Sunday 21st April 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
7-minute 3-goal salvo from Senior Vets sees off spirited Riverside Wanderers and officious official
The sun always shines when we visit Eynsford Village to take on Riverside Wanderers. The rural setting is postcard material, the locals are friendly but the playing surface is more field than pitch - tufty, bobbly, with a 1:2 gradient from goalmouth to goalmouth and more undulation across the pitch.
We lost the corresponding fixture 3-1 on 22 April 2012, and a few weeks later, on 27 May we were back there, leading 3-1 when Pete Harvey suffered a bad ankle fracture on this ground. Footballers are superstitious and I just wanted to get through the game without injury to anyone. More immediately we wanted to start the game with eleven players but that was not possible. Paul Bell and Andy Faulks were missing at the start because Andy could not come earlier to give Paul a lift. And over the weekend we had been deprived of Mehmet Bozyigit who had returned from a holiday in Turkey a couple of days ago but was not well – a dodgy kebab perhaps.
So the Farnborough X were Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Mick O’Flynn and Ian Coles in defence; Ian Shoebridge, Rob Lipscomb, Scott Dowie and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; Roger French and Nick Waller in attack. Seeing they had over fifteen players Riverside kindly lent us Steve to play at left back while we waited for Andy to come.
I am not sure if we lost the toss but we started the game kicking uphill and I mean uphill. Both sides were trying to move the ball about in spite of the pitch and I think we settled more quickly and played with more fluency. Certainly the first really good chance fell to us as Ian Shoebridge curled a left foot shot just wide of the post from twenty yards out. Riverside had a strong, physical bustling forward – who had played semi-pro according to the ref and had a few tricks up his sleeve, and Ian Coles and Patrice Mongelard had to be at their best. Still we coped and after a quarter of an hour or so the first goal scored by Ian Shoebridge was with the run of play and what a thing of beauty it was. Twenty-five yards out Ian Shoebridge controlled a pass from Scott Dowie – cut inside – the ball sat up nicely off one those tufts I mentioned, and Ian let fly with his right boot, true, straight and still appearing to pick up speed as the ball filled the top corner of the net. About ten minutes later we doubled our lead when, with consummate disguise, Mick O’Flynn guided the ball from far out on the right wing beyond the grasp of the Riverside keeper transfixed on his line. It felt like a cross, looked like a cross, except it was not as it went into the net without any other agency apart from Mick O’Flynn’s boot.
2-0 up and with twenty minutes of the half left we brought on Paul Bell and Andy Faulks (for Roger French and Riverside Steve). They were both to show the value of coming early as they both missed goals that they might well have scored on another day. First Andy Faulks was played in by Ian Shoebridge to advance on goal and screw his shot wide from five yards out. Paul Bell was to miss an even better chance from a yard out after Sinisa Gracanin had got his head to a Patrice Mongelard free kick to direct the ball back across goal. Rob Lipscomb got behind the Riverside defence but his cut-back was wasted as Andy had not come to it. Rob also flashed a left foot shot just wide of the post. At the other end Riverside were not without threat – Ian Coles and Patrice Mongelard made last minute challenges to block shots on goal and Riverside forced two or three corners and from one of those their ex semi-pro powered a header that beat Gary Fentiman but was cleared off the line by Mick O’Flynn. Still Riverside were not to be denied as their forward deservedly got a deft touch to a deep cross to guide the ball into our net from two yards out.
We were not too worried at half time because we had a twelfth man in the form of the slope in our favour, even with Roger French returning up front instead of Rob Lipscomb. I do not think anyone had really taken much note of the referee in the first half but he was to play quite a part in the second. Games between Farnborough and Riverside are keenly contested but without any malice and played always in excellent spirit by both sides. But there was tension out there today and I would venture the hypothesis that the referee had much to do with that, the antithesis of refereeing if you like. Five minutes in the half he awarded Riverside their first penalty of the game for a push by Ian Coles, in the box, on a bigger and heavier man doing a good impression of a 15-stone bag of Maris Pipers. The penalty was put away (and said forward admitted later that he had conned the man in black). The next fifteen to twenty minutes were difficult for both sides. Riverside pressed to take the lead and we too wanted to restore our lead. Andy Faulks was showing signs of coming into form.
Patrice Mongelard had a little contretemps with the ref when, some sixty yards away from the action, he asked “What about that?” when one of our forwards was seemingly bundled over in the box. The referee, piqued by that enquiry, awarded Riverside a free kick on the spot from where Patrice Mongelard had asked his perfectly reasonable question, maybe it was the way I asked it. He was also to ignore a Riverside handball in the box from a Farnborough corner but surprised us moments later by awarding a penalty to Farnborough this time when an Ian Shoebridge shot cannoned against a Riverside arm in the box. It looked more like ball to hand and the shot was not goalbound but that did not worry Andy Faulks as he finally came good by squeezing the ball home from the spot. There was even better to come from Andy.
Our joy was short-lived indeed. Riverside went back on level terms within two minutes after we failed to clear a cross and the ball was volleyed rather well low into the bottom corner of our net from the edge of our box. Roger French was not happy at all at that point. Young Thomas French had told us in the changing room – “I am not a very good loser” – in one short sentence proving the laws of heredity. The self-awareness comes from his mother.
Our discomfiture did not last long as we were to hit a purple patch. In a seven-minute spell we rattled in three goals without reply. Andy Faulks, who else, restored our lead with a rasping shot from twelve yards out that swerved and dipped and bamboozled the Riverside keeper. Rob Lipscomb back on for Paul Bell then rattled in two quick goals. He was in the right place at the right time to lash the ball into the net after it had rebounded across the goal from the base of the post following an Ian Shoebridge shot that Roger French almost interfered with. Soon after he chested down a pass from Andy Faulks, rounded the defender and expertly shinned the ball past the keeper.
There was time for another puzzling refereeing decision as a penalty was awarded against Patrice Mongelard as he emerged from the box with the ball with a Riverside forward crumpled on the deck in his wake. The referee blew for the penalty, then blew what sounded like the final whistle but then watched as the penalty was screwed wide. I wondered briefly if Vic Farrow had intervened holding the scales of football justice. Still it was quite a refereeing performance – three penalties (all marginal) and a yellow card brandished with great flourish as Rob Lipscomb’s name went in the book. Just as well Roger French was having one of his rare mellow moments because there was a red card too in the referee’s top pocket.
That was the last action of a memorable game before we repaired for a swift half in the Castle Hotel and I was still in situ to catch the piping hot spring rolls and dipping sauce and sausages before the supply dried up. I left Roger French in the pub with a faux-medieval sword hanging over his head despite our win.
Man of the match – Scott Dowie, for a dynamic and responsible display on the left of midfield.
Man of the match: Scott Dowie