Sunday 10th November 2013
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets remember to lose graciously as Belvedere overrun Farnborough trenches
Remembrance Sunday always reminds me of two things – (a) how time flies and we are a year older and (b) how football is just a social pursuit in a world where terrible things can happen. Of course terrible things happen in football too, but they are very rare, and in the wider scheme of things football is not that important although not everyone sees it that way.
Commander Gearing, our referee today, always adds gravitas to the 2-minute silence that is customary on Remembrance Sunday games. He was showing some regimental insignia on his arrival at the ground, but had left his medals at home.
The starting XI were Tom Mihalea in goal; Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, Patrice Mongelard and Steve Blanchard in defence; Colin Mant, Obi Ugwumba, Sinisa Gracanin, Chris Webb and Ian Shoebridge in midfield; Andy Faulks in attack. Scott Dowie and Nick Waller were the reinforcements behind the lines.
Roger French was making his own personal contribution to world peace today by choosing not to play – a choice welcomed by our opponents who enquired about Roger’s health before the game. We had our fourth goal keeper in three games today as Gary Fentiman had done his back, retrieving a ball from a hole on his birthday, playing golf I think. Before the end of the first half we had a fifth keeper – more on that later.
We owe special thanks to grassmeister Bunny Beston who organised a forking party before the game so that we could play on today’s surface. After the heavy rains of the last few days the surface was not quite like Flanders, but the going was very soft and squelchy in places and the grass was showing vigorous growth for the time of year.
When the game started all the vigour belonged to Belvedere as they strung passes together, darting here and there with nippy runners, and put us on the back foot from the off. It was against the run of play that we took the lead after twenty minutes. Ian Shoebridge seized on a poor clearance from the Belvedere keeper to steer a header into Andy Faulks’ path and Andy slipped his marker and did the rest with his left foot from twelve yards out. This was to be the brightest Farnborough moment of the half, if not the game. Once again we had taken the lead against Belvedere but it was plain that we would do well to hold on to it because we felt Belvedere had a stronger team (than when they thrashed us 6-1 at their place a few weeks ago). Yet their equaliser ten minutes later was not entirely convincing. We took our eye off the ball thinking the danger had passed as a Belvedere header from a corner was going wide. But that was until it was redirected into the centre of our goal, more of a mishit really, and trickled through Tom’s hands, past Ian Coles who could not adjust his feet in time to intervene, and the ball was poked home from a yard out. It was a scrappy but deserved goal.
The next goal was a turning point. Belvedere scored it after their nippiest player ghosted behind our defence to dribble past Tom and give Belvedere the lead. It took us a little while to realise that all was not well with Tom. At first we thought he’d lost a contact lens but it turned out that in going down he had caught the trailing knee of the Belvedere forward, an accidental clash, on the side of his face. His left eye was already closed, he was dazed and had a bloody nose. There was no question of him staying on and his next stop ought, we felt, to be the Princess Royal Teaching Hospital in Farnborough. (Thankfully I heard later in the evening that a visit to casualty was not necessary but Tom’s face will be on ice for a while). Patrice Mongelard had already slipped the green keeper’s jersey on when Michael claimed it. Michael had come off after twenty five minutes suffering from a knee strain (to be replaced by Scott Dowie). We had never seen him play in goal but what a revelation he was: strong wrists, good feet, excellent positioning, powerful kicks, surprising agility for a well-muscled man and his crowning moment was to come later deep into the second half. Before the half was over we had a good chance to equalise from a corner taken by Ian Shoebridge which found Colin Mant’s forehead two yards out but Colin’s backward glancing header just cleared the bar.
Nick Waller came on at half time for Ian Shoebridge. Any hopes we had of getting back in the game were snuffed out fairly early in the second half. Belvedere won one of many corners which they infused with danger, and a far post header gave them an unassailable 3-1 lead. The header was not particularly strong but well-directed to the extent that the ball went through the legs of Colin Brazier standing on the post who did a very good impression of a marionette with an arthritic master. After that Belvedere had more attempts on our goal than we had on theirs but each time Michael frustrated them.
With twenty minutes left Ian Shoebridge came back on, for Chris Webb (before he himself was back on for Scott Dowie a little later), and it was noticeable how the game changed. Suddenly we had a presence up front and in fact the best two open play chances of the last ten minutes fell to Ian Shoebridge as we fashioned two one-to-ones which drew excellent saves from the Belvedere keeper. Ian had shown the folly of a 4-5-1 formation at home and there has to be a lesson here. Andy Faulks’ game is not suited to the lone forward role. He does not give enough penetration. Our mindset was too defensive.
With ten minutes left Belvedere earned a penalty, scrupulously and fairly awarded by Commander Gearing. The Belvedere forward, on a hat trick, hit the ball true and hard to Michael’s left, only to see a flying save which was greeted with great appreciation by Michael’s three fans (and his astounded and grateful team mates of course).
In a sense we were all slowed down by the boggy surface but for some reason it seemed to affect us more than Belvedere. I think it is partly a case that we had older players in certain positions and Belvedere had more pace in their side, particularly in their offensive play. It is also partly that our positional play, anticipation, football intelligence and general appetite were not of the same level as our opponents. This is a worry with so many more games left.
A different kind of appetite was satisfied by Pam Shoebridge and Jane Martin as chicken legs, sausages, pork pies, crisps, ham, cheese and egg sandwiches, flapjacks, cake slices with flaked almonds, special “management” rolls appeared on our table d\'hôte. The cake meant that I could not manage the last chicken leg. I hope Rebecca Coles had it, instead of Roger French who ran the line today like a trappist.
Man of the match today – Michael – with votes in double figures – a sensation in goal, and a true team player.
Next week the Met Police are coming to Farrow Fields for Roger French, and to play us of course.
Man of the match: Michael Ugwumba