Sunday 7th October 2012
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets come away with well-earned draw from Belvedere
The truth is we were mildly apprehensive about this game as we huddled in the car park. Our numbers were reduced – we had a twelfth man who would be late, involved in a vehicle retrieval situation, and possibly a thirteenth who had been sent a hopeful text. We had been well beaten on our last visit here and we expected our opponents to have vast numbers of players to make the most of what is not only one of the biggest pitches we play on but with a slope that makes the pitch at Eynsford suitable for a spirit level convention.
Our opponents had fifteen players, a linesman and a referee on their side. We started with eleven spread out in the vast expanse of the pitch thus: Gary Fentiman in goal; Ian Coles, Chris Webb, Colin Brazier and Patrice Mongelard in defence; Mehmet Bozyigit, Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Shoebridge and Rob Lipscomb in midfield; Andy Faulks and Roger French. There was no sign of our substitutes at that point, nor when about ten minutes into the game both Mehmet and Rob found their movement severely hampered with a groin strain and a pulled hamstring/tendon respectively. Mehmet was carrying an injury from last week but thought his special Turkish groin massage the night before had done the trick.
In a sense we were hanging on from quite an early point in the game but took pride in defending well and restricting opportunities for our opponents. Their defence too was on top and coped with the occasional foray that Andy Faulks led. Most of the play was in midfield where our two able-bodied players Sinisa Gracanin and Ian Shoebridge worked like Trojans. There were no goal scoring opportunities of any note in the first twenty minutes or so. By then we had two subs on: first Steve Blanchard, back only yesterday from an all inclusive holiday and a “broken ankle” came on for Rob Lipscomb – to find that his first game this season was not going to be a cruise; and Mehmet too had hobbled off to be replaced by Chris Bourlet who woke up this morning and remembered then that his vehicle was in the Westerham area.
The feeling that we were doing OK was enhanced on the half hour when Chris Bourlet, fed the ball from Andy Faulks, produced what looked suspiciously like a cross but with no Farnborough shirt in the box, and managed to deceive the Belvedere keeper from twenty-five yards (I would like to point out that the referee did actually say to me it must have been the intelligent run I made INTO the box that deceived the keeper to which I replied that must count as an assist - Statler). The home crowd gasped as the ball arced into the net and made that familiar sound as it brushed against the polypropylene netting on its way down. It was one of those clear still sunny mornings when everything seemed sharper (like the parakeets having a drink in the guttering on one of the houses adjoining the ground). Of course Chris was to claim later that it was a shot but I think if this claim was going to be evidence in the sense that he understands it, he’d have to change his story. We did not mind. To score a goal playing against the kind of slope that really could do with a road sign, was a bonus.
Sadly we could not hang on to this lead. A few minutes before half time we gave away a silly free kick in a dangerous position and paid the price as the ball came through a mass of players, got tangled in Patrice Mongelard’s legs and fell kindly for a Belvedere player to poke into the net from a yard out. And that was it for the first half – I cannot recall other goal scoring opportunities for either side though we had had to do more defending than Belvedere. At half time the Jaffa franchise, suspended for the last two weeks like some errant civil servant, resumed and served to fortify us for a testing second half - even though there was a feeling that the slope would be worth a goal to us. It was not in the end – but more on that shortly.
I think it only fair to say that Belvedere put us under even more pressure in the second half, playing against the slope and the arrival of four pairs of fresh legs for them had a lot to do with that. They forced several corners in that half. I do not recall a single Farnborough corner. Gary Fentiman was certainly busier and pulled off some good saves, including a remarkable one handed save to tip a close range header over the bar during a period of sustained Belvedere pressure. Patrice Mongelard was on foot to make a last minute saving tackle two yards out as a Belvedere player prepared to tuck a rebound in from another good save by Gary. The back four was immense with Ian Coles and Colin Brazier making some good tackles and Steve Blanchard’s ankle held out as we kept Belvedere at bay. Chris Bourlet, Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Shoebridge and Chris Webb all had to attend to their defensive duties. This left us with not much of a threat up front, except for the occasional break by Andy Faulks. One such move fashioned what was arguably our best scoring opportunity with about fifteen minutes left. Andy burst through on the left, got behind the defence, advanced into the box, drew the keeper and then squared the ball. All that was required was a cool, precise, controlled and low finish into the near empty net. But the ball had been squared to Roger French. That was our last sniff at the Belvedere goal. We held out until the final whistle and that was our first draw this season.
The après-match hospitality was good in the cosy Belvedere bar. Sadly – no – luckily, Gary Fentiman, Andy Faulks, Chris Bourlet and Chris Webb left before the landlord brought out trays of sandwiches, sausages and potatoes. Patrice Mongelard was able to demonstrate the art of eating a piping hot sausage wrapped in two cos lettuce leaves. Roger French was off target again – not on the money you could say as he failed to make the match subs add up. In fairness not many people know that Roger was carrying an injury and given the choice would not have played a full game in a thankless position.
This was more a point gained than two points lost. There was a little sadness that Andy Faulks’ record of scoring in every game this season had ended. You could say this was the first time that his girlfriend had seen him fail to score on a Sunday morning. A draw was probably a fair result in the end though this time more than in previous matches our opponents showed a tetchy undercurrent as we frustrated them. Mind you, we had our moments of annoyance too when the referee did not punish some harsh tackling from behind as Andy Faulks boot was removed from his foot and there were some free kicks that we should have had we felt, including one in the box when “Sidney” was manhandled after bamboozling his marker. Still things did not get as “tasty” as the 2-2 draw between our Young Vets and the Met Police back at Farrow Fields.
On the way back Mehmet was contemplating a bit of a break to aid his recovery during the international break perhaps some voluntary work with the elderly. His admiration for older people with a zest for life is such that he is contemplating renaming his kebab emporium – the “Jackie Stallone Kebab Centre”. I think he was joking.
The truth of the matter is that Belvedere could refresh their team with four new players whilst our two subs were crocked and we were under pressure from start to finish; but we had avoided defeat for a second consecutive away game and we could look forward to another away fixture next Sunday, against Inter-Vyagra who are no longer a soft touch.
Man of the match – a defender unsurprisingly, Ian Coles, sporting his Robinson Crusoe look, who was a rock on which wave after wave of Belvedere attacks got shipwrecked.
Man of the match: Ian Coles