Sunday 18th January 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough master the conditions and Baltic
Our last two matches against Baltic Exchange Vets in 2011-12 were not good for us: 6-0 and 6-3 defeats. So you can imagine what a relief it was to win this game, away from home, but the manner of it was even more of a tonic for us.
The team responded well to the earlier kick-off of 10:00, an unfamiliar venue, the John Fisher Sports Ground in CR6 9RD, and the warning about parking spaces. In fact I was the first to arrive at 9:18 followed two minutes later by Colin Brazier who parked next to me after a fashion. Others soon followed, including Gary Fentiman sporting a grey herring bone flat cap – considered stylish only by breeders of whippets, ferrets and racing pigeons (and Gary). Roger French arrived waving a big bar of dark chocolate, as medical advice to cure Roger’s “Hunteritis” which flared up in our last game. It is probably not as effective as sedation but it does allow him to play a part in the game – as he did, with much credit later.
Once again we mustered fifteen players on a cold, but this time very damp, morning – it was to rain for most of the first half. The pitch was on the soft side and by the end of the game it was well squishy, an energy-sapping surface which football commentators call a great leveller.
Patrice Mongelard Paul Scotter Ian Coles Colin Brazier
Simon Thomas Obi Ugwumba Colin Mant Ian Shoebridge
Waine Hetherington George Kleanthous
Substitutes: Roger French, Sinisa Gracanin, Nick Waller, Andy Faulks.
Supporters: Louie Dwight; Isabelle & Thomas French, Obi Ugwumba Jnr.
We started full of purpose. The back four were solid as a unit, the midfield firm and composed, whilst our two forwards, Waine Hetherington and George Kleanthous, were a handful of foxes in the box. Baltic too had undoubted quality in their side and the opening exchanges were even.
Farnborough fashioned the early chances, however. A header from George at the end of a Patrice Mongelard corner was encouraging, as was the wing play of Simon Thomas, at last also putting in a defensive shift. Yet after about fifteen minutes it was Baltic who took the lead. We failed to defend a set piece effectively and the ball fell invitingly for a Baltic player on the edge of our box and his shot took a deflection off Colin Mant, I think, to wrong-foot Gary. To mention own goal then would have been most unfair to Colin.
This felt harsh such was our share of the play at that point. Thankfully, we bounced back within two minutes. Patrice Mongelard intercepted an attempted through ball with a volley which lobbed the ball over the Baltic defence for Waine Hetherington to run on to. Waine applied his usual cool finish and although the keeper got a hand to the ball which was lifted over his head he could not prevent the ball from crossing the line.
We had a very good spell then. George Kleanthous drew a great save from the Baltic keeper from three yards out. Colin Mant had a shot that was three yards out horizontally after a cut back from Ian Shoebridge. Colin then produced a sublime back heel in the box to play George in. He said he hoped this would get a mention in the match report as a sign that he was capable of subtlety. I have mentioned it, but would add that with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall on BBC2 next week, you will be able to see what I mean when I say that Colin is usually as subtle as a codpiece.
But George was not to be denied for long – he was taken roughly from behind on the greasy surface, in the box, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot which was not very visible. George grabbed the ball, did the business and we were now in front. That did not stop George from getting an earful from a fired-up Colin Brazier after he had failed to “play the simple ball” back to Colin.
On the half hour we made four changes with Ian Shoebridge, Waine Hetherington, Simon Thomas and Obi Ugwumba making way for Roger French, Andy Faulks, Nick Waller and Sinisa Gracanin. We wobbled a bit then as Roger and Nick in particular were playing in unfamiliar positions but we got away with it because we all played for each other. At half time we brought back Simon Thomas as Paul Scotter had felt something stiffen in his groin after a heavy tackle.
The second period of play was more notable for the amount of defending we had to do as Baltic searched for an equaliser. We needed to be resolute and resilient. There was always a Farnborough shirt in the way making a last ditch clearance, or a vital interception or block, picking up the second ball. We were also more disciplined in playing the off side trap.
Baltic had upped their game and for about half an hour they looked like the most likely scorers even though there were no great or clear scoring chances being created. George Kleanthous, Colin Mant and Colin Brazier made way on the hour for Waine Hetherington, Ian Shoebridge and Obi Ugwumba. There was some initial clipboard confusion about who would make way and at one point we had twelve players on the pitch but the moment passed.
The “fresh legs” were to have an even more effective second spell. A mellow but spent Roger French made way for another Colin Brazier spell to bolster our defence for the last twenty minutes. Neither side pulled out of challenges and the surface meant a lot of sliding tackles, closely contested 50-50s and physical contact – for example the clash between the nippy bearded but youthful Baltic left back who overran the ball and the once nippy, clean-shaven and not so youthful Patrice Mongelard, which saw the younger man helped off the pitch.
In the midst of furious defending we could sense that with a bit of composure we could exploit the gaps behind the Baltic defence with the pace of Simon Thomas, Andy Faulks and Waine Hetherington. With about ten minutes left, we made a quick incision down the right and Andy Faulks was able to conjure a shot from the edge of the box. The keeper could not hold the ball and Waine Hetherington arrived to snaffle the rebound and give us a two-goal cushion.
To their credit Baltic did not give up. We needed a great saving header from Ian Shoebridge to deny Baltic at the far post. They had a couple of shots that went narrowly wide. And to cap it all with less than five minutes left – Andy Faulks again turned provider as his low shot came off the post and Waine Hetherington was on hand to steer the ball home for his third, and our fourth.
Two Baltic players refereed the game (one in each half) in the absence of a neutral third party, but you would not have known it if their part-covered kit had not given them away. We all congratulated them on their fairness and even-handedness. It was not a game for the faint-hearted but the way these two referees handled the game meant that there was no malice in it and the handshakes at the end were sincere.
We had three regulars missing today – all defenders. Steve Blanchard (plumbing), Mick O’Flynn (RSI) and Ian Lyons (thumb – his partner’s) will all rue missing such a battling display. Mick’s injury, wrist, I think, is incurable but he’s taken it well. The other notable absentee who would have relished this game was Rob “Arnie” Lipscomb, who came through his knee operation on Friday. Obviously Rob had a serious injury and our advice is not to rush back. We could not recall a better performance this season in terms of collective spirit, endeavour, solidarity, hunger and sheer doggedness. Some even harked back to the days of playing at Tugmutton Recreation Ground on pitches very much like today’s. This grit was in Farnborough Old Boys Guild’s DNA. There will also be much grit in Sinisa Gracanin’s washing machine if he does the kit at home.
Our hosts produced two mountains of cool sandwiches: cheese and red onion, and ham and mustard. In the end only two sandwiches were left in front of buffetmeister Nick Waller and the resident dog as I departed. My money was not on the dog.
Man of the match: Waine Hetherington, for our first hat trick this season, our top goal scorer in 2015, five goals in our last three games, and all without taking a penalty. And he bought a jug – he had to. I am glad that co-manager Roger French had resisted siren calls from a faux forward during the week to play him up front instead of Waine.
Man of the match: Waine Hetherington