Sunday 6th March 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets Leave it Fashionably Late to Nick 1-0 Win
Games between Farnborough Senior Vets and Staplehurst Monarchs tend to be close affairs with late goals ā la mode. And so it was again today – more on the last minute dramatic dénouement later.
This was the best team we have beaten this season: well-disciplined, organised, physical in an athletic not a rugged way, balanced, hard-working (and perhaps having used all their luck against us in our two previous encounters to date). For such a close game – it was telling that today’s referee Roy Seymour had only to blow for only about 6 free-kicks in the whole match - such was the fairness of the contest, and the sportsmanship of the two teams.
On an overcast, dry, and cold day – colder still in the wind, Farnborough lined up in a kit that was once white but was now the colour of the sky and crucially bearing the Farnborough badge, like this: Jim St John in goal; Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Nick Kinnear and Danny Winter in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb, Mehmet Bozyigit and Patrice Mongelard in midfield; Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge up front. Roger French, Paul Bell and John Tallis completed the Farnborough équipe, along with Isabelle and Thomas French inside their windbreak.
Our keeper today was a loan from the younger vets – a comforting, reassuring and towering presence that inspired confidence and gave us a solid platform to work from. Jim was called upon more than once in the first half, mainly to pluck crosses and high balls out of the air, and once memorably, to rush off his line to dive at the feet of a Staplehurst forward. The first half, and probably the whole game, can be said to have been one those where the defences were on top. Staplehurst had a tight quartet of six footers at the back who were comfortable on the ball, and made it difficult for us to penetrate. When we had shots these were scuffed, long range, off target, tame or well-claimed by an experienced keeper who knew his job. The closest we came to breaking the deadlock was when Andy Faulks’ pirouette in the box looked like it had been defender-assisted but the referee was unmoved.
Considering we were playing against the wind in that half we managed to keep a lot of the play in the Staplehurst half, mainly with greater continuity in our passing, but had to be vigilant because there was enough quality in Staplehurst to punish any lapses and they were quite adept at moving the ball along the back four to launch raids down the flanks.
Both teams put a lot of effort into midfield where Sinisa Gracanin and Chris Webb had titanic games today for Farnborough. Things were tight down the flanks too and on the whole this was not a half with many memorable chances, or half chances even. There were I think only two corners in that half – one each inevitably.
At half time Patrice Mongelard, Nick Kinnear and Ian Coles made way for John Tallis, Roger French and Paul Bell. Now playing with the wind we were able to exert more pressure and on the whole created more chances in that half and came closer to scoring. There was a passage of play when we forced three consecutive corners in almost as many minutes. Ian Shoebridge had a great chance to give us the lead – having been set up by Paul Bell – but failed to bend the ball round the keeper from six yards out. This was Ian’s first game in three weeks and although the effort and running was there as always, he was a touch rusty. Paul Bell too came close at the end of a bustling run that took him past two defenders and ended with a wayward shot. John Tallis slotted in at the back and played his usual composed and elegant game and gave us an extra menace in the Staplehurst box from corners and free-kicks.
With twenty minutes left, Ian Shoebridge and Mehmet Bozyigit, both looking more than a little spent, retired from the fray and Ian Coles and Patrice Mongelard returned. This meant that John could prove his versatility by becoming a new and effective target man – although he claims that he “does not do running”. He was able even to make a sliced shot from Patrice Mongelard, look good by re-directing it with a header towards goal.
But this not a one-way affair, far from it, particularly as there was a risk that we might commit too many players forward in our eagerness to get what was likely to be the winning goal as the minutes ticked away. Roger French had to put in saving tackles twice, and Steve Blanchard was well placed, to clear the ball off the line on the one occasion when Jim St John was beaten. And Staplehurst hit the bar from a long range shot.
And then just when we thought this would be our first draw this season – Danny Winter produced yet another overlapping run into the Staplehurst half. He advanced almost as far as the edge of the box – played a perfectly weighted and angled pass into the path of an onside Patrice Mongelard who darted into the six yard box, and without having to change the direction or pace of the ball, or break his step, slotted a smooth sliding shot beyond the reach of the advancing keeper into the bottom corner. What was left of the game was taken up with much badge-kissing by the scorer, and thirty seconds later the final whistle could be heard.
And thus we had our third consecutive clean sheet – and for Patrice Mongelard at the age of 53 scoring for a third consecutive Sunday and the only senior vet I think to score in three consecutive matches this season – and to think the management is minded to let him take penalties for the rest of the season. Someone else who has scored a lot, Andy Faulks, was playing his last game for us this season, and will be anxiously wondering if his 13 goals will top the table by the end of the season. Andy will be back, and if you want to place a bet on the exact date – please see Nick Kinnear. There was another game of chance today – a scratch card jackpot of £24 won by Sinisa Gracanin, with his choice of Swansea.
There were several other winners at Farnborough today: (i) Shirley for a most excellent spread for four vets teams at Farnborough (I did it justice I think with 9 chicken drumsticks, 11 mini sausage rolls, 6 cocktail sausages and half a mini pork pie). Paul Bell’s digestive system finished off the prawn sandwiches (you have to feel for Mrs Bell) (ii) Keith Beston and helpers, for working miracles with both pitches so that today’s games could be played; (iii) Vic Farrow for being re-united with an errant corner flag; (iv) Roger French, for whom the figures finally added up at £73; (v) the Young Vets, handsome 9-2 winners against a team with a Brazilian name. Runners-up I fear were the Farnborough showers and the tea – on a rather cold day.
Lastly, on a religious note, this week we mark Shrove Tuesday on the eve of Ash Wednesday – taking us into Lent. There will be a lot of tossing on Tuesday, including perhaps chez Manchip (absent today rightly for a more important matter), and it may even inspire some of us to give something up for Lent, even if it is only pancakes. Before you ask – I am giving up chicken drumsticks.
Man of the match today was – unsurprisingly, a defender – Steve Blanchard.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard