Sunday 13th May 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets get away with it to record 3-0 win
Do not be deceived by the scoreline. It does not reflect the game – in fact not unlike the last time we played West Farleigh at their place and lost 2-1. The weather was about the same but that was all that recurred. We have played better and lost. I don’t think we have played any worse and won. Things started to unravel when only ten out of thirteen expected players were there to start the game for us. The ten were: Gary Fentiman in goal; Chris Webb, Ian Coles, and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Sinisa Gracanin, Rob Lipscomb, Ian Shoebridge and Toby Manchip in midfield; Andy Faulks and Roger French up front.
The three missing players were Paul Smith, John Tallis and Darren Burkett. At least Darren had the grace to call to say he’d be late – in the end he was so late he never turned up. You see it is very simple – from a personal as well as a management perspective – when a player knowingly agrees to be on the teamsheet a contract is struck between gentlemen, a promise is made, an undertaking given to the team and the club. If someone says they are going to play then, in a big squad like ours, they are also depriving another of a place. Were it not for the good fortune of the Young Vets also playing at home yesterday, and having the numbers to be able to make two players available to us, we could have had a disaster on our hands and that is not good enough.
Mark Friend joined our defence to give us a starting XI. We were to need a second Young Vet, Daragh Nott for the second half as Sinisa Gracanin, injured in the first half, could not carry on. You could say we needed a friend or two to solve a rather knotty problem which we have had all season – how to manage the numbers available and what sort of substitution policy to operate. Needless to say Roger French was not exactly cheered up by all this and his mood did not really improve during the game, despite the result.
After the first ten minutes I was quietly hopeful that we would score before long. We just had to be patient, not our strong point, and watch out for quick breaks against us – West Farleigh had a couple of nippy forwards but in the main they defended in numbers and kept a compact shape. We were unable to make our initial superior possession count. Chances came and went – we got plenty of crosses into the box, forced corners but the finishing was wayward to say the least – one notable example coming from Roger French as he lifted the ball over the bar from ten yards out – with his wrong foot it must be said. We got over-anxious and irritable, passes were overhit or over-complicated, we tried to do too much on the ball as our frustration mounted. The pitch was not really helping – it should have been rolled really – it was dryer than recently but the surface was bobbly and controlling the ball was not straightforward.
It was a bit of a relief when Ian Shoebridge scored our first goal. The West Farleigh keeper made a poor clearance – Ian collected the ball, looked up from thirty yards out, measured his spot and lofted the ball over the keeper’s head into the bottom corner of the net. That should have settled us but it did not. Our overall play did not really improve. By then midway into the half it became apparent that Sinisa Gracanin was not moving freely and for a while the centre of our midfield was not as sharp as we wanted. Still we got through to half time with our advantage intact and by then had given up hope of late arrivals and Roger went to negotiate for a second Young Vet to join us as Sinisa Gracanin could not carry on – cutting a sad figure on the touchline now out for a season that has been interrupted and below par for him.
Daragh Nott brought some much needed pace to the centre of our midfield as the second half got underway. I think it is fair to say that West Farleigh made a better start to the half and an equaliser would not have flattered them. Our play was still disjointed, our passing remained approximate and hopeful, and our forward line had not really clicked and put pressure on the West Farleigh defence who could build from the back. Then the inevitable happened as referee Mick Gearing was left with no choice but to award a penalty to West Farleigh as Rob Lipscomb miscontrolled a ball in our box which reared up and hit his hand. To our enormous relief Gary Fentiman made the save and Mark Friend made an even better intervention to prevent a goal from the follow-up. That was Gary’s last game this season – finishing on a very high note with a penalty save and a clean sheet.
That was a wake-up call but I am not sure we really heeded it. It was not clear where or how our next goal would come from. Then Toby Manchip – the self-proclaimed “overall” club captain, headed the ball back from a goalkick into the danger area where Andy Faulks lurked and he was through on goal to execute a difficult finish by slicing the ball beyond and over the keeper into the top corner. I think on balance we deserved it but West Farleigh will have been disappointed with this harsh turn of events. Things got worse for them about ten minutes later when Mick Gearing awarded a dubious penalty to us (despite Chris Webb’s honesty in pointing a handball against us just micro-seconds before) – which was put away very greedily and clinically by Andy Faulks – now needing one more goal to become once again a 20-goal a season striker. I felt a bit sorry for Toby Manchip, without a goal in 18 months, who rightly asked who had appointed Andy as penalty taker. Toby deserved better when he volleyed the ball against the post five minutes from the end and Daragh Nott was inches away from netting the rebound.
There was not much else to report in the final stages. Roger French made hashes of a cross and a shot and drew some comments from yours truly. I could be making this up to get my own back at Roger after he told me to eff off in the 81st minute after I pointed out an attempted cross from him was more than useless – but I thought I could hear the bell on Isabelle French’s bicycle go at that point. I think I have just worked why a bell is necessary on Isabelle’s bicycle. It is some sort of alarm system to warn brother Thomas that dad is chucking his toys out. Children sometimes develop this code between themselves for health and safety reasons.
Not much happened in the showers today unless you count Toby Manchip’s impression of Orpington man visiting a hot spring in Croatia with his guide Sidney.
I was not able to partake of post match rituals. In my absence I am sure there will have been plenty of Mrs Shoebridge\'s wonderful spread for our visitors and my teammates. Thanks are also due to Rod Loe for running the line, and of course referee Mick Gearing who like me found the game a tetchy affair.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks – for bagging a brace and keeping his head after being taken roughly from behind more than once by defenders without protection.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks