Sunday 23rd January 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior vets Short Changed by a Youthful Baltic Exchange Side in 3-0 Defeat
This was a bitter pill to swallow: our heaviest defeat (out of five, alongside ten wins) and only the second game this season that we have failed to score a goal. And to think too that our only clean sheet this season came in the narrow 1-0 win against Baltic on 7 November. As often happens in football the score does not tell the story of this game, which left us feeling ill-tempered and bruised, a bit like after a tangle with Roger French.
Today’s pitch at the Post Office Ground in Trenham Drive, Warlingham could be reached in a number of ways from Farnborough, some taking longer than others, and between us the Farnborough team must have tried them all – given the staggered arrivals. Even the kit took its time to get there, and after we survived the toilets, après Paul Bell, and had changed we were still short of Roger French and the all important management charts and team options.
So Patrice Mongelard, co-manager, after a brief moment of tactical thinking changed by Sinisa Gracanin’s arrival, advised that Farnborough would line up as follows: Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles and Mehmet Bozyigit in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb, Mark Perry and Toby Manchip in midfield; Ian Shoebridge and John Tallis up front. Roger French, Paul Bell and Nick Kinnear stood ready to exchange places at half time.
As always against this side we were expecting a hard game and we quickly realised that compared with the side that played us at Farrow Fields on 7 November – this Baltic side had seen rather fewer birthdays, and included several fresh faces, including a giant in midfield ideally suited to the oval ball we thought, as confirmed later. The referee was also an ex-Baltic player, doubling up as team manager as he orchestrated their tactics and substitutions.
The opening 15 to 20 minutes were brisk and evenly contested. The Baltic tackling was muscular but they had three or four players with no little skill, and we had to work hard to deny them (inluding one who looked a lot like Eric Cantona’s little brother and who could play a bit) - any goalscoring opportunities. Then we gave away a goal as one of their forwards was able to drop off, control a cross just outside the box, and put in a shot across the goal that Gary Fentiman tracked, called for, caught, clasped to his body only for the ball to slip out of his hands and rest in the Farnborough net.
To our credit we did not let this disappointment trouble us too long as we put the Baltic goal under pressure forcing several corners in succession. Two of these saw a header from Chris Webb turned onto the bar by the Baltic keeper and another header, this time from Mark Perry cleared, off the line. At the other end Gary Fentiman made a smart save low to his right to divert a ball travelling towards the bottom corner.
At half time we felt we deserved to be level, given the amount of play we had had in the Baltic half. Patrice Mongelard and Mark Perry made way for Roger French and Paul Bell. If anything we were to have more and clearer opportunities to score in the second half and this makes the final score harsh to take.
Baltic threatened early in the half but after two great saves from Gary Fentiman and stout defending from Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, and Chris Webb (who was mistakenly taken for a rugby player by an aforementioned Baltic player) we began to create opportunities. Toby Manchip swung a dangerous cross from the left which Ian Shoebridge controlled neatly in the six yard box, turned, with his body now facing the goal. And with only the keeper to beat, and with no Baltic defender near him, Ian rolled the ball wide. Another great chance fell to Mehmet Bozyigit who had once again gone on an overlapping run but he shot narrowly wide from six yards out.
At the other end we were putting in some meaty tackles of our own, notably from Roger French. Gary Fentiman was, as they say keeping us in the game with some very good saves which made the aberration of the first Baltic goal even harder to comprehend. One low diving save was made as Baltic cheers were going up for a goal. Nick Kinnear came on, and Mark Perry returned for John Tallis and Toby Manchip – as we reshuffled the side to increase the number of Farnborough players in and an around the Baltic box in our search for an equaliser. For a brief while it looked like it might work.
Well - as commentators often say, the next goal was to be the crucial one. Baltic broke into the box from the right side of our defence and a tricky dribble ended in bodily contact with Ian Coles. The penalty was awarded and scored, despite protestations which left the referee unmoved. Ian Coles, at that point having reached incandescence, decided to vacate the field of play and John Tallis returned to the centre of defence. Toby Manchip rushed to the dressing room partly to offer counselling to Ian - but mainly to open the locked door, to prevent damage to Post Office property.
That was not the end of it, far from it. A third Baltic goal followed – a messy affair in the box as a series of sliding tackles failed to clear the ball and it was poked over the line in a scrappy passage of play. We then had an incident that could have boiled over in a red mist. Roger French and a burly but skilful Baltic midfielder tangled, indulged in afters, and compared handbags. Fearing it was all about to kick off (and this after I thought last Sunday that this sort of thing does not happen in vets games) I quickly ushered Master Thomas and Miss Isabelle French in their shelter – there are things that children should not witness. But it all calmed down.
There was even time for the referee to award us a penalty – it had taken a while to come, but sadly, Ian Shoebridge put it wide of the top corner. This was a bad day in the office for one of our most reliable performers (and the scorer of our goal when we beat Baltic at home).
Afterwards we sat in the bar and analysed the game as players normally do, and all felt a bit hard done by. The Baltic referee brought us sandwiches and cold sausage rolls, and a jug of Fosters. The beer was a nice (and clever) touch.
So our unbeaten run in 2011 has ended, and we now look forward to three consecutive home games (and Shirley’s warm sausage rolls), and Mr Manchip in goal for our next two games we hope.
Farnborough Man of the Match today was Steve Blanchard for a performance that deserved a lot better than this score.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard