Sunday 29th March 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
By George, Farnborough get back to winning ways
After a run of three defeats this away game at a much improved outfit this season in the form of Catford Wanderers, with whom we drew 2-2, in mid-February, was a prospect not without some anxiety. The dismal start to British Summer Time under leaden skies in very blustery, wet, conditions added to the degree of difficulty, as did the clocks going forward overnight. The horologically-challenged Andy Faulks had earlier in the week interpreted this as an opportunity for an extra hour in bed, but in fact he was only moderately tardy. Roger’s tent was a refuge and we were tempted to get the team line-up in there, but it was no tardis.
The playing surface was very good, in fact better than in February, we thought, and conducive to a passing game on the springy grass and well-drained soil.
Phil Anthony, Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Roger French;
Colin Mant, Sinisa Gracanin, Obi Ugwumba, Ian Shoebridge;
George Kleanthous, Des Lindsay.
Substitutes: Nick Waller, Andy Faulks, Paul Scotter, Simon Thomas and Waine Hetherington.
Supporters: Louie Dwight, Thomas French and Obi Ugwumba Jr.
We started like a brazier on fire. Des Lindsay hit the post in the first minute and that set the tone for a very dominant half hour from Farnborough, with the direction of play inexorably towards the Catford goal. George Kleanthous was determined to break into double figures this season and he had the early half chances. We played a high line and attacked down both flanks. The Catford keeper was no Peter Bonetti though I believe he was of Italian extraction, and was not really a keeper as he gave us a tough time playing up front in February. Still he got in the way of what we could throw at him and what he could not catch he parried and spilled, safe in the knowledge that only Colin Mant would be following up.
It was inevitable that we would take the lead and so it came to pass after about a quarter of an hour of high intensity pressing from us. Obi Ugwumba capped a midfield muscular moment with finesse to release George Kleanthous into the Catford box on the left. George advanced and lashed the ball into the far corner. It was no more than we deserved. Soon after Des Lindsay felt something stiffen in his groin and he went off, with Andy Faulks taking up the position he would have if he’d moved with the time. It was not long before the George and Andy combo worked like clockwork as George broke clear on the right and squared the ball for Andy to beat the keeper with a cool finish – wham bam thank you.
To their credit Catford did not roll over to be tickled. We made a number of changes that checked our momentum a little, as Obi Ugwumba, Ian Shoebridge, Patrice Mongelard and Phil Anthony made way for Waine Hetherington, Nick Waller, Paul Scotter and Simon Thomas. Soon after coming on Nick Waller took off his wedding ring (which went into Patrice Mongelard’s coat pocket). For a while there Nick looked he’d taken a weight off his shoulders though he was later to have to put ice on a shiner as he was caught accidentally on the cheekbone by an opponent’s ring. Make of that what you will – I call it a sign. There was still excitement left in the first half – Roger French came off with a dead leg after a heavy tackle, his own leg I hasten to add, and was replaced by Patrice Mongelard who for the second week running was having to come back on to replace an injured team mate. Roger’s tackle had led to a free kick which resulted in a corner, after an excellent diving save from Gary, from which Catford were to score a screamer with an unstoppable volley (though one of their own players tried) from just inside the box. It was a goal to brighten the gloom of a gusty wet morning. If anything the weather was to get even more inclement.
The wind picked up markedly for the start of the second half, which had barely started when Andy Faulks picked the pocket of a Catford defender on the edge of their box, and was clean though on goal but the ball would not sit right for him and the opportunity was lost. What a blow that would have been, in perfect symmetry with Des’s chance at the beginning of the first half. But the early stages of the half belonged to Catford, now playing with the wind behind them and in a different, more offensive formation. They put three up front (one of whom was the first half goalkeeper) and we struggled to get out of our half. Gary’s kicks were not achieving their usual distance. With Waine Hetherington and Simon Thomas playing more like wingers than midfielders we were outnumbered in midfield where Sinisa Gracanin and Colin Mant worked like Trojans. Let it not be said that Colin can’t put in a shift.
We tried to play the ball out of defence and when one such move broke down Paul Scotter was in the wrong place to prevent a shot coming in which curled into the top corner about fifteen minutes into the half. We had been pegged back and our two-goal lead had been but a dream. We could have lost the game at that point but for our solid defending and Gary’s quality in goal particularly in dealing with the high balls. Gradually we started to reverse the flow of the game. Simon Thomas was able to restore our advantage after he converted an assist from George at close range. That was just the tonic we needed and we now had something precious to defend. Talking of precious Roger French was now fingering Nick Waller’s ring in my coat pocket, and Roger said he felt like doing a Frodo Baggins every time Catford had a corner.
Obi Ugwumba, Ian Shoebridge and Des Lindsay came on for Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Mant and George Kleanthous. George was not off for long though as Des was still having groin issues and George sauntered back into the fray. Our desire to win was epitomised when Waine Hetherington stole a ball which Andy Faulks had teed up, only to shoot tamely at goal. Andy was not happy, like a grouchy toddler who had not had enough sleep, but the moment passed – though we noted later he would not pass to Waine when we had a promising move developing. Obi Ugwumba, had a bit of a contretemps with a combative Catford midfielder but the referee, excellent today I thought, made them shake hands. I could not help thinking at that point how much Michael looked, and was built like, Joe Frazier. With five minutes left George broke clear of the Catford defence and unselfishly played the ball to Andy who could not put our minds at rest.
In the end we held on – but were asked some tough questions by Catford in the second half – a bit like in a quiz. Talking of quizzes I must congratulate Vicky Tanner’s team for beating another ten teams, to win the Farnborough Old Boys Guild spring quiz last night. My own team, which included Mick O’Flynn and Ian Coles from the Senior Vets, could not come from behind to defend our title and we finished third. It was good to see other Senior Vets - Ian Shoebridge, Colin Brazier and Nick Waller also taking part in what was another successful fundraising and social evening for the club, courtesy of quiz master Keith Beston.
Our hosts put on what we all agreed was the best spread we have enjoyed at away grounds this season: hot sausages, sausage rolls, chicken satay sticks, chicken balls, samosas, chips, pizza, bread rolls, profiteroles, chicken nuggets, French bread, soft rolls, cucumber, plum tomatoes – thanks to the lovely lady who also served in the bar, and I am not sure I have remembered it all. I distinctly recall having five samosas, including the last one which escaped the clutches of the Buffet Solutions firm of Waller & French who were the last ones left in the bar. I was glad Colin Brazier was not there to rebuke me again for my buffet footprint – though I am sure that as a fellow defender he would have welcomed my man-of-the-match award, as I wound the years back as the clocks went forward. Not bad on my 475th appearance for FOBG Vets.
Man of the match: Patrice Mongelard