Sunday 13th March 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets Slope Off to Eynsford to Win 3-0 Against Riverside Wanderers
Thanks to Roger French this weekend’s brush with the law became a meander by a watercourse. Let me explain. Roger had moved quickly, off the pitch, late in the week, to secure this fixture – after the Met Police Super Vets had let it be known that the blue line was too thin to give us a game at The Warren - and Riverside Wanderers had cast their net, to get a game, after their original opponents too had wandered off. We are due to play Riverside Wanderers later this season in the flat Earth kingdom of Farrow Fields - but both sides were glad of a game today.
At the Farnborough quiz last night, won by Bunny Beston’s team – one of the rounds of questions, set by quizmaster Keith Beston, was road signs. I confess I looked for the road sign warning of a severe gradient once I cast eyes on the pitch. In a rural setting this was a truly agricultural meadow – tufty, bobbly, undulating and with the kind of slope that tractors have to be wary of.
In a yellow and red kit, a-hand-me–up job from the Farnborough 1st XI via the Seconds, we took to the field as follows: Gary Fentiman in goal; Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Roger French and Danny Winter in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb, Mehmet Bozyigit and Patrice Mongelard in midfield; Andy Smith and Ian Shoebridge up front. Toby Manchip and Paul Bell completed the Farnborough outfit. And so too in a way did Chris Bourlet, today’s referee for 80 minutes, and late Farnborough substitute for the last ten minutes (though it could have been less – more on that later).
Toby Manchip found himself in the centre circle, as non-starting captain, for the toss – which he duly won, and decided in a tactical masterstroke, inspired by Roger French reportedly, that we would play up the hill. Riverside Wanderers had assembled a crowd and several substitutes on the grassy bank by the pitch.
It became clear immediately what a challenge it would be to get some momentum going. There was no wind but there might as well have been. The relationship between ball and sward was unpredictable, the ball followed the topography, our opponents made the most of the terrain; they defended in numbers, worked well to counter our usual thrust on the right where Mehmet Bozyigit and Danny Winter make a potent combination, and even if they did not create clear chances we needed to be at our sharpest – particularly in central defence where Steve Blanchard and Ian Coles had to concentrate. So too did Gary Fentiman who had to come off his line sharply a couple of times. The centre of the field was congested but slowly the greater graft and craft of Sinisa Gracanin and Chris Webb gave us the platform to defy gravity, and keep the ball in the Riverside Wanderers half more than ours, as we strung more passes together than they did and there was more of a recognisable pattern to our play.
A neutral would agree that the better chances in that half were ours. Andy Smith was an effective target man and presence in the opposition box, and held the play up well, and won numerous headers, while Ian Shoebridge bustled and hustled. Ian had arguably the best chance of the first twenty minutes, as the ball broke to him just inside the box with the keeper slightly off his line, but he lofted the ball wide. Patrice Mongelard whipped a dangerous swerving free kick from the left which nearly brought the first goal. Sinisa Gracanin produced the shot of the half with a clean dipping drive, with hardly any backlift, from 25 yards out, that was very easy on the eye as it flew six inches above the bar. In the bar later, we were told that the 0-0 score at half time, had silenced the home crowd, as Riverside Wanderers knew what would happen in the second half.
First though we refreshed the left side of the Farnborough team as Toby Manchip and Paul Bell came on for Roger French and Patrice Mongelard. After the first even ten minutes Farnborough began to turn the screw and the chances started coming. The deadlock was broken when Toby Manchip had wandered inside from the left back position and lofted the ball over the defence for Ian Shoebridge, to advance, control the ball, look the keeper in the eye and coolly slide the ball into the bottom corner. This seemed to lift a weight off Ian’s shoulders. The world will be divided between those who say Toby intended that pass, and others who say this was a hopeful punt by someone running out of space in a congested area. I know what I think. This was the pivotal moment of the game – but soon after, sadly, Toby got injured and Patrice Mongelard took up the left back position.
The goal settled us, and we created many chances in the last twenty five minutes. One of these led to an own goal as a dangerous cross was whipped in from the right by Sinisa Gracanin and went in off a defender. Paul Bell had two or three good chances to put us further ahead – including a one-to-one, and a right foot shot that was sweetly struck but the ball refused to dip and curl into the top corner. The ball bobbled as Mehmet Bozyigit was about to pull the trigger from six yards out, either to shoot or square the ball to Andy Smith unmarked at the far post (probably the former). Chris Webb produced an acrobatic scissor kick that saw the ball hit the inside of the post. Our third goal, and Ian Shoebridge’s second of the match, came as he ran on to a slide rule of a pass from Paul Bell to beat the covering defender and place the ball into the bottom corner from close range. Roger French came back on and went up front to replace Andy Smith, looking for a goal that never got close. So did Patrice Mongelard too, from left back, who tried hard and in vain – including most notably from a free kick that stung the keeper’s hands in the dying minutes.
Riverside Wanderers found it very hard to penetrate our box in the second half, and Gary had not much to do, which gave him time to compute the number of seconds that had elapsed since we last conceded a goal, as we registered a fourth consecutive clean sheet. Our opponents today had to soak up a lot of pressure, and compete all over the pitch for little reward, but at no point did they lose their composure and the game was played in excellent spirit – so much so that Mehmet Bozyigit had little to do when he took over the referee’s whistle for Chris Bourlet who wanted to kick the ball for the last ten minutes. Toby Manchip’s attempt to substitute Chris after only 30 seconds was amusing (though perhaps not for Chris) in a schoolboyish sort of way.
After the game we made the short walk to the Five Bells pub – which became six Bells (and a Brazier) for a while. In this oak-beamed, low-ceilinged, confined space with limited ventilation – I am relieved that Paul Bell was a no-emission zone. This was welcome as we sat with congenial hosts who placed a couple of jugs on the table and chatted, looking forward to the return game. There was even cheese and biscuits I am told – but for once I was in the wrong position for the après match sustenance – which I cannot write about because Roger French made very short work of it.
Man of the match today was – another defender – Ian Coles (no doubt pleased to win something, after coming second in the quiz last night, in my team).
Man of the match: Ian Coles