Sunday 25th March 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets sparkle in 3-2 win over Diamond Vets
The cold and overcast conditions were unexpected though not as much as the sight of Andy Faulks who had got to the ground almost before Vic Farrow today. We suspect that Andy’s sense of time had been more perturbed than usual by the clocks going forward. Still it was an achievement to have fifteen players there in good time with the possibility of a sixteenth (Darren Burkett) not dismissed until news came late that he was holding the baby. In the continued absence of co-manager Roger French, Patrice Mongelard had set out the starting XI and explained by means of asterisks how the ten planned substitutions were going to work out.
The Farnborough crown jewels today were displayed like this: Gary Fentiman in goal; Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, Patrice Mongelard and Mick O’Flynn in defence; Ian Shoebridge, Chris Webb, Nick Waller and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; Rob Lipscomb and Andy Faulks in attack. Our other precious stones were Toby Manchip, Steve Blanchard, Paul Smith and Paul Bell.
The first clear scoring opportunity was ours after about ten minutes as Sinisa Gracanin had drifted in from the left of midfield to latch on to a through ball that saw him advance on goal, untroubled by a Diamond defender. He seemed to be caught in several minds as the keeper was drawn off his line – to place a low shot to the keeper’s left, to blast it to his right, to go round him – so much choice but in the end opted to go for a chip and the ball sailed over the bar. For such a technically accomplished player and clean striker of a ball this was a surprising miss but it gave us all encouragement as we came through the initial pressure from Diamond.
We did better with our second scoring opportunity about five minutes later. We had started forcing corners (unlike Diamond for whom I do not recall a single corner in the first half) and from one such set piece Diamond failed to clear the ball which fell to Nick Waller, six yards out, dead centre of the box. Nick produced a crisp, acrobatic and powerful volley which left the Diamond keeper clutching at thin air as the net bulged. That was Nick’s third goal in two games if you count last week’s own goal. After scoring such a gem of a goal today he was advised to stay out of our penalty area, just in case.
We continued to have more of the ball though Diamond were not out of it and had pace up front and down our left to trouble us. After half an hour the above mentioned asterisks came into play as Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Shoebridge and Mick O’Flynn came off with Paul Bell, Steve Blanchard, Paul Smith and Toby Manchip replacing them. I do not think anyone would disagree with the view that this took the fluency out of our game and Diamond took advantage. Suddenly they seemed to be able to pass the ball better, make fewer mistakes, and when it came their equaliser was not that unexpected. We were careless as we tried to play the ball out of our defence, got caught out of position and the quick Diamond forward, Mark Ovett, who has previously played for the Guild, and for Orpington Vets (now folded and in fact depriving our Young Vets of a game today), beat the offside trap, rounded Gary and tapped the ball into our net. We held out until half-time. The team talk was brisk but dripping with pearls of football wisdom. The XI who had finished the half were sent out again to put things right – at least until the next cycle of substitutions on the hour.
We did not have to wait long to restore our lead. About five minutes into the half Paul Bell, notionally playing at right back, had made an interception and slipped the ball into space for Andy Faulks to advance on goal. Andy took the ball into the area, steadied himself and placed a low shot into the bottom corner beyond the keeper. This was a confident strike from our top marksman that did much to settle the team and from then on it felt more comfortable and we began to think we’d win today. Paul Bell was joining the attack at every opportunity and from one such foray he was to score our third goal. Diamond had failed to clear the ball, and it looped back into the box where Paul Bell was in the right place at the right time to hit a first time volley from six yards out that neither the keeper nor the defender on the line could keep out. Not for the first time we had to admire Paul’s knack to find space in the box, as if the defenders around him were being kept at bay by some unseen miasma. I suspect Paul can find the same sort of space on a crowded train. The reason possibly rhymes with his name.
Anyway the hour was up and the four players who had left earlier came back on for Rob Lipscomb, Colin Brazier, Nick Waller and Chris Webb. There followed possibly our most fluent and composed passages of play as we threatened more goals. Diamond were playing on the break and threatened once or twice but we remained compact and passed our way out of trouble. With ten minutes left the versatile (and extravagantly nippled) Toby Manchip came off with a recurrence of a shoulder injury sustained whilst playing in goal a couple of weeks back, and was replaced by Rob Lipscomb. There was enough time for Rob to swap handbags with a Diamond defender in what was the only (mild it must be said) discordant note of the entire game which was played in very good spirit. Ian Shoebridge almost walked the ball into the net after tangling with three defenders as if in slow motion.
The referee Mick Gearing had only three minutes left on his clock when Steve Blanchard produced a blind reverse pass that wrong-footed Gary Fentiman in our goal and left a lurking Diamond forward with a simple tap-in to reduce our goal advantage to the minimum and create a bit of a frisson amongst the crowd – now augmented by the spectators for the Farnborough Youth XI match taking place immediately after ours. That last goal took a bit of the shine off of our performance but it came too late to deny us a well-deserved victory.
As we sat in the clubhouse, savouring Mrs Shoebridge’s cuisine, and reflecting on another good win achieved in Roger French’s absence, the mood was good, helped by the glorious sunshine now marking the arrival of spring. We heard that our opponents today were at risk of folding. I hope not because they have been good and worthy opponents for the fifteen seasons that I have been playing for FOBG Vets. As our youth team made their way back to the dressing room I could not help think that there was no danger of FOBG Senior Vets ever folding – such is the blessing a well-run club – even if the combined age of the starting XI today was 513 years – and with the four subs averaging 45 years between them.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks for a polished performance.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks