Sunday 13th October 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets score five times as Inter Vyagra restore their mojo
I would challenge anyone reading this report to say they have played football in grander surroundings. Today we brought our firepower to architect James Wyatt’s 200-year old Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich. After last week’s flaccid display we could not afford to fire blanks today and we could still smell the cordite (in our dressing room) after last season’s 4-3 reverse in the corresponding fixture.
The magnificence of the setting was translated into the quality of the pitch, more than equal to the testing conditions, and into the facilities on offer – including two rather smart Perspex dug-outs which were most welcome in today’s biblical downpour. The warm welcome from our opponents extended to a bag of quartered half time oranges, a first in my experience, and a nice touch.
After last week’s personnel shortages there were fourteen of us who reported for duty today in an unfamiliar, mostly long-sleeved, away navy blue kit that had matching numbers on the shirts and shorts (to avoid a clash between our egg and bacon strip and the Inter Vygara orange livery). The front line troops were Gary Fentiman in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Chris Webb, Steve Blanchard and Mick O’Flynn in defence; Ian Shoebridge, Waine Hetherington, Sinisa Gracanin, and Nick Waller in midfield; Colin Mant and Andy Faulks in attack. The reservists were Roger French, Martin Warwick and Paul Bell. Isabelle and Thomas French were both in attendance this time and took shelter in the tent.
I have to admit we were surprised by the youthful vigour of Inter Vygara in the first quarter of an hour. It was very clear that they had refreshed their side since last year and they had some nippy operatives in midfield and upfront. We had great trouble advancing into their half and holding on to the ball. I do not recall their keeper touching the ball in the first ten minutes. It was no surprise when they took the lead after about fifteen minutes – a quick break down the right of our defence, after we could not hold the ball in midfield, was crowned with a pacy low cross that just skimmed the top of Chris Webb’s sliding boots before being niftily converted from two yards out to give them a well-deserved lead. At that point I thought, and I was not alone, that we would do well to get a draw out of the game. We lacked zip and sharpness and played as if we were waiting for medication to take effect.
Slowly we began to ask questions of the Inter Vyagra defence. Ten minutes after they had scored we were level. A free kick from Patrice Mongelard troubled the Inter Vyagra defence greatly as it left their keeper alone to face Colin Mant and Sinisa Gracanin with a ball deep into their defence. I am told the keeper attempted to punch the ball clear but he could have been deceived by the spin, or wet surface area, and ended up directing the ball into the net. Technically Patrice Mongelard was the last Farnborough player to touch the ball with scoring intent but his so-called team mates unanimously used the words “own goal”. Martin Warwick came on for Ian Shoebridge midway through the half to give us more of a foothold in the Inter Vyagra defence. It was a more even affair by then although Inter Vyagra had the best opportunity to edge ahead with a downward header at the far post that was planted narrowly wide. Patrice Mongelard whose urge to shoot from distance was Pavlovian in the wet slippery conditions had a couple of efforts that looked interesting but on the whole both teams cancelled each other to half time.
Roger French and Paul Bell came on at half time for Colin Mant and Waine Hetherington. This was Paul Bell’s first outing for us this season and he marked the occasion with a pair of new bright yellow boots. We started the second half far better than the first. In fact we started so well that after ten minutes we were 3-1 up. First Andy Faulks got clean through to get to the end of a lofted clearance from Steve Blanchard to chip the keeper from ten yards out. The tall Inter Vyagra keeper got a hand to the ball but could not materially affect its flight into the goal. Suddenly there was more lead in Andy’s pencil and from then on he was a constant menace.
A few minutes later Roger French and Paul Bell combined as Roger flicked the ball (expertly he says) into Paul Bell’s path as he embarked on a run across the length of the Inter Vyagra box before putting the ball where everyone including the keeper knew it would go but could do nothing about it. The ball was curled low and meaningfully into the net, with a precision that the Royal Artillery would salute. From then on we bossed the game, though not before Gary Fentiman pulled off a great save to palm a powerful volley out wide by diving low to his left. Mick O’Flynn went off with a calf strain, perhaps to ponder the fate of his Merc left with a flat tyre in the genteel part of Mottingham, and Waine Hetherington was back on with Patrice Mongelard switching to the right of defence. Patrice had a great chance to add to the score after drawing a missed tackle from an Inter Vygara defender and advancing into the box to shoot without result. Soon after Patrice made way for Colin Mant and the re-arranging of our artillery was completed with the return of Ian Shoebridge (back on in place of a stiffening Nick Waller).
We added two more goals to complete a resurgent second half, as we thrust forward, our potency regained. Roger French displaced a couple of Inter Vyagra defenders at a corner which allowed Farnborough Captain Chris Webb a clear point blank header to register our fourth goal. Soon after Paul Bell nonchalantly volleyed a cross from Colin Mant into a tiny but big enough space between post and keeper’s glove to match our best ever score against today’s opponents (achieved on 16 May 2010 when Paul Bell, Patrice Mongelard and Ian Shoebridge were among the scorers). We kept trying to add to the score – Roger French, much to our and his amusement, vainly followed a through ball, aquaplaned and ploughed well beyond the pitch boundary (don’t forget the goal that was ruled out for a dodgy off-side - Ed). Short of pace, he was also short of sleeves, as his number 3 shirt bore the signs of a crime against football couture after some miscreant had in a rather rudimentary fashion converted a long sleeved shirt into a short-sleeved shirt with their teeth. This act of vandalism will have to be reported to the Management Committee.
It rained from start to finish today and yet you would not know it from the state of the pitch. The hot tea and showers were most welcome before we made a rapid return to the Farnborough Club house for a swift half and the use of the radiators to dry some items of French outdoor wear. The club house was deserted and we could not help wonder whether the Farnborough pitch had been bested by the exceptional amount of precipitation (surely the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal had nothing to do with it).
Man of the match today – Paul “Golden Boots” Bell who made up for going awol last week, by bagging a brace, taking the kit home, and behaving himself after his curry and wine evening.
Next week it is a welcome return to Farrow Fields and Pam Shoebridge’s home cuisine, (chicken legs and sausages on order), after four consecutive away games, and we have a tough nut to crack in Wickham Park who came, saw and conquered 4-0 in the corresponding fixture last year.
Man of the match: Paul Bell