Sunday 24th April 2011
By Patrice Mongelard
No Easter Eggs for Hot, Cross Senior Vets after Frustrating Hunt Ends in Harsh 2-0 Defeat
There were not many of the fourteen Farnborough senior vets out there today, in the bright warm sunshine, who will recall playing Ditton Vets at the same ground. I am one of them, and once again came away empty handed, but the manner of our defeat was so different from the past. This was only the fourth game this season that we failed to score – but that was not for lack of trying, and there was much encouragement to be taken from our performance today and the attitude we showed as a team. The score was a poor reflection of the amount of possession we had and the pressure we exerted, and scoring opportunities that we created.
The bijou dressing room was enlivened before the game with Toby Manchip’s impression of a Croatian satnav, and some reflections on the religious significance of donkeys on Palm Sunday. This raised the tone from exchanges on waste management, despite promptings from Nick Kinnear and Paul Bell.
The Farnborough Easter parade featured: Toby Manchip in goal; Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Danny Winter and Nick Kinnear in defence; Patrice Mongelard, Ian Shoebridge, Mehmet Bozyigit and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; John Tallis and Leo Maccioni up front. Paul Bell, Chris Bourlet and Eric Johnson completed the procession into Ditton (though technically Chris Bourlet was already there).
The Ditton vets were solid, experienced and well organised. However, the early advantage lay with Farnborough as we fashioned some half chances – Mehmet Bozyigit and Leo Maccioni combined to create a shot that Leo flashed past the post. John Tallis produced a couple of dangerous headers from crosses. The first corners were ours too. This said, we were not able to make our usual progress down the right – and the robust play of Ditton in the centre of the pitch where any Farnborough hesitation, or slow movement was punished; their alertness to the second ball, excellence at headers, and muscular tackling from their defenders – made it very competitive. Up front they had a mobile and skilful target man who stretched our defence.
Then - a little against the run of play, Ditton scored after twenty minutes, with virtually their first serious attempt on our goal – the big forward cushioned a pass on the edge of our box, in the path of an advancing midfielder who hit a powerful 25-yarder that flew straight at the centre of our goal, and hit the underside of the bar to bounce into the net. This was a wake-up call. We pressed harder. Patrice Mongelard floated a ball over the Ditton defence that put Ian Shoebridge through in a one-to-one but the keeper made it difficult, and the rebound was volleyed wide by Mehmet Bozyigit. We continued to press but had a major scare when Ditton beat the offside trap but failed to get a second as Toby Manchip and a covering Ian Coles narrowed the angle. There were not many other scares for us in that half and having had about 60% of the possession we felt we could recover the situation.
Patrice Mongelard, John Tallis and Nick Kinnear made way at half-time for Paul Bell, Chris Bourlet and Eric Johnson. Right from the resumption of play Farnborough chances started to come. Paul Bell put Ian Shoebridge through for another one-to-one that drew a very good point blank save from the keeper. Leo Maccioni hit a 25-yarder that was less than a foot wide. We came even closer when a shot from the same distance, from Sinisa Gracanin came back off the base of the post, with the excellent Ditton keeper beaten. Ditton had withdrawn their burly and athletic centre forward with the cultured left foot, into the heart of their defence and seemed to have made the tactical decision to sit on their lead, and hope for a second goal on the break. With about fifteen to twenty minutes left Patrice Mongelard and John Tallis returned (for Steve Blanchard and Ian Shoebridge). The Farnborough chances kept coming - in particular Eric Johnson got to the end of a through ball and drew another reflex save from the Ditton keeper.
As often happens the team pressing for an equaliser was punished. Some loose defensive play was seized upon and a Ditton forward was able to toepoke the ball into the bottom corner of the net before he could be closed down at the edge of the box.
Ditton felt secure enough at that point to change keeper – and we were to find out that the replacement keeper was even better, as first he palmed a free kick from Mehmet Bozigit onto the bar and minutes later defied gravity and geometry to tip over a piledriver from Patrice Mongelard destined for the top corner. That was virtually the last action.
Our play in the second half had been even more impressive (but also more frustrating). At times we looked like the home team, but Ditton knew their business, and from their point of view they frustrated us and got the sucker punch of a second goal with about 8 minutes left and that was it.
A word about the referee today – who I was told came from the Isle of Sheppey. Now – don’t get me wrong, some of the most fair-minded people I know come from Sheppey. I am married to one. But I am sure I was not alone in thinking that he was a very local man. He let the game flow – as they say, and there were a lot of Ditton tackles from the back. Pity, because the all round quality and intelligence of the Ditton play and individual skills on show – does not require that sort of behaviour to win games. Almost at the end of the match - Chris Bourlet was scythed down, quite unnecessarily. I sought the referee’s view of the matter – and was told that he saw “absolutely nothing wrong with that tackle”. When I replied that this was precisely my point, I was told that he was prepared “to take things to the next level”. As I am the less volatile half of the FOBG senior vets management I will never know what he meant.
However – you should not get the impression that there was any bad feeling – far from it, we were hard done by, but such is football. This was certainly not one of those occasions where we felt we would not wish to play this team again. On the contrary. Off the pitch they were pleasant and sociable – and treated us very well in the Kentish Quarryman after the match – with egg, ham and cheese sandwiches, pizza slices, sausage rolls, onion rings, and oriental bites. And we even bought some raffle tickets – Toby Manchip bought two, “one for each of the Ditton shots in the game”, a remark which brought a wry Ditton smile.
Another testing fixture in the depths of Kent awaits next Sunday, with a few players missing, including some because of the wedding – for which the happy couple has all Farnborough Old Boys Guild senior vets best wishes.
Man of the match today – Sinisa Gracanin, particularly for an excellent second half noted by Toby, narrowly ahead of Ian Coles who toiled like a Duracell Easter bunny in our defence.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin