Sunday 27th February 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets Turfed out of Farrow Fields, but do it on Astroturf – to Win 7-0 against Princes Park Super Vets
As this was a home game in February the chances of the Farnborough turf being declared unfit for the winter game of football, were astronomical. And so it proved – as once again this season, a Saturday match was played with an inevitable consequence that it would queer the pitch for those lower down the Farnborough food chain, the Senior Vets, who play on Sunday.
However, thanks to enlightened team management, the goodwill of plucky opponents prepared to play on a different surface – and, of course, money that could have gone into the Farnborough coffers, going elsewhere – we played our third home game in 2011 on Astroturf. I would not bet against a turf accountant that it will be the last. I still have bitter memories of a home game called off on a very sunny 4 April last season.
Farnborough lined up like this: Gary Fentiman in goal; Colin Brazier, Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles and Danny Winter in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb, Toby Manchip and Patrice Mongelard in midfield; Andy Smith and Andy Faulks up front. Roger French, Paul Bell and Rob Lipscomb (turfed out of the Young Vets team), completed the Farnborough presence, today also augmented by Isabelle and Thomas French with their own naughty chairs. I should mention too that as the pre-arranged referee did not materialise, the emergency referee today was John Tallis – resting his hamstrings – who cut a fine figure in an American football referee top lent to him by Toby Manchip. This was not all Toby did for the referee today. I later heard of a rather puzzling exchange between John, Toby (Farnborough captain for the day), and the Princes Park captain in the centre circle to decide who would kick off – based on the question “Where is the elephant ?” - something to do with children’s playing cards from chez Manchip, as the referee did not have the proverbial coin. Toby was not only a better “tosser”, but was to answer that question later during the second half.
If I were a Princes Park player I would think that sometimes football is not fair, and their contribution to today’s game was far better than the scoreline suggests. Yes we won handsomely in the end but it took a while for Farnborough to register our first goal. Before then we had carved out several decent chances as Andy Smith, Andy Faulks, Toby Manchip, Patrice Mongelard forced saves out of the keeper; and Danny Winter hit the post. The midfield was kept ticking over nicely by Sinisa Gracanin and Chris Webb; and the defence was comfortable. We won several corners and unless I am mistaken I do not recall a single Princes Park corner in that half.
After 25 minutes of resistance Princes Park conceded the first goal as Andy Smith challenged for the ball just inside the box, noted the keeper had wandered off his line, and lobbed the ball into the net with calm assurance for a rather cool finish. This was no more than we deserved and ten minutes later Patrice Mongelard gave Farnborough the cushion of a second goal, as he anticipated a low cross from the right, outpaced his marker, and caressed the ball into the net, from two yards out, with the Princes Park keeper thrown off balance by the speed and subtlety of the move. At the other end Gary Fentiman was not too busy but still had to be vigilant for long shots and once or twice Princes Park got into dangerous positions in the box from throw-ins. His most significant action in that half was to put a goal kick on the razor wire and another FOBG ball was turfed out. Even though we had something like 25 throw-ins in that half, it felt like the game flowed quite well for both sides, and the passing and the touches were far better than could have been expected on an Astroturf pitch – with the unpredictable bounce and pace imparted to the ball by the surface. The game was played in excellent spirit.
At half-time Danny Winter left, probably wondering if we had done enough. Roger French, Paul Bell and Rob Lipscomb came on with Colin Brazier and Toby Manchip taking on new duties. Toby was handed a pale blue sock to run the line, while Colin took over with the job of minding the French mignons morceaux – and he seemed to have a calming influence on them that had eluded Papa.
The second half was even better from our point of view and the usual pause in our rhythm that often comes from our substitutions did not materialise. Roger French and Paul Bell settled into a groove on the left and a lot of good work came from there. On the other side Robin Lipscomb was a bustling, energetic presence, supported by Patrice Mongelard now playing at right back. It was from there that, ten minutes into the half, Patrice Mongelard burst past two defenders, advanced and rolled the ball, with the right weight and accuracy across the box for Paul Bell to stroke home first time with the inside of his right foot. Soon after Chris Webb, who had come very close moments earlier as he slid in and narrowly missed connecting with a Paul Bell cross, was at the far post to meet another cross and sweep the ball into the net. With the score at 4-0 and another 20 minutes or so to go Colin Brazier and Toby Manchip came back on for Steve Blanchard and Andy Smith. Chris Webb dropped back to centre half. I should dispel the rumour that this was part of a conspiracy by the management to keep him from scoring any further goals (as he was now on 5 goals along with co-manager Patrice Mongelard, who had himself rather unselfishly teed up Paul Bell for his sixth goal of the season).
After that it was the Andy Faulks show, in his penultimate game for us this season, as he proceeded to bag a hat-trick with assists from Colin Brazier, Roger French and Sinisa Gracanin if I recall correctly. It was all a bit of a blur but Andy’s movement, crisp and powerful shooting stood out. In between all this technical excellence there was a moment of pure farce as Toby Manchip did a very good impression of an elephant, doing an impression of Devon Loch as he collapsed in the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy, on his best foot. Patrice Mongelard had broken through on the right and teed up Colin Brazier, who had himself laid it on a plate for Toby. The sole Princes Park defender in the midst of this could not help commenting that this had been a 4 against 1 situation - except that the four included Toby Manchip, which evened the odds somewhat. However, Toby was still smiling in the bar later as he savoured the irony of Roger French telling him to mind his language in the presence of kids – as four of us shared a packet of crisps and a bag of peanuts. Yes – there was something else that did not materialise today - the surf and turf sandwiches normally provided by Shirley. In fact there were no sandwiches at all. Shirley had used her local knowledge of the Farnborough micro-climate, and Farrow Fields pitches, to conclude that the Senior Vets game would not be played - pity as we could not reciprocate the excellent hospitality that we have enjoyed from today’s opposition, formerly playing under the name of Welsh Tavern.
Another home game next week – and a week wondering if it is going to be case of “keep off the grass” or “Senior Vets do it on grass” for FOBG (Friends Of Beautiful Grass). I hope that like today, our opponents, Staplehurst Monarchs, will be happy to do it on Astroturf, if necessary.
Man of the match today was Andy Faulks – for a “turf-riffic” performance and a lot of running, for a man without a towel.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks