Sunday 18th March 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets have their wings clipped by Buff Vets in 5-2 defeat
After taking flight with last week’s draw against Wellcome Young Vets, we fell back to earth this week. As I reflected on the way home on yet another failure to knock The Buff off their perch I found that thinking of the way we had played, allied with the bright sunshine, and the sight of busy florists on Mother’s Day restored my spirits a little.
We had the unusual experience of going into a game without having to think about substitutions. Yes - we could only get eleven players out for various reasons, including Paul Bell who at 8:02 on Sunday morning was hit by the realisation, like a thunderbolt, that he was unavailable because he had materialised on a train to Newcastle.
We lined up with Toby Manchip in goal; Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, Patrice Mongelard and Mick O’Flynn in defence; Rob Lipscomb, Chris Webb, Nick Waller and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; Ian Shoebridge and Andy Faulks in attack.
Mind you our opponents had the same number and could not even provide a referee despite being the home side. It was fortuitous that George Kleanthous, one of our Young Vets out with injury had turned up to watch, was persuaded to take the whistle for the first half. Another unusual arrangement was made for the second half when Barry Grainger played in and refereed the game at the same time. It was all done though with impeccable fairness and honesty. Indeed what you might call a local derby was very sportingly played. One possible reason for this could be Toby Manchip’s alcohol consumption in The Buff. Toby had entered the dressing room with the observation that all twenty-one other players in the game would know that he was not a goalkeeper. I am not sure that observation was entirely valid – such was the quality of some of the saves Toby pulled off today and I for one will have words with anyone who says that Toby is a joke, in goal, at least.
What about the match itself you ask? A neutral observer would have noted that both teams were looking to pass the ball and make full use of the width of the pitch. The first fifteen minutes were quite even with very few chances. Toby Manchip did well to gather a shot from Barry Grainger from the edge of the box while at the other end the first good scoring chance fell to Robin Lipscomb who forced a very good save from the Buff keeper from one of several corners we won. The pecking order was established about fifteen minutes into the game with a well-worked goal from an emphatic finish as the ball was cut back from the byeline down our left and a powerful crisp finish did the rest. We were competing though particularly down our right where Sinisa Gracanin, Mick O’Flynn and Ian Shoebridge were triangulating passes and getting behind the Buff defence. The best chance for us in that spell fell to Sinisa Gracanin, played in by a delightful through ball from Andy Faulks, but his low shot skimmed just pass the post. The Buff drew further ahead on the half hour after Barry Grainger measured a low cross our box from the left which was deftly converted from a yard out. Toby Manchip pulled off a two or three saves that were as good as anything I have seen this season to keep the score respectable. With about ten minutes of the half left we were undone once again by an excellent delivery from a corner this time by Barry Grainger which led to a headed third goal. That same neutral observer would by now have felt that the 3-0 score was harsh. We’d had a few chances but lacked a killer finish.
We started the second half better than The Buff did and caged them into their half. Our rally was rewarded with an excellent goal from Nick Waller – his first for the Senior Vets this season. Nick was lurking on the edge of the Buff box when a clearance fell to him. He seemed to go down on one knee as he executed a half volley with his right foot that arrowed into the top corner. The next goal was scored by Nick Waller as well, but not at the right end I am sorry to say. The Buff had raised their game again after we scored and started creating scoring opportunities and forcing corners. After one passage of play which saw them flocking into our box, their roadrunner of a forward had failed to convert from close range only to see Toby Manchip put his clearance straight onto Nick Waller’s forehead a yard from our goal line and the ball rebounded into our net. Well that is probably the last time Nick gets back to help the defence.
I think we knew at 4-1 down that it would take a miracle to turn this game round but we kept trying nonetheless. Andy Faulks got the goal he deserved to pull one back for us when he latched on to a pass from Ian Shoebridge, threaded his way into the box, beat two defenders and placed a low shot into the bottom corner.
The Buff pressed the accelerator again and scored an excellent fifth goal with a well placed and powerful shot from the edge of the box as we were undone again with a cut back from the wing. There was even time for them to hit the post, and to rule a sixth goal offside before the final whistle.
News of the Buff Vets’ demise are greatly exaggerated. Although they mustered just the bare eleven they had the usual blend of muscle, pace and artistry. Barry Grainger’s cultured left foot as usual gave them a quality of delivery on set pieces and crosses that we could not match. They have plenty of goals in them – fitting really given that their home ground is now called “Goals”. The best team won today – we have no complaints about the result nor the spirit in which the game was played – no feathers were ruffled – and the Buff Vets were well worth their five goals (and could have had a couple more) though we could not help feeling our overall play deserved more than two goals.
Man of the match: Mick O’Flynn for a performance to make his mum proud.
Man of the match: Mick O