Sunday 3rd February 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets snatch draw from jaws of victory in 8-goal thriller
In the end the Farnborough clay proved porous enough to allow this game to be played at Farrow Fields and a third consecutive void week was avoided. The absence of rain in the last 48 hours and the stiff breeze helped. I hesitate to say that the absence of co-manager Roger French away on family business in Devon, a despatching and a matching on consecutive days, also helped (I might not have been there in person but kept a very close eye on proceedings all through the week to ensure a contingency plan was in place....just so you know - Statler). Still it was going to be interesting to see if we could despatch our opponents in today’s match. We had cause to be apprehensive as Staplehurst & Monarchs are a quality outfit that travel in large numbers. It was a surprise when referee Mick Gearing said that they had the bare eleven (figuratively speaking of course as they wore black and red, thankfully not too much of a clash with our yellow and red).
We started with Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Steve Blanchard, Mick O’Flynn and Ian Coles in defence; Nick Waller, Mehmet Bozyigit, Rob Lipscomb and John Tallis in midfield; Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge in attack. We ran both lines with Paul Bell and Danny Winter (making a long overdue comeback) on patrol in the first half. Andy Smith had clearly not recovered from flu to join us and Andy Faulks looked like he still had to recover from a Saturday night that left him a bit confused as to where he woke up (and who with) on the Sunday morning. I took advantage of his confusion to insist he took the kit home today, for the first time after 18 matches. I was beginning to think he did suffer from hydrophobia after all!
It was very clear as soon as the game started that Staplehurst had brought quality even if quantity was missing and a difficult contest lay ahead of us. Both sides aspired to an intelligent passing game. Defences remained on top on both sides and a cat and mouse game developed in midfield where we were occasionally outnumbered because our two wide midfielders Mehmet Bozyigit and Rob Lipscomb did not appear to have read the bit of their job description which said what they had to do when we did not have the ball – namely get behind the ball, tuck in and help the defence and central midfielders.
Our first goal arrived about 15 minutes into the game – from an unexpected source and with a little hint of controversy as Stephen Blanchard found himself in the right place in the box to crown an excellent corner from Mehmet Bozyigit with a close range shot that left the Staplehurst keeper grasping at thin air. Referee Mick Gearing ignored the Staplehurst suspicions of handball (or knock-on on this Six Nations weekend). Still Mick ignored our calls for offside five minutes later as a Staplehurst forward ran on to a simple ball lofted over our defence, after one of our attacking solutions had broken down our right leaving us rather exposed, to beat Gary and bring the scores level.
Five minutes later we were 2-1 down after a passage of play that would have left Gary profoundly disappointed with himself. He rushed out to the edge of his box to hoof a through ball up the field, kicked fresh air and left the Staplehurst forward with one of the easiest goals he\'ll ever score as he walked the ball into a vacant net behind a thoroughly embarrassed adult. The same player, the best on the pitch today, was to get one of the most difficult goals later.
Still we rallied and plugged away at it. Our equaliser came in the shape of an excellent shot from the edge of the box into the top corner from Andy Faulks; and just before half time, Andy, no longer confused, crowned a solo run with an excellent and deadly shot from the edge of the box low into the bottom corner which wrong-footed the Staplehurst keeper to restore our lead.
Mick O’Flynn and Rob Lipscomb made way for Paul Bell and Danny Winter at half time. We proceeded to have a purple patch of twenty to twenty-five minutes when we created many chances that we simply could not finish. We ran Staplehurst ragged down the channels. Andy Faulks hit the post, Paul Bell came close with rebounds, Andy had a one-to-one, and Ian Shoebridge waltzed into the Staplehurst box between two defenders and put a low shot just wide. By then we had a good crowd of supporters: Jane (Ian Coles’ partner) who was left momentarily in charge of team tactics on a bit of paper, club President Ian Couchman, Steve Durbridge aka Docker recalling his playing days under Commander Gearing, Paul Eddleston (Nick Waller’s great mate), and Chris Webb. They will have wondered how we conceded an equaliser amidst all this domination. Yet we did and what a goal it was – the best goal of the day as the most skilful player on the pitch, a silver fox in the Staplehurst midfield with quick feet, arrowed a 25-yarder into the top corner (in the space known as the postage stamp) after we gave the ball away in a dangerous position.
The last twenty minutes or so were very exciting. Nick Waller and Mehmet Bozyigit were replaced by Mick O’Flynn and Rob Lipscomb and we continued to create opportunities that we could not finish. Andy Faulks hit the post and Paul Bell came within a whisker of forcing the ball home from two yards out twice. It was not all one way though. Staplehurst hit the post with a twenty-yarder from their star player. With ten minutes to go Ian Shoebridge broke into the Staplehurst box, rounded the keeper, sold him a dummy and squared the ball on a plate for Paul Bell to slot home from a yard out. Referee Mick Gearing did not bother explaining the offside law to Staplehurst and we were back in front with a few minutes left. Alas – we could not hold on. You could say we failed, naively, to run down the clock. A bad day in the office for Gary got worse as his goal kick, tame, central (instead of wide), from the corner of the 18-yard box, fell to an unmarked Staplehurst player thirty-five yards out (in so-called David Beckham territory) who returned it with interest over a scrambling Gary struggling to get back into position, into our net. There was barely time to restart the game.
On balance a draw was a fair result but the manner in which we contributed to the goals scored against us was disappointing (and we failed to capitalise when we were clearly on top). I suspect if someone had offered a draw to Roger French before today’s game he would probably have taken it against difficult opponents. We remain unbeaten in February and showed we had lost none of our fluency after a two week lay-off.
The hot showers were welcome on a cold day. I was reflecting on Mick O’Flynn’s company name “Exposed Solutions” when I wondered if we could get him to sponsor the showers. The two rounds of teas (and allegedly coffees) were welcome too. Pam Shoebridge laid on an excellent spread as usual. Sadly I could not quite do it justice owing to the existence of a roast dinner at home with my name on it, Still I snatched at a handful of chicken legs (so as not to hurt Pam’s feelings) washed down by a swift half, ahead of my topside, Yorkshire pudding, Cabernet Sauvignon and apple tart with vanilla ice cream.
Man of the match – Andy Faulks (who cannot stop scoring).
Man of the match: Andy Faulks