Sunday 15th April 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
A very eventful game of two halves as Senior Vets reluctantly settle for a draw
If Roger French could have chosen a game to make his return after several weeks it would probably not have been this one. What was even odder today was the sight of Patrice Mongelard disguised as a goalkeeper in the absence of all three other players who have played in that position this season. You could say today Patrice took three for the team which numbered fifteen: Patrice Mongelard in goal; Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, Steve Blanchard and Mick O’Flynn in defence; Ian Shoebridge, Chris Webb, Sinisa Gracanin and Rob Lipscomb in midfield; Andy Faulks and Paul Smith in attack. Roger French, George Kleanthous, Nick Waller and Paul Bell waited to make their mark on the game when Roger’s clipboard said so.
Avery Hill – from memory a team of PE teachers mainly, always give us a tough game particularly with their youthful forwards. Today was no exception particularly in the first half – they had two big units in attack built like mahogany wardrobes, and they had the quickest and probably youngest player on show on the right wing.
The first ten minutes or so were quite even as both teams sought their bearings and sized the opposition. Avery Hill settled quicker than we did and the early pressure was theirs. We lacked fluency and did not have a much of a presence in their box. The two big Avery Hill forwards were proving quite a handful and they looked far more likely to score than we did. And so it proved. My impersonation of a keeper was cruelly exposed for all to see after about fifteen minutes. Avery Hill produced a tame low shot from the edge of the box that found me in two minds – to block with my feet as I would normally or to catch the ball. In the end my mild schizophrenia meant that I did neither well and to describe the goal as an own goal would not be harsh. My team mates said little but I could sense what they were thinking. We did more defending than attacking in that first half. Patrice Mongelard saved a couple of long range efforts but could do nothing midway through the half when Avery Hill doubled their lead from close range after their big forward had wrestled free on 30 minutes and set up a team mate in the box, shortly after Chris Webb and Colin Brazier had made way for Paul Bell and Nick Waller. That was the point at which we struggled most in the game and another Avery Hill goal would not have flattered them but we held firm and we finished the half better than we started it and better than our opponents. Andy Faulks crashed a long range effort against the Avery Hill bar to give us heart. On balance Avery Hill had shaded the first half and deserved their lead.
The second half was an entirely different affair. For one thing we played with the wind behind us and it seemed to have freshened up. I should mention too that Roger French came on for Steve Blanchard. It is not an exaggeration to say that we had about 80% of the ball in the second half and in the Avery Hill half of the pitch too. There was not a single Avery Hill corner in that half. Suddenly they looked tired and found it very hard to get beyond the half way line. They were still a very dangerous proposition on the break, mainly through the outlet on the right and Patrice Mongelard had to produce a save in a one to one (with the score still at 0-2) but apart from such brief interludes it was one way traffic. Andy Faulks was markedly more mobile and our passing was more sustained and purposeful. Roger was putting himself about in the Avery Hill box - a bit too much at times as he exchanged unpleasantries more than once with an Avery Hill defender that was over him like a rash (maybe finding an angry Roger attractive somehow).
Our goals came relatively quickly – the reintroduction of Chris Webb and Colin Brazier (for Mick O’Flynn and Paul Smith) restored a balance and solidity to our game and we made the most of our superior possession and territorial advantage. First Chris Webb’s goalbound diving header from one of several corners we forced was blocked by Roger French (I am told that although Webby’s header was on target the keeper was positioned right behind me so probably would have got to it hence I would call it a timely interception!) – but Roger somehow managed to swivel and lash the ball into the net from a yard out. From where I was – and today I had a rather unique perspective, it all seemed to happen in slow motion. Five minutes later we were level from another corner by Ian Shoebridge as Sinisa Gracanin leapt like a salmon in the Yemen to place a firm header into the bottom corner of the Avery Hill net. George Kleanthous came on for Rob Lipscomb to add more attacking threat to our game for the last twenty minutes. We were rewarded about ten minutes from time when Chris Webb threaded a very good pass behind the Avery Hill defence for Andy Faulks to hit a low shot which the Avery Hill keeper fumbled (making me feel a lot better) – and we had completed a remarkable turnaround.
We had at least two good chances to increase our lead with shots from Ian Shoebridge, Chris Webb and George Kleanthous – which made the end result harder to swallow. Well you know from the score that we did not manage to hold on to our lead. With two minutes left we failed to put a clearance in row Z and against the run of play the ball found its way to the nippy forward who advanced to shoot from close range from a tight angle. Patrice Mongelard got a hand to the ball diverting in onto the underside of the bar but it rebounded behind the line and that was it – to Avery Hill’s great relief. There was barely time to restart the game.
The not unwelcome return of Roger French meant that Isabelle and Thomas French also came along with bicycles, naughty tent and jam sandwiches to support the team with Jane, Ian Coles’ partner, and also briefly Mehmet Bozyigit with nearly new knee promising to return next season. The last time we saw Thomas he could not ride a bike but today turned up with a gleaming new bike, without stabilisers.
Referee Andy Gable took no nonsense from anyone and kept the game flowing with calm authority. Pam Shoebridge kept the excellent food flowing in the clubhouse and the beer flowed too – particularly in the back of Nick Waller’s throat and Vic Farrow kept the showers flowing. Next week we make the much anticipated trip to Eynsford to play Riverside Wanderers in the first of a series of 4 games, marvel at the gradient of their pitch and enjoy their excellent hospitality in one of the local pubs.
Man of the match: Ian Shoebridge