Sunday 5th October 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough check poor run of form with a victorious draw as Grimley plays fiendishly well
This away game is undoubtedly one of our toughest assignments, and with only twelve players available to tackle a giant pitch and a team usually bristling with substitutes, the omens were not good. Moreover as we were 2-0 down after only ten minutes, you will understand why a draw feels like we took maximum points.
This has done wonders for morale – more than the half dozen check shirts and shades on display, our homage to the Mant-Scotter school of stylish Sunday attire in suburban noir. Fourteen players had overnight been whittled down to twelve as Phil Anthony had gone dogging with Caesar in Margate, and Toby Manchip had told everyone but the two muppets in charge of the team that he was now unavailable – despite wearing his Farnborough Old Boys Guild sweatshirt when his lift to the ground turned up – another stylish bit of Sunday attire for the fashion hotspot that is Farnborough Senior Vets.
The weather was in keeping with the name of the place – Belvedere (beautiful view in Italian), glorious autumn sunshine against shades of brown and yellow and the morning dew – not quite Tuscany but it would do. This is how we were arranged in the sunlight and still air:
Mick O’Flynn Steve Blanchard Patrice Mongelard Nick Waller
Ian Shoebridge Jim Grimley Colin Mant Waine Hetherington
Andy Faulks George Kleanthous
Substitute: seulement Roger French
Supporters: Sinisa Gracanin, Isabelle and Thomas French. Sinisa has been to every game this season. His serious ankle injury must be a great disappointment to him. We miss him of course, but he seems to be keeping trim for his return – a diet of seaweed only he tells me.
Roger’s team talk had been a succinct afterthought, and it was a very distant memory after ten minutes. By then Belvedere were 2-0 up. Their first goal after only five minutes came when Gary got down to a low shot that skidded off the wet surface from twelve yards out but the ball spilled out of his grasp and the Belvedere right winger who had drifted into the box unencumbered by left back Nick Waller had a tap in.
Five minutes later the shorter of the two Belvedere stocky forwards had converted a cross from the left with a classy first time touch to produce a score line of 2-0 that was not a fair reflection of the game. Even in these early exchanges we showed signs of a passing and cohesive game allied with good movement that gave us great comfort. Andy Faulks put a rebound just over the bar from four yards out.
On the quarter hour we were back in the game when George Kleanthous chested down a deft cross from Jim Grimley inside the box, turned and slid the ball home beneath the advancing keeper. More finesse followed ten minutes later when Colin Mant, showing rare subtlety, slipped the ball behind the Belvedere defence for Ian Shoebridge to run on to, round the keeper and slot the ball home.
We pressed hard for the rest of the first half with the Belvedere keeper the busier of the two No 1s. The passing was good, the final ball was not quite there but we looked more likely to edge ahead as we had the momentum even though we were playing against the very noticeable slope. In fact I think we are going to have to reassess the myth that playing with the slope on that pitch confers an advantage
Belvedere held firm though and at 2-2 the half time whistle was probably more welcome to them than to us. The running of George Kleanthous, Andy Faulks and Ian Shoebridge had stretched Belvedere and we had a measure of control in the midfield with Jim Grimley and Colin Mant that we do not usually enjoy at this ground. We forced several corners – two of which were met dangerously by Nick Waller’s meaty forehead, and Mick O’Flynn’s crossing got better as the half ticked away.
For once we did not make any substitutions at half time – our bench was thin, well not the player on it, only that we did not have the numbers to play with. We began the second half with a spring in our step but to their credit Belvedere rallied, pushed us back and created a number of dangerous situations in our box, with the twisting and turning two-footed big unit, which drew the best out of Gary.
After a quarter of an hour we had the nerve to take the lead – a poor Belvedere clearance had the keeper off his line and the ball at Waine Hetherington’s feet about twenty-five yards out. Waine sized the situation, looked up and his cultured left foot did the rest and he had a classy chip to celebrate on the anniversary of his debut for us at the same ground a year ago – and what a different experience today was. Midway through the half Roger French came on for Nick Waller and was quickly involved in some “Norman Hunter” moments.
We hoped we could hang on for a rare and unexpected win but it was not to be. With about ten minutes left Belvedere got their equaliser. The ball pinged off several defenders before finding its way wide to the left of our defence a yard out from goal. For a moment it looked like Roger French would clear the danger but the ball eluded him and a Belvedere player forced the ball home from a tight angle. Roger later claimed the ball had taken a slight deflection which threw him off balance – perhaps a butterfly had flapped its wings in the Amazonian rainforest to create some turbulence in the Woolwich area. In the end the teams could not be separated – a draw was a fair result. This very competitive game had been played in excellent spirit.
The cosy club house, and bar where Mick O’Flynn asked for Czech beer to go with his shirt, was enhanced by a wide screen TV which kept our attention until the hot potatoes, sausages, and an array of sandwiches appeared. I had the last sandwich, an improvised egg mayonnaise and sausage combo, Waine Hetherington had the last potato, whilst Jim Grimley had the last sausage. Buffet slayer Nick Waller was subdued, perhaps miffed that Patrice Mongelard did not have a Maybelline pencil case for him, and Roger French took voracious advantage.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard (his check shirt was not bad either). In fairness several performances caught the eye today – Gary Fentiman pulled off a couple of worldies in the second half. Jim Grimley was immense in midfield. It was a great team performance with quite a few individual cameos. Next week we are playing away at Inter-Vyagra and after today our tails should be up for that one, and we’ll be wearing something blue.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard