Sunday 22nd February 2015
By Colin Mant
Farnborough ‘Nick’ it on the day Newton’s Law of Gravity is blown away.
Physics, it’s a funny old game, as Sir Isaac Newton probably didn’t say at all. But, if he had been alive today, he may have seen something to dislodge his wig. Farrow Fields was again deemed, by Tuesday in fact, to be too soggy to host our game and we were gravitationally pulled towards Beckenham Cricket Club for our third ‘home’ game this season at this venue. We extend our grateful thanks to John Pearce, Chairman of Wellcome Vets, for kindly accommodating us at Foxgrove Road this season. Our fixture list would have suffered greatly without their generosity, and we are lucky enough to be using their excellent pitch and facilities for the next two weeks.
15 other FOBG players orbited around that one constant in the universe, Roger French, hoping to get the nod to blast off. One player that had already flirted with the stratosphere this morning was George Kleanthous, fresh off the plane from Colorado, and looking less jet-lagged than Andy Faulks, despite having had less sleep than our nocturnal nutcase. I would hazard a guess that George had drunk slightly less though. George had been sending texts to Roger asking if the game was on, which is always a way to raise Rog’s blood pressure. With Rog next to me in the bar, it was too much temptation for me not to send a text, although I’m still waiting for my response. In front of us today stood West Farleigh Vets, a team that are never easy to play against and they possess good players all over the pitch.
With the kick-off scheduled for 11am, we lined up with Steve Palmer in goal, Paul Scotter, Steve Blanchard, Ian Lyons and Colin Brazier at the back, Waine Heatherington, Sinisa Gracanin, Obi Ugwumba and Ian Shoebridge in the middle, with Barry Grainger and Andy Faulks leading the attack.
Chilling out, quite literally, were: Roger French, Colin Mant, Des Lindsay, Nick Waller and, eventually after much strapping, George Kleanthous.
Looking on were Isabelle and Thomas French, Obi Ugwumba Jnr – who was not so keen to show off some skills this week – and a badger…..no, sorry, it was Mick O’Flynn. With Micky Gearing, our tantric whistler in charge of proceedings, the game began.
Both teams looked to take charge early on and it was clear that this was going to be one of our tougher tests. West Farleigh looked comfortable on the ball and worked it around well. Gradually we began to find our feet and it was Waine who opened our shots on target tally, cleverly cutting in on a mazy run and forcing the Farleigh keeper into action. Passes from both sides were snappy and slick, and the next 20 minutes were probably one of the best passages we’ve played this season. Shoey went close after a smart turn and the ‘Shoey Shuffle’ was in full evidence today. Barry Grainger was delivering crosses that just needed a gambling forward to attack and we were working spaces for shots. Obi Ugwumba went close with a bullet from distance, tipped over the bar by the Farleigh keeper.
Of the two sights today that were truly terrifying, one being a video that Ian Lyons had posted on Facebook of a chick in green lycra, the other was the sight of Steve Blanchard – not in green lycra I might add – playing as a faux forward. Our shaggy haired shot stopper nearly broke the deadlock with a shot against the post, following up an effort that had already pinged the upright. The balance was very much in our favour and it was somewhat of a blow to go behind, particularly in such soft circumstances.
A Farleigh thump forward saw the ball thread its way between our back line, but with a slight touch on it from a defender, Steve Palmer was prevented from gathering it up. His sliced attempt to clear the ball fell to a Farleigh forward, who had time and space to pick his spot. Those sort of things can play on a goalkeepers mind but, credit to Steve, he picked himself up and put in a solid performance the rest of the game.
We swapped things around, with Sini, Shoey, Steve B (some suggested this substitution was for deserting his defensive duties), Waine and Colin B taking a rest for George, Des, Colin M, Nick and Roger. Rog reckoned we’d shifted to a 4-3-2-1 formation following these changes, but it was probably more accurate for it to be the opposite way around with the attacking riches at his disposal. We were level before the break thanks to some neat work from Des, who fed Barry Grainger’s left foot and the result was never in doubt. Barry duly put the ball high into the net, inside the near post, to square things up - although we suffered a slight scare when Farleigh hit the bar shortly before the half-time whistle.
With Shoey’s half-time Jaffa’s consumed we went out determined to win, although Farleigh were also more than capable of doing so. The initial second-half exchanges were even and it was not long before we were forced into a change, with Des picking up a calf niggle due to nine years of inactivity. Shoey replaced Des and, not long after, Compo’s hangover was too much for him to bear, with Sini brought on to fill his spot. In a quick trio of substitutions, our defensive lynchpin, Ian Lyons, also came off as a precaution, with Steve B, now suitably anchored at the back, coming on. Farleigh were pressing for a winner, as we were, but they were being reduced to shots from outside of the box, while our efforts were not hit with intensity. With a final two changes made; Barry and Michael departing for Waine and Colin B, we attacked on the break. On one forging run forward Waine fed Colin M, whose shot was smartly saved by the Farleigh keeper. As the game wore on it looked like the game would need a moment of magic to win it, nay, a moment that would defy the fabric of nature itself. It came.
Back to Sir Isaac Newton. He eventually came to the conclusion that, the apple and the moon were influenced by the same force. He named that force gravitation (or gravity) after the Latin word gravitas which literally translates into "heaviness" or "weight". Well, we know a man that scoffs at such theories, and Newton may have had to do some hasty adjustment to his equations if he’d been here. Sini picked up the ball and delivered a pin-point cross that was just begging to be attacked, and what happened next was a thing of beauty, a contest of mass versus gravitational pull, with only one winner. Nick Waller beat the offside trap and his eyes did not leave his intended quarry, much like the last sausage on today’s buffet. We all gasped, as those who had watched in awe as the first space rocket to leave the earth must have done, and he launched his 5’ 8” bulk horizontally at the ball and powered a diving bullet header into the far corner. With respect, Sir Isaac, jog on and put that in your Principia you melt. It was a Waller worldy. A voice drifted in the ether, “Look at his face, just look at his face"...is that you Sir Isaac?
Soon after Mick blew for time and this was as hard an earned win as we’re likely to get. Much credit goes to West Farleigh as they played well and would have felt that they could have won too. After warm handshakes and a less than warm shower, as the hot water had been taken by the early kick off, we retired to imbibe ourselves. A wonderful platter of Sausages, Chips and Bread were gratefully received and despatched by the remaining team members, one of whom had a grin that would do a Cheshire Cat proud. However, he was not to scoop the man of the match gong, although he was close. This went to Ian Lyons whose prowess in the air, well timed tackles and barking of orders, in the two-thirds of the game he played, set the standard for us all to follow.
Post match report update revealed that a late vote allocated to Nesbit the Buffet Slayer resulted in joint man of the match being shared by Ian Lyons and Nick Waller. Nick was too busy hoovering up the oppositions left-over's to comment but judging by our opponents match report they were also impressed by this gravity defying act of pure quality.
Man of the match: Ian Lyons and Nick Waller