Sunday 30th November 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Old Tamponians fail to staunch Farnborough flow
Make no mistake. This was a very good away win against a good footballing side. Unlike last season we did not throw away a 2-0 lead against the same opponents, and the bonus was a rare clean sheet for us, not for Old Tamponians.
We were, of course, very pleased that this fixture, always scheduled for around this time of the month, was played after last week’s waterlogged landscape. The quagmire in part of the car park was a reminder of that. Added satisfaction came from the long-awaited return of our midfield maestro Sinisa Gracanin, playing his first game this season. Andrew “Denzil” Washington too, had got over a catalogue of niggling micro injuries, and had informed half the management where he thought he would be most effective in his first outing of the season.
Phil Anthony Steve Blanchard Paul Scotter Patrice Mongelard
Simon Thomas Colin Mant Nick Waller Waine Hetherington
Andy Faulks George Kleanthous
Substitutes: Roger French, Obi Ugwumba, Andrew “Denzil” Washington, Mick O’Flynn, and Sinisa Gracanin
Supporters: Thomas and Isabelle French, Obi Ugwumba Junior
The two periods of the game were quite different. Old Tamponians had the better of the first but with nothing to show for it. We had the better of the second particularly as they appeared to tire and could not match the copious substitutions we were able to make.
The game was barely two minutes old when a piece of nifty footwork from Nick Waller and a smart lay-off from George Kleanthous set Andy Faulks up, twenty yards out, no defender in sight, looking straight at the Old Tamponians keeper but Andy screwed his shot wide. Ten minutes later Andy’s radar was off beam again as he was played clean through by George Kleanthous but from five yards out shot with his left foot which is less deadly than his right. Those early chances for us were followed by twenty minutes of sustained pressure from Old Tamponians which we did well to absorb.
Their defence marshalled by two quite big units was probably as old, if not marginally older than ours, but they had clearly played to a high standard, and could play themselves out of trouble whenever needed and their hard-working midfield kept us busy. In the midst of this there was a great point blank save from Gary Fentiman to deny our opponents. Gary was surprisingly sharp today, quick off his line, alert, agile, and his kicking was not to be sniffed at either. Old Tamponians were unlucky with a couple of good headers in promising positions.
On the half hour we made our five planned changes with Patrice Mongelard, Nick Waller, Phil Anthony, Andy Faulks and Colin Mant making way for Sinisa Gracanin, Roger French, Denzil Washington, Mick O’Flynn and Obi Ugwumba. After the usual period of acclimatisation we sensed that we were turning the tide.
A crisp six-man passing move, without interference by Old Tamponians, involving Mick O’Flynn, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Denzil Washington, Simon Thomas and finally George Kleanthous was crowned by our first goal. The final contribution was a whipped cross deep to the far post from Simon Thomas which George controlled on his chest and advanced to beat the keeper from close range with about ten minutes left to half time.
We felt that in the last ten minutes we had started to push Old Tamponians back. We had reversed the flow of play and that was much evident as the second half unfolded. There was a sweet moment when Waine Hetherington’s cultured left foot found George Kleanthous unmarked in the box with a forty-yard cross field pass; George controlled the ball expertly but then seemed unsure which foot to use to strike the ball on goal and the moment passed.
At the other end we had a measure of control and Gary was the less busy keeper as the defence held firm with Roger “Pickfords” French doing some heavy lifting. On the hour we made another five substitutions with the five who had gone off on the half hour returning for Paul Scotter, Steve Blanchard, Simon Thomas, Waine Hetherington and George Kleanthous.
Our dominance increased. Andy Faulks could smell blood in his second spell and tried a couple of long range shots that looked good on the eye. With a quarter of an hour to go Old Tamponians could not withstand our pressure as Obi Ugwumba muscled his way into the box from the left, went past two defenders, before being brought down from behind. Andy Faulks stepped up and despatched the penalty with calm assurance. We had the cushion of a second goal and our resolve to defend it was great. We brought Simon Thomas back on in the last quarter of an hour after Mick O’Flynn was indisposed with a recurrent calf injury – to the chagrin of an Old Tamponians defender who declared himself old enough to be Simon’s granddad – in jest, I think.
Andy Faulks took the kit home despite his personal aversion to water and cleaning products. I was not the only one hoping he would treat the kit better this time. Last time it was rumoured that a cleaning technique last used by the Romans, was applied by either Andy himself or one his guests, looking to relieve a full bladder in the dark in the early hours of the morning where they thought the toilet bowl was.
We’ll be playing Old Tamponians Super Vets again in less than twenty-eight days, at home, and we expect an equally tight game. We hope to return their hospitality. I made the school boy error of sitting next to buffet black hole Nick Waller, facing the tray of exquisite sandwiches, cocktail sausages and roast potatoes. Still I had a lovely puff pastry mince pie waiting for me when I got home. Here is a statistic for the anoraks out there: we have never lost a game this season, or last, where both Andy Faulks and George Kleanthous have scored – and long may it continue. You won’t get that bit of “analysis” from Roger’s management tools.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin, who played like he had hardly been away, bringing much needed craft, composure, pace and football intelligence to our midfield, and nearly scoring with a low shot that the Old Tamponians keeper just managed to fingertip round the post late in the game.
As this was only our second clean sheet of the season, votes were cast too for the defence: Gary Fentiman, Steve Blanchard and Roger French – the latter for mistiming his full-blooded tackles, without seeing red, which meant they were, for once, on time. It would not do to be late with Old Tamponians, not least because of the excellent spirit in which they play the game. I nearly voted for Mick O’Flynn who claimed to have saved my life after he alerted me and the driver of a big blue van who had started to reverse his vehicle, unsighted, against my shoulder in the muddy car park. The driver wished me swifter movement on the pitch and I wished him better vision in return.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin