Sunday 21st December 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets deliver bumper Christmas edition
There was no danger of this game being called off on the well-drained pitch at the Beckenham & Sydenham cricket club – so much so that we have already booked the same pitch for next week’s game, such is our faith in the drainage at Farrow Fields marshes. Bunny Beston will no doubt agree this is a smart move – he was glimpsed today pitch-side casting envious eyes at the well-drained surface.
What will not be on display next week will be the kaleidoscope of Christmas jumpers sported by Farnborough today – as fine a catwalk collection as you will see outside Lapland. Where to begin? The his & hers combo from Jane Martin and Ian Coles (Ian’s had an appendage which Jane fondled in full view later); Colin Brazier’s had been mothballed since the 1967 Val Doonican Christmas Special; Waine Hetherington’s and Ian Lyons’ will never win prizes for understatement in this, (or anything else); Simon Thomas’ and Mick O’Flynn’s were relatively tame (Mick does not do loud); Patrice Mongelard’s was subtle; Roger French’s only made sense if you were a Canadian moose; Colin Mant’s fetching ensemble came with assorted hat with ear flaps and tassel. George Kleanthous’ was five minutes away, whilst Gary Fentiman’s jumper had merely been bought at Christmas. Louie Dwight won the junior category and I noted the barmaid in the clubhouse had a Christmas jumper too with a fine pair of tassels.
After last week’s postponement the numbers available for today’s game were high – sixteen, including Roger French who had recovered from a dead leg. When I heard he had picked up a dead leg in our last match – my first thought was “he must return it, surely” but this was not one of his usual Norman Hunter fantasies. There was an affected part, and watching the Jingle Belles at the Royal Albert Hall will no doubt have helped with his circulation.
Now – what about the game I hear you groan. It was a cracker. Four goals in the first half, five in the second, a second half that seemed interminable, at least one own goal, last-ditch tackles (mostly from Roger French like a present delayed in the Christmas post), a careless linesman (Roger again), a first foul throw in 466 appearances for Farnborough Vets for yours truly to Colin Brazier’s Christmas delight, a kick in the nuts for Paul Scotter, Mick O’Flynn and Colin Mant collapsing under their own weight – it had everything.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Lyons, Ian Coles, Colin Brazier;
Mick O’Flynn, Obi Ugwumba, Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington;
Colin Mant, George Kleanthous;
Substitutes: Roger French, Simon Thomas, Paul Scotter, Andy Faulks, and Stephane Anelli.
Supporters : Jane Martin, Louie Dwight, Obi Ugwumba Junior and Bunny Beston.
Our last visit to this ground, a year ago, to play the same opponents had been a painful experience (a 6-1 defeat after we had taken the lead) and we were wary. The first exchanges confirmed the difficulty of the task but we took the lead after ten minutes after a nifty back heel from Mick O’Flynn had teed George Kleanthous up for a shot which the Wellcome keeper could only parry into Mick’s path and Mick caressed the ball nonchalantly into the net with the outside of his right foot to give us the lead. That lead would have lasted longer if faux linesman Roger French had been paying attention. The Wellcome equaliser was not long in coming but had more than a suspicion of offside. However, any offside claims we entertained were nullified when linesman Roger French said “I was not watching” and that was it. I wondered if he said the same thing last week as the Jingle Belles shook their skimpy tasteful tasselled outfits. Still we pulled ahead midway through the first half when George Kleanthous, ably assisted by the Wellcome centre half, lashed a twenty yarder home.
We made five changes midway through the half with Ian Lyons, Sinisa Gracanin, Mick O’Flynn, Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba making way for Roger French, Andy Faulks, Paul Scotter, Stephane Anelli, and Simon Thomas. Wellcome got more of a grip in midfield where we had an unfamiliar operator in Roger French, threatened on the break, got a few corners, tested Gary Fentiman once or twice but on the whole we got away with it. Our resilience was crowned by a superb strike from the tardy Andy Faulks, slow to rise this morning after hunting beavers all night, I think. Andy’s twenty-yard half volley arrowed into the net as it whistled past the transfixed Wellcome keeper. The assist came from Stephane Anelli. 3-1 at half time was a fair score. We felt we could add to it but, unwisely, forgot our opponents.
However, there were no goals in the first quarter of an hour in the second half. In truth Wellcome were making a better fist of it, having introduced some new players including a big unit up front who began to put himself about and some of the tackling on the edge of our box got tasty. Gary Fentiman survived a dead leg in that period. We kept true to our substitutions policy by making a further five changes after fifteen minutes or so. Our opponents must have felt there was an element of time-wasting on our part – in which case perhaps we should have made single repeated substitutions. Three defenders – Ian Coles, Patrice Mongelard and Colin Brazier went off, as did George Kleanthous and Waine Hetherington to make way for the return of Ian Lyons, Sinisa Gracanin, Mick O’Flynn, Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba. The score was 3-1 to Farnborough then, as Colin Brazier pointed out, modestly later. But five Christmas presents were on their way.
It was not pretty from the sidelines; yet we edged further ahead when Andy Faulks threaded a delightful through ball for Simon Thomas to run on to and slide home. Our relief was short-lived. Wellcome got back in the game when their right winger made the most of the vacant spaces appearing in our defence to beat Gary Fentiman at the near post. Panic was well set in our midst when a succession of blunders in midfield and poor tackling allowed Wellcome to score a superb twenty-five yarder into the top corner of Gary’s net. Paul Scotter took one in the Brazils to add to our concerns, and the Christmas spirit drained away from Roger French’s tackling. Surely, there was no way we could lose this game - was there? We had our doubts – especially after a great cross from Andy Faulks to the far post was not allowed to ruin Simon Thomas’ hair as he went instead for a front full half-pike with his legs and a golden opportunity was missed, like an actor fluffing his lines.
Andy Faulks brought the relief of a two-goal cushion when his shot from the edge of the penalty box was fortuitously deflected into the Wellcome net for an OG - sorry Andy the Christmas jumpers society voted to deprive you of this strike. The excitement was not over – this match kept giving – as Ian Lyons lashed a mighty clearance against a Wellcome player only to see the ball cannon off the attacker, and travel in a deadly arc past Gary, into the Farnborough net. The referee showed no sign of blowing the whistle, so it felt, but in the end we held on to claim maximum points.
As we sat round the table in the bar in our Christmas jumpers – it felt like we were sat round some burning logs in a yuletide fireplace – but the heat came from the hot sausages and chips. Papa Buffet, Nick Waller, was absent today but his big elf Roger French was there to tuck into the chips and sausage butties. Colin Mant seemed a tad morose despite his festive attire, and we found out that was because he’d counted only eight goals in the game.
This being the season of gifts Roger French and Patrice Mongelard were very touched to each receive a 10-year single malt scotch whisky, and a 200ml can of WD40, from the team. There had been a lot of technical discussion during the week among the squad on the lubrication of rusty nuts.
The festive atmosphere extended to the changing room where Mick O’Flynn’s immensely thoughtful Christmas playlist, entertained us before and after the game. The least risqué lyric I heard was about daddy being spotted kissing Santa Claus. There was some other song about a wishbone I think.
Man of the match, George Kleanthous – though votes were distributed widely, not quite widely enough to Roger French’s liking, and including a sympathy vote for Andy Faulks from the strikers’ union.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous