Sunday 2nd May 2010
By Patrice Mongelard
Staplehurst & Monarchs Vets nick last-gasp equaliser against generous Farnborough in 2-2 draw
Although we have played Staplehurst & Monarchs Vets only once before we should have realised that history has a way of repeating itself, as once again they would have been happier with the result than we were, and the manner of it.
The Jubilee Sports Ground in Headcorn Road in Staplehurst is I think the furthest we have travelled this season. It felt like we travelled back in time too as the temperature peaked at 6 degrees centigrade (that is fourteen degrees lower than in Orpington the day before), and the rain was biblical for hours. Still it made for a pitch that could take a stud and the lush grass provided us with a true and very good playing surface that suited a passing game, albeit on a greasy surface. The facilities too were excellent – with spacious dressing rooms, modern showers and two spotless toilets (well until Toby Manchip rendered one of them temporarily unsafe).
The squad was a bit depleted this week but we managed to get 13 players to make this trip: Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Nick Kinnear, Steve Blanchard and Mick Ingram in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb, Colin Brazier and Mark Perry in midfield; Toby Manchip and Gary Magnus up front. Tim Osbourne and Rod Loe were the subs.
We proceeded to have one of the most enjoyable games we have had this season in spite of the rain, played in excellent spirit and refereed fairly and with a smile. Even our opponents would agree that we had the better of the first half hour or so – with many fluent passing moves, though Staplehurst & Monarchs were not without danger. In fact Gary had to pull off a great save low to his left, to divert a goal bound header past the post before we took the lead. And what a goal it was: I counted a string of six passes before Chris Webb lofted the ball (a bit like a golf shot) to the far post where Toby Manchip timed his run to perfection to nod the ball past the keeper. This was no more than we deserved. Gary up front was Magnus the magnificent – with clever runs, close control and always available.
But then we gave the first of our two gifts to Staplehurst & Monarch today as from a corner, Mick Ingram crafted an own goal for them. From what I remember he was on his own at the far post, under no pressure from the opposition, with a clear view of the ball which he went to clear but instead managed to slice off the side of his good foot and impart backspin to and cause to trickle over the line behind him. To be fair Staplehurst & Monarchs had the last 15 minutes of that half as they put pressure down our left mainly.
Tim Osbourne and Rod Loe came on at half time for Mark Perry and Mick Ingram and we continued the game in the same vein – with our opponents playing on the break. We forced several corners and came close to scoring more than once. Gary Magnus had a shot that came off the crossbar. Toby Manchip attempted a lamentable Berbatov-style bicycle kick that came out as quadbike kick as the ball went for a throw-in. But more Spurs-inspired technique came later as Colin Brazier headed the ball (a bit like Alan Gilzean he thought but with more hair) into Toby Manchip’s path to give us a 2-1 lead with about 15 minutes to go.
We held that lead until 44 minutes and 47 seconds of that second half. I see it now in my mind’s eye – in slow motion. Staplehurst & Monarchs had fired their last bolt (so we thought) – gathered safely by Gary Fentiman diving forward. But as he fell to the ground the ball squirmed out of his cold and wet grasp and frantic attempts to claw it back only succeeded in putting the ball in the path of the one lucky Staplehurst & Monarchs forward who had gambled correctly. He was surrounded by two Farnborough defenders who had switched off and were looking in the other direction in anticipation of a goal kick. This was very harsh on Gary who until then had coped with everything that Staplehurst & Monarchs had thrown at him, in the air, on the ground, from close and from distance. 2-2 and with just enough time to take the ball back to the centre circle and it was all over. Farnborough pockets picked again by artful dodgers from Staplehurst – for those of you who remember the first match we played against them!
After the game eleven of us made our way to the King's Head at the top of the hill in Staplehurst High Street. The monarch on the pub sign looked like Henry VIII – ironic I thought that he kept his head, while several of his wives did not – and in a way we too failed to keep our head and close the game out today.
Man of the match was Toby Manchip who feels that at last in May he has sent the management a strong and clear message about his best playing position. I cannot confirm this but I think I heard it said that Toby had been up all night putting up Vote Manchip signs in the Staplehurst area. I thought the signs said Vote Helen Grant but I may be wrong. Still I do not see the good Staplehurst folk voting for Manchip seeing he has scored four times against them in two games. They could, I dare say, vote for a Mick Ingram-Gary Fentiman dream ticket though!
For the second time in a few days I found myself in a pub after a game of vets football for Farnborough, with friendly and sociable opposition, and Liverpool on the box (same result I fear). And, at the risk of miffing our Shirley, I should say Staplehurst & Monarchs' hospitality more than matched our own as a steaming vat of turkey curry, parsley-flecked rice and chunky chips appeared. Whilst I was in the wrong position to stop the Staplehurst equalisers, I was in the right place to do justice to the curry. As I tucked into my third helping – one of the Staplehurst & Monarchs management team asked how many players called Pat were on the pitch for Farnborough as he heard that name often during the game. All the Pats tucked into the curry – after all Roger French, Mark Perry and Mick Ingram said I could have their share! As I made my way home in the rain I could not help look forward to playing this team again next season – no matter what the weather.
Man of the match: Toby Manchip