Sunday 28th December 2014
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough find themselves a very long way from Orpington
This was a most disappointing end to the year, not only the result, but more so the manner of it. We deserved to taste defeat for the first time since 19 October, and to complete the circle of gloom our season started with a 2-1 defeat against today’s opponents on 31 August. So in a sense we have not progressed at all. In the brutal light of a cold, sunny day it felt to me that we played without cohesion or solidarity, energy or intelligence, composure or purpose, appetite or pride - and got what we deserved. My teammates might disagree, and point at one or two bright moments and missed opportunities. They’ll have to write another match report if they are to convince me that I am being harsh. This said, Orpington had the one outstanding player of the game who tipped the scales in their favour, but their collective play was superior to ours. So there are plenty of New Year resolutions for the Farnborough Senior Vets to work on. The only prediction I will make is that things could get better, or they could get worse.
As a result of shrewd planning by co-manager Roger French and lack of confidence in our own top pitch we brought fifteen players to the Beckenham Cricket Club this week – one fewer than last week. Orpington had a similar number I thought – including one individual we had not encountered before, and whom we will certainly not forget. As Paul Scotter put it to me afterwards in the bar – that player had been brought in to do a job, a bit like a specialist contractor, and footballers will understand what I mean when I say that player was at least one league above us. Roger French sported one of his Christmas presents – a football T-shirt with a quote from French existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre pointing out that in football everything is complicated by the presence of opponents. Our life was certainly complicated by one individual today, and you do not need to be a philosopher to work that out. We lined up like this:
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Lyons, Ian Coles, Nick Waller;
Simon Thomas, Obi Ugwumba, Colin Mant, Waine Hetherington;
Andy Faulks, George Kleanthous;
Substitutes: Roger French, Paul Scotter, Ian Shoebridge, and Steve Blanchard.
Supporter: Louie Dwight (mum Amanda and baby sister Daisy also appeared during the game, I think).
We did not start well when referee Mick Gearing first blew on his whistle. Correction, I did not start well. After only one minute I contrived to make a terrible hash of a clearance, ignoring the call to leave the ball for Gary Fentiman, only to tee up an Orpington forward who just had to roll the ball into the empty net with Gary stranded thanks to me. If my team mates had shouted taxi for Mongelard, I would have gladly got into it and gone straight to the retirement home. I played a minor part in our equaliser five minutes later when I put Andy Faulks through on the right and he squared the ball across the box for a smart finish by Waine Hetherington. I also cleared the ball off our line from an Orpington corner but these contributions could not make up for what I felt I had done to my team.
As the first half unfolded we came to appreciate the football being played by our opponents- in particular their two front men – both were tricky, skilful and well-supported by their midfielders. Gary Fentiman was called upon more than once to keep us in the game – including an acrobatic save to claw the ball out of the top corner to his left, which brought him into contact with the post. Midway through the half Orpington regained the lead from a corner that we failed to defend. Gary Fentiman felt that he had been fouled in the process but when you are the size that he is most referees will need some convincing, let alone tantric ones. We were not totally out the game but could not find the final ball – George Kleanthous will no doubt wish he had made a better connection with a cut back from Andy Faulks that could have brought us level.
On the half hour Patrice Mongelard, Simon Thomas, Waine Hetherington and Ian Lyons departed the scene making way for Ian Shoebridge, Roger French, Paul Scotter and Steve Blanchard. We experienced the usual difficulties adjusting and could have conceded more in that period of uncertainty but Gary was excellent when called upon and Obi Ugwumba and Colin Mant made notable blocks on the edge of our box. In the midst of this we had two gilt-edged chances to score – first Andy Faulks had a close range shot well-saved by the Orpington keeper diving low to his left, and then Andy rolled the ball just wide of the post in a one-to-one.
At half time we made an unplanned change when Ian Shoebridge came off, suffering from a cold that he had been unable to shake off and Simon Thomas resumed his wing play sooner than anticipated. We were to draw level ten minutes into the half when Andy Faulks contrived a shot from a central position, twelve yards out that appeared to move through the air, disturbing the balance of the Orpington keeper. Louie Dwight was particularly pleased as he had advised Andy to shoot.
We were back in the game and were looking to build on this by bringing Ian Lyons, Waine Hetherington and Patrice Mongelard back for the last half hour – for Colin Mant, Obi Ugwumba and Nick Waller. Instead things went downhill. We were undone by two quick Orpington goals – one simply brilliant and the other avoidable. Their third goal was a worldie as the best player on the field, five foot nothing, two quick feet, low centre of gravity, great balance and appetite, received the ball with his back to goal, turned his marker and rifled an unstoppable shot past Gary. Soon after poor defending allowed an Orpington shot to get through which Gary spilled and Orpington were left with a simple tap in to get a two-goal cushion.
By that point the game was quite open and both teams were creating chances. Waine Hetherington grabbed his second, another classy finish, converting an Andy Faulks assist. Any hopes we might have entertained then were dashed by the Orpington pocket dynamo up front as the wee man repeated the trick with an equally good finish after giving his marker the slip. He was to miss a sitter shortly later but his work was done at 5-3.
We were not quite done though, almost, as George Kleanthous earned a penalty which Mick Gearing gave, without protest from Orpington. (Mick was sharp today even spotting a Roger French foul throw). Andy Faulks ignored whispers of a Waine Hetherington hat-trick and took the penalty but not without some disturbance of his mind which meant his kick was saved. Roger “Statto” French has recently introduced a “fantasy football” scoring system for our goals, assists, clean sheets etc, which appears to have affected Andy Faulks more than closely than any of us. I am not sure if Roger’s system deducts points for missed spot kicks.
The buffet was just the same as last week – and the barmaid the same too (though without her Christmas jumper on which I complimented her (she has promised to model a new jumper for next Christmas) - but I did not feel the same way towards it. However, the presence of the Farnborough Buffet Man of the Year, Nick Waller, and of football philosopher Roger French, ensured that in the bar at least we put on a good performance. Not everyone was there. Simon Thomas had left early, depriving several of his team mates of the opportunity to explain to him that having our tallest player taking free kicks outside the Orpington box was a luxury that the team could not afford. You do not need to be a philosopher to work that out.
Colin Mant, sensing my downbeat mood, kindly offered to be the muse for my match report. I am not sure the next bit will be quite what he had in mind. We were reminded earlier in the week of the 2005-06 season. These were terrible times indeed for the Farnborough Vets. That season our figures read P26, W0, D4, L22, GF 35 and GA 101; Colin Mant and Roger French scored a third of our goals between them with Colin claiming the mantle of FOBG Vets Top Goal Scorer. How times change. To provide a bit of perspective our figures this season stand at P16, W6, D4, L6, GF37 and GA38 – and I suppose that going into our first game of the New Year we will be able to claim to be unbeaten in 2015. If we play like today that record won’t last beyond Twelfth Night.
Man of the match – Gary Fentiman – the reasoning I suspect being that without him we would have shipped far more than five goals. I would have preferred a clean sheet and I think Jean Paul Sartre would agree.
Man of the match: Gary Fentiman