Sunday 19th April 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough Nightmare in Eynsford
Our annual visit to the Eynsford Bowl to play Riverside Wanderers Vets used to be a fixture we did not fear. But things have been getting gradually difficult for us against these opponents. Today’s thrashing will not be easily forgotten – not just the score, but the manner of it. Riverside had quality all over the pitch and won most individual battles. We will have to raise our game an awful lot when they come to our ground in a fortnight.
Thirteen of us did well to get there on time, despite various traffic issues in the local area – including the well-equipped Colin Mant, who arrived with kit, match balls, water bottles and first aid bag. Our fourteenth player, Andy Faulks, was tardy as for most games, and just managed to get changed as the game kicked off but without, it seemed, having put the right footwear on. The playing surface was a challenge – lush, hard, of unpredictable bounce and roll, and with the kind of slope that should have a road sign, and well due a visit from the local sheep and cattle, or mower. It is about the same every April but we never seem quite prepared for it.
Phil Anthony Ian Coles Steve Blanchard Patrice Mongelard
Simon Thomas Sinisa Gracanin Obi Ugwumba Colin Brazier
Colin Mant Andy Faulks
Substitutes: Roger French, Andrew Washington and Nick Waller .
Supporters: Rebecca Coles, Louie Dwight, Isabelle and Thomas French, Jane Martin and Obi Ugwumba Jr.
We kicked uphill in the first half, or rather Riverside kicked downhill. That makes a huge difference on this pitch. If I tell you that we were 3-0 down after a quarter of an hour and that we had spent almost as long in exchanging bitter-sweet pleasantries with the referee you will get a sense of the tensions that built up. Riverside scored within two minutes of the start after carving a path on the right of our defence which gave their big unit up front the time and space to pick his shot. Five minutes later they had a corner from which they scored again. In the defence of that corner Gary Fentiman felt he had been impeded in the six-yard box but our remonstrations with the referee fell on cloth ears. By then the mood on our touch line was dark indeed. Worse was to come. After another corner Gary Fentiman punched the ball away cleanly before asking the referee something along the lines of “Was that OK ref?” Result - a direct free kick less than ten yards from our goal line – in fact the referee seemed prepared for us to form our defensive line behind our goal line – and the score swelled to 3-0.
We held our own for the next quarter of an hour or so but were having difficulty putting the Riverside goal under any sort of pressure despite some good moves particularly down our right where Simon Thomas looked our most dangerous player. Our best move came from a corner which Patrice Mongelard swung in which Colin Brazier nearly made something of at the far post. Patrice was fortunate to be on the pitch by then because the referee said he had not quite grasped the full meaning of Patrice’s words when he was advised to take his organs of vision out of his fundament, as Riverside were about to take another corner. Just before the half hour we conceded again from a corner as the big Riverside forward did what big units do at corners. Of course to some Riverside players the score was still 0-0 as one or two reminded themselves, loudly. It’s the sort of remark that referees should do something about I think – but we have all done it, if truth be told.
On the half hour Nick Waller and Roger French came on for Patrice Mongelard and Obi Ugwumba. Six minutes later Patrice was back on after Roger took himself off the field, before he could do or say something he might not regret, but which the rest of his team mates might. Yes, there had been yet another contretemps with the referee after he objected to Roger tackling the big unit. The referee mumbled something about being off balance, but in fact it was the balance of Roger’s mind that was in the balance at that point.
Riverside had more chances to score before half time and we were fortunate to be only four down when Andrew Washington came on for the second half. Sadly, Andrew only lasted 300,000,000 microseconds before he limped off injured, to be replaced by Obi Ugwumba (after five minutes). This was hardly worth the appearance fee one might think, but in fact Andrew is great value for his loquacity and perspicacity, tactical insight, strategic thinking, lifestyle advice and the general good humour he gives rise to. Andrew’s day was to get better, unlike mine, more on that later.
I am glad to say we gave a better account of ourselves in the second half, and that was not just down to Newton’s law of gravity. Andy Faulks, Simon Thomas, Sinisa Gracanin, Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba all had shots on goal. We lost Colin Brazier to injury, possibly for the rest of the season, with twenty minutes left and Phil Anthony was back on for some dogged defending – a moment of which would not have been out of place in a Lucha Libre match, but without the malice. In fact despite the refereeing issues there was hardly a bad tackle or harsh word exchanged between the players of both sides.
It was a bit against the run of play with a quarter of an hour left when Riverside notched a fifth – again from a corner. Our morning was epitomised when Ian Coles tracked back forty yards to produce a deft finish for the sixth Riverside goal in the 89th minute as a point blank save from Gary Fentiman rebounded off Ian’s frame to nestle into our net. I cannot remember a season when we have had so many OGs. By then we were down to ten men as Simon Thomas had hobbled off with cramp and the only fit player who could have replaced him, Roger French, had gone for an early shower (of his own volition on this occasion). At the end of the game I shook the referee’s hand partly as I thought the referee had had a challenging game with several drop balls unusually, and partly also as co-manager Roger French was unlikely to. I am sure other Farnborough players did too because we are that kind of team.
Having knocked the stuffing out of us our opponents invited us to sample their hospitality at the Five Bells. As nine of us sat in the pub garden with the sunshine breaking through our moods improved. Colin Mant and Patrice Mongelard kissed and made up after Colin had not appreciated the remark that we had sorely missed George Kleanthous, Ian Shoebridge and Waine Hetherington to give us forward momentum as they had scored thirty-one goals between them. This was no aspersion on Colin who gave 110%, in a thankless, unrewarded 90 minutes playing up front mostly on his own, dealing with poor service, high balls, hospital balls and being taken from behind roughly by eager defenders. The Buffet Whisperer, Nick Waller, also cheered up when he realised he would not have to go on the two-week detox and Beaux Looks diet that Andrew Washington was advocating for the whole squad last week. Before I left I just had time to grab a tuna and sweet corn sandwich, and a ham one too as well as a hot chicken goujon, which our opposition kindly brought out to us in the garden. Talking of Andrew – a Villa fan to whom I raise my glass of hemlock this evening, today I was painfully reminded of the words of the German Philosopher Theodor Adorno that “Football Implies the Desire To Suffer”. I have the Tee-shirt too. It will not surprise me to hear at some point that Andrew gave Tim Sherwood the benefit of his tactical genius for their Wembley semi-final.
Lastly a word for our prestigious Senior Vets End of Season Awards – which came to mind after Jane Martin revealed that she had brought along, and used, the stylish Thermos Flask that she had won in these awards a couple of seasons ago. This season’s awards will be on 10 May and Roger French has been working on his speech – one that will make Fidel Castro seem tight-lipped, if rumours are to be believed. Unbelievably after thirty-one matches already played this season, we have seven more games left. The squad is showing signs of physical and mental wear and tear but we cannot take our minds to the beach just yet.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin for a meritorious display in the midfield crucible of the Eynsford Bowl.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin