Sunday 9th November 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Faulks remembers the key to maximum points
A crisp, clear morning, punctuated by a fly past by WWII aeroplanes from Biggin Hill perhaps, in blue skies – saw Farnborough welcome Belvedere at Farrow Fields on Remembrance Sunday. The damp and wet conditions of the previous days were a distant memory but for the lush grass and the single large puddle which was forked furiously by four of our players. We could not remember the last time we had got the better of our opponents.
We had sixteen players and the plan was to give all fifteen outfield players sixty minutes each – injuries permitting. Sixteen was just one more than the number of pints Nick Waller had reportedly downed in the Maxwell the day before, to mark the start of the rugby internationals. All that drinking had left little time for eating, and Nick threatened to do terrible things to the buffet (to Roger French’s alarm).
Eight weeks had passed since we last played on our home pitch and we had forgotten how much there was to do before the game, in and around the clubhouse, and on/off the pitch. It was a good thing we had agreed to delay the kick off by half an hour. We had done so in order to have referee “Commander” Mick Gearing use his whistle to lead the two-minute silence at 11:00, once he had remembered to get his mints so he could keep his cool during the game.
Paul Scotter Ian Lyons Ian Coles Patrice Mongelard
Simon Thomas Colin Mant Ian Shoebridge Colin Brazier
Andy Faulks George Kleanthous
Substitutes: Roger French, Nick Waller, Waine Hetherington, Phil Anthony, Mick O’Flynn.
Supporters: Isabelle, Thomas and granddad French; Louie Dwight; Caesar (once again our lucky mascot – three appearances, three wins) and the three Graces – Freya, Kathleen and Thea; Vicky Tanner; Jane Martin and Rebecca Coles; Sinisa Gracanin; Chris Webb.
We made as good a start as we have had against this Belvedere side, with crisp short passing and good movement. It was not long before the chances kept coming and it was not long before we started missing them. Andy Faulks, Simon Thomas, George Kleanthous all had decent opportunities as we got a lot of joy playing the ball in space behind the Belvedere defence.
Ian Shoebridge and Colin Mant anchored the midfield with selfless running, with Simon Thomas and Colin Brazier providing good penetration down the wings. A number of our shots went narrowly wide and the Belvedere keeper was the busier of the two goalies.
With just under a quarter of an hour gone we took the lead as the smallest player in a crowded box, our own George Kleanthous, got his head to a precise Simon Thomas corner, to force the ball home despite an attempted save by the Belvedere keeper. Quite how we did not add to our score in the first half – we’ll never know. We missed one-to-ones, cut-backs to unmarked players in the six-yard box, and Ian Lyons put a header against the angle of post and bar. Also, who could fail to remember a searing, sweet as a nut, twenty-yard half volley from Colin Brazier which beat the keeper only to be headed off the line.
On the half hour we made five changes as planned: Patrice Mongelard, Paul Scotter, Andy Faulks, Colin Brazier and Simon Thomas gave way to Roger French, Nick Waller, Waine Hetherington, Phil Anthony and Mick O’Flynn. Barely ten minutes later, Patrice was back on for the injured Ian Lyons. The pattern was largely the same. Roger French – watched by French père, had the ball in the Belvedere net but from an offside position. It was not all one way. There was too much quality in the Belvedere side for that. In particular they had two quick, skilful forwards of their own and we had to be vigilant as their midfield sought them out with long balls.
The second half proved more eventful. We made an unplanned change during the break with an injured Ian Shoebridge coming off to be replaced by Simon Thomas. The early part of the second half was not dissimilar from the pattern of the first, with Farnborough creating and missing a catalogue of chances – George Kleanthous and Simon Thomas, came the closest to giving us the much sought-after cushion of a second goal.
I am sure I was not the only one who was wondering if we would be made to pay for this. Football is like that, and so it nearly proved again. With half an hour left the last chapter of our substitutions policy was played out as Andy Faulks, Colin Brazier and Paul Scotter replaced Ian Coles, Colin Mant and George Kleanthous. The irrepressible George was to come back with ten minutes left for Phil Anthony, seemingly dogged by a dodgy groin.
Andy Faulks was not long into his second spell before he, once again, provided satisfaction, latching on to a defensive mistake to steer the ball wide of the Belvedere keeper from the edge of the box. This was more comfortable we thought – but how wrong we were. The Belvedere team have a lot of spirit and with nothing to lose began to throw players forward.
There was a controversial moment when referee Mick Gearing, no doubt sucking on his mint, ignored shouts for a Belvedere penalty (I have seen these given but the tantric whistle did not blow) to Belvedere’s fury. Roger French then tangled with the feisty Belvedere midfielder who had been giving his own players a tough time and for a brief moment there was not much armistice spirit about. Roger’s mood will have darkened further when he failed to score when he was clean through on the Belvedere goal, on his favourite left foot – and did not give papa French something nice to remember. The nearest a French came to scoring today was when Isabelle nearly put a ball through the Farnborough Trophy cabinet in the clubhouse.
To add to the general tension, a few minutes later Mick Gearing awarded Belvedere a penalty for an accidental handball from Waine Hetherington, who had found himself in the unusual position of helping out his defence. Gary Fentiman saved the initial kick but as we all stood back to admire the save a nippy Belvedere forward had time to reach the rebound, control it, look up, choose his spot, pose for the cameras and stroke the ball home.
Things got worse five minutes later when Belvedere got a smart equaliser. We felt like we were being turned over, in slow motion, but could not do anything about it (except missing more chances – as Andy Faulks hit the ironwork with an attempted lob). The defence started blaming the midfield – with Simon Thomas arguing back that he was a winger who saw absolutely no need to help out defenders and midfielders decades older than him.
With five minutes left, and tensions high at 2-2, we produced a Dad’s Army moment during the game on the pitch as we tried to locate the key to the dressing room. Who had it last? Who passed it to whom? Whose fault it was we could not find it? All questions that were inaudible to the person who actually had the key – the hard of hearing Mick O’Flynn. It was like a French farce.
Tragedy was avoided, however, as with a few minutes to go, Simon Thomas doing what a winger does, harried the Belvedere defence into an error on the edge of their box, and Andy Faulks did what he does best as he stroked the ball home. This was the second time in two games that Andy has bagged a brace – and the goal was, of course, Simon’s second assist in this game, as a winger. The final whistle, soon after, was not quite the relief of Mafeking (Mick Gearing would know as he was there, allegedly), but very welcome.
I think the Belvedere players would agree this was a fair result in the end. There were no hard feelings as many of them stayed behind (almost outstayed us) to enjoy our hospitality and especially Pam Shoebridge’s home cooking. We had missed that. As I munched my umpteenth chicken leg I could not help noticing that Nick Waller was having only lime and soda (the Bishop must have wagged his finger at him reproachfully), and that Paul Scotter was scoffing one of the special bread rolls reserved for the management but the armistice spirit in me let it go, on this occasion.
Talking of armistice spirit Roger French pointed ostentatiously to the poppy he had bought to make up for his contretemps during the game - he’ll need more than that at the end of his career – I suspect, perhaps half a moat at the Tower of London.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous – for a performance to remember.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous