty midfielders, robust defenders and held their shape well. But a neutral watching this game unfold would not have predicted the eventual score – 15, 30 or 45 minutes into the game, a different matter at 60 minutes. By then any hopes we had of clinging on for a draw were gone (and we had certainly given up on the idea of scoring). Paul Bell and Rod Loe had come on at half time for Nick Kinnear and Ian Shoebridge. Unlike last week though we lost momentum and had trouble getting beyond the halfway line except on the break. Crofton started winning corners and from one such set-piece came their first goal. A high ball in the area looked like it was a simple catch for Steve Palmer, who was unchallenged except for that huge and low star in the sky. The ball went clean through his outstretched hands onto the meaty forehead of a Crofton defender who had gambled correctly.
We reacted briefly forcing a corner of our own which saw Steve Blanchard miss a header in the six-yard box which could have restored our drive. There was one further half chance for Paul Bell but that was the sum of it from us for that half. We sleepwalked through the rest as Crofton put their lasers on stun and scored three more goals. To add to our embarrassment they played the last 15-20 minutes with ten players, which they could afford as they had plenty of help from our side.
Conditions were tricky – the surface unpredictable making the choice of footwear a bit uncertain – but the same for both teams. We cannot say they were younger than we were, or indeed more skilled. The difference between the teams today was teamwork, attitude, desire, pride, enterprise and tactics. The management team apologise for the dismal failure of the experiment that was playing Toby Manchip in central midfield – so he won’t play there again. Next week we intend to see if Toby is the last piece of the puzzle that is our team – up front (you’d think the last piece of the puzzle would be the easiest piece to slot in but not in football).
Paltry man-of-the-match votes were tied between Steve Blanchard and Andy Faulks but to my mind the winner was Ian Shoebridge who had travelled into the future and beamed up to a pub in Highbury at half time.
Lastly, a word of thanks for Shirley who laid on the usual good spread after the game, there was plenty of comfort eating going on; and for the referee Mick Gearing who pointed out that our unbeaten record this year had gone. Things were clearly better when he wore that Farnborough kit I mentioned earlier.
Tiger Vets next week – let us hope we are the ones who burn the brightest in the cosmic night.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard and Andy Faulks