Sunday 26th February 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets swallow bitter pill as Princes Park rule at the end
Another Sunday, another glorious sunny spring day in February but there was a much sterner test in prospect for us than last week. Our opponents were a little late in taking the field but we did not mind. We were informed relatively late that they played in yellow and that meant a change of kit for us. Most of us had to change again as our yellow kit was taken off and replaced with a white kit. I should say two white kits as two additional kit bags were brought in. Picture the mad scramble that ensued – like opening a KFC in Somalia said a most politically incorrect voice, more like the Next sale on Boxing Day.
When we were all correctly attired we lined up like this: Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard and Danny Winter in defence; Rob Lipscomb, Chris Webb, Nick Waller and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Paul Smith and Andy Faulks in attack. Paul Bell ran the line whilst Roger French, Mick O’Flynn and Colin Brazier sat on the bench bathed in sunshine.
I am not going to dwell too much on the first 85 minutes. The first half belonged to Princes Park particularly the last quarter of an hour. We struggled to penetrate their box, lacked energy and a cutting edge. When we did get behind them we could not hit the target or force their keeper to make difficult saves. They had more of the ball and kept our defence and keeper busier. The best scoring chance of the half fell to them and only a memorable point blank clearing header on the line from Danny Winter prevented a certain goal. Colin Brazier and Mick O’Flynn came on for Patrice Mongelard and Paul Smith midway through the half.
The squad was rotated again at half time and with twenty minutes of the game left. We had more of the play in the second half and posed more of a threat. There was more activity in the Princes Park box but the lack of a telling final touch was plain to see. Princes Park were playing more on the break and still managed to hit the bar and Roger French had to make a goal line clearance. Paul Smith, Andy Faulks, Paul Bell and Robin Lipscomb all found themselves in promising but ultimately frustrating positions.
The last five minutes of the game were the most eventful. By then – had this been the Carling Cup final – thoughts would have begun turning towards extra time. But we fashioned the clearest chance of the whole game. Rob Lipscomb turned his marker and left him trailing in his wake as he advanced on goal with only the keeper to beat from three yards out. From where I was it all seemed to happen in slow motion – Rob steadied himself, looked up (ran his hand through his hair, waved at his family in the crowd – I made that bit up) but was then shoulder-charged aside by a covering defender and the ball unaffected by the action trickled its way to the keeper. The big question was what would the referee do – there was no television replay and I could hear studio pundits utter those words “I have seen them given”.
No penalty. The red mist descended upon Roger French, his mood turned black and the air turned blue and there followed a stream of angry words directed at Mick Gearing, a blatant foul on an opponent and some afters. We had not really recovered from this passage in the game when Princes Park counter-attacked and scored with barely a minute left. That was it. Roger French continued his difficult and unedifying conversation with Mick on the side lines, and lost the remainder of the dressing room at that point. He regained some of it with a heartfelt apology – and that is the naked truth – as he posed, or should that be paused, to speak to Mick Gearing on his way to the showers (after an earful, an eyeful, you could say).
Because we came so close to taking a decisive lead in the game we could fool ourselves that we deserved better. In reality we came up against the strongest Princes Park side we have played to date, with quite probably a lower average age, and that includes matches played against them when they were known as Welsh Tavern. You could say that was something else the Welsh won this weekend, except the aforementioned cup final. They hit the bar twice, had two shots cleared off our line, defended stoutly and had more of a cutting edge. Crucially perhaps they never lost their cool. So the better team won even if the manner of it could have been different (a bit like Wembley). Sorry, I promised myself I would not mention that game again but after six barren years (not as long as for Arsenal fans) I hope you will forgive me.
The mood in the clubhouse was not exactly buzzing. Maybe it was because I was late in there after being last in the showers, sweeping our dressing room and the corridor, and putting away three kit bags. Some of the opposition had already departed, the referee Mick Gearing had uncharacteristically left the scene and were it not for the Youth Team entourage the place would have seemed even more forlorn. But it meant plenty of food for everyone and Pam Shoebridge had even laid cake on for our visitors. A few Young Vets dropped by fresh from their 0-0 draw (and reported missing a penalty which was awarded). Matt Wright seemed genuinely surprised at the way Mick Gearing had been treated. Still my parting words to Roger French were that some flowers for Mrs Gearing during the coming week might be worth thinking about and I hope Mick will referee our next home game in a week’s time against Staplehurst Monarchs (kings after today’s princes – so maybe some Battenberg next Sunday Mrs Shoebridge?).
Man of the match: Danny Winter, in no small part due to that stunning point bank clearing header on the goal line.
Man of the match: Danny Winter