Sunday 25th May 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Ten-goal thriller closes Senior Vets season
Brixton Bus garage is not in Brixton, and Farnborough is a long way from Streatham Hill but we were pleased to host the visit of Brixton Bus Garage Vets for the football match – but we were no Basildon Bashers – more like the Farrow Fields Finishers. Our usual match fixer Roger French had arranged this novel fixture for us and then gone on the kids’ outing to Centre Parcs. We wondered if Roger knew something we did not as our opponents gathered. There was a smattering of Vets in their midst, but some did not look old enough to be driving buses, let alone the ‘L’ bus. We looked forward to testing our experience and team work against the exuberance of youth.
To allow time for our visitors to travel to Farnborough we decided the early shift of 10:30 would not do so we opted for an 11:00 kickoff. That way we thought too none of our players would be late again.
Injury, the school half term, possibly the other woman, had reduced our numbers to 12 again. The 12 were Steve Palmer in goal; Patrice Mongelard, Steve Blanchard, Waine Hetherington, Jim St John in defence; Colin Mant, Robin Lipscomb and Sinisa Gracanin in midfield; the used combination of George Kleanthous, Barry Grainger and Andy Faulks provided our attacking threat once again. Mick O’Flynn ran the line ready to flag the bus down, as did Young Farnborough Vet Rich Davies on the other side. Referee Mick Gearing had given up his gardening time to combine the roles of the not new inspector and conductor for our last game of the season.
And so we kicked off in glorious sunshine, not really knowing what to expect. As the initial minutes ticked away we realised, as most footballers would, that if we played a measured passing game the strain would tell on our opponents. They had energy, pace in abundance of course, but by going steady and applying the squeeze in the right places we thought we would show that organisation and experience count for much in Vets football at least, and so it proved. To their credit our opponents did not park the omnibuses in front of goal but opted for an expansive attacking game. This yielded quite a spectacle and even Lord Lucan, aka Toby Harlow ex-Farnborough Vets manager permanently on the comeback trail, was tempted to watch some of the first half with his golden retriever. He waited a bit to see a goal but then like buses two came along for us. First Robin Lipscomb produced a crisp finish from five yards out after being teed up by Andy Faulks. Then Andy himself showed there was no smoke without fire as he fired a low shot to give us a deserved two-goal lead. This was a fair reflection of the game, given the amount of possession we had.
Whatever threat Brixton Bus garage had was dealt with by the defence with Jim St John in particular prominent in his pursuit of safety first– almost to the point of causing the injury of the season, in his thirty-second game, to ever-present Colin Mant. A dazed and confused Colin, yes we can tell the difference, got up gingerly after getting in Jim’s way - a bit like stepping in front of a double-decker, not a good idea, but there was no need for first aid. On balance the Brixton Bus garage forwards had a thin time in front of our goal and we found that they had nowhere to go if we defended in numbers with the midfield in support. We could have had more than two goals in the bank at half time - Jim was a threat at set pieces, George and Andy could have added to our score and there was a scorching free kick from Barry that was very easy on the eye. The Brixton Bus Garage keeper, under strain, had some dodgy moments with his kicks but we could not quite capitalise on these.
The only change we made at half-time was Mick O’Flynn coming on for Patrice Mongelard who went off looking for some lost property – our valuables, thankfully locked away in our dressing room by Vicky Tanner who provided excellent support to the Senior Vets, not least by taking delivery of the pizzas!
The second half was a goal fest – eight goals, almost an epidemic. Five of these were scored by Farnborough and three by our visitors. I am not sure I can remember all of them but the score evolved like this: 2-0 became 2-1, then 3-1 and 3-2, followed by 4-2, 5-2, 6-2, 6-3 and finally 7-3. Numbers cannot tell the full story. Our opponents scored early in the second half after a defensive mix-up. But the Barry Grainger – Andy Faulks axis combined to climax in a crisp top corner finish by Andy. Steve Blanchard went off injured and Patrice Mongelard came back on midway through the second half to see Brixton get a very good goal with a shot from the edge of the box nestling in the top corner. Any anxieties we might have had at that point were eased away in spectacular fashion as Rob Lipscomb embarked on a run straight from the kick-off taking out three defending players and setting Andy Faulks up for a trademark finish barely a minute after the deficit had narrowed.
The wheels then came off the Brixton bus as Andy Faulks again, he could get used to the excellent service provided by Barry Grainger, drove us further ahead before a Brazilian solo run from Barry gave him a well-deserved notch on the score sheet. At 6-2 we probably got complacent and were rightly punished by speedy opponents, despite a smart initial save from Steve Palmer. At 6-3 we, and our opponents, were ready to enquire of the referee how long was left but we were not done. Barry Grainger, again, provided the service from the left with his cultured left foot, Mick O’Flynn appeared mysteriously in the Brixton six-yard box, dummied the exquisite cross, so he says, and Andy Faulks finished emphatically to register his thirty-sixth goal of the campaign. The sense of a journey’s end, a bit like the loop on a bus route, was complete as Andy had scored our first goal of the season on 1 September.
Reluctant left back Waine Hetherington was quick to point out that most of our goals today had their origin on the left. This is not only a fair point but also a well-made one. This will have been of some comfort to him after a difficult week in May in Bournemouth.
I have rarely seen opponents take a heavy defeat so well. The game was played in excellent spirit, perhaps showing that playing the game with the right attitude is more important than winning or losing. In a way you could say there had been no dangerous driving at all. The canteen was not in service today as canteen girl Pam Shoebridge was away but we had seven super 15” pizzas plus garlic bread and chips on order from Ollie’s Kebab and Pizza in Farnborough Village (we support local businesses) and with both Roger French and buffet monster Nick Waller away we were unlikely to go hungry.
All in all this was an excellent way to end the season. We did not even mind that there was no hot water in the cistern today owing to a problem with our boiler. We wished our visitors bon voyage on the way back and look forward to another fixture next year. So for now the Senior Vets go back to the depot before training starts at the end of July, with the matter of world cup duty in between. The prize of today’s victory gave us figures for the season of P32, W17, D5, L10 GF 87, GA 65 – going steady, perhaps more than that, you might say.
Man of the match or the best man - Andy Faulks with 50% of all the goals scored today, to bring his tally to 36 goals in 30 games, his usual allowance that we have got used to. Some attribute Andy’s sharpness today to the benefit of his intellectual exchanges with Mehmet Bozyigit on social media this week. I prefer to think it was more due to the service from his team mates, a bit like having friends in high places.
A final word from your match reporter: to mark the occasion of our first ever match against Brixton Bus Garage Vets, and the last match report for this season, I have inserted about thirty titles of episodes of On the Buses in this match report. There is beer waiting for the first person who identifies these references.
Man of the match: Andy Faulks