Sunday 3rd May 2015
By Patrice Mongelard helped by Colin Mant
Farnborough woes continue against Riverside
So much for making home advantage count, and Roger French’s tactical master stroke to not play in yellow stripes. We came up short again. In a sense I am relieved that I can only report on the first hour of this game. My apprentice Colin Mant will cover the last half hour as I could not bear to watch ... no, I had to make a swift exit for a family event, so missed out on the après-match, and the buffet where I suspect Buffet Grandmaster Nick Waller might have been off his game. I had seen quite enough by then though. Riverside were good, of course, but we gave them quite a bit of help too.
Despite the overnight, and early morning, rain we had a good crowd. The grass was as long as we played on at Riverside two weeks ago, but the surface was softer and truer. We rushed through the pre-match preparations to make the 10:15 kick-off on a busy day at Farrow Fields with three games scheduled. Injuries had deprived us of four or five regulars and we had called on a number of reinforcements by the time referee Mick Gearing blew his carefully-owned whistle.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Obi Ugwumba;
Simon Thomas, Sinisa Gracanin, Neil Connelly, Colin Mant;
Ben Clunn, Andy Faulks.
Substitutes: Roger French, Dave Green, Barry Grainger and Nick Waller.
Supporters: Colin Benningfield and son, Louie Dwight, Isabelle and Thomas French, George Kleanthous, Jane Martin, Mick O’Flynn, Ian Shoebridge, Amanda Sim, Daisy Thomas and Obi Ugwumba Jr. Also present towards the end were assorted FOBG Young Vets and the Grant Gable All Stars XI who were waiting to play on the same pitch immediately after.
Unlike a fortnight ago we were not 4-0 down after twenty-five minutes. We were only 1-0 down. However, like then we did not really look like scoring. We defended better initially, had a more compact and competitive midfield, enjoyed more possession, but lacked a cutting edge. Riverside had edged ahead after about twenty minutes from a well-taken shot by their adventurous left back with a low centre of gravity who came a long way to shoot from the edge of our box. He caught the ball right and the swerve was too much for Gary Fentiman who until then had dealt with everything Riverside threw his way, including a fantastic low one-handed diving save on a greasy surface. We made the schoolboy error of thinking that there was a hand-ball, and also that the ball had gone out in the build-up, and could not recover the situation when there was no whistle.
At that point we felt we could get back in the game. Simon Thomas and Ben Clunn gave us penetration down the wings and put in crosses whilst Neil Connelly and Sinisa Gracanin gave us midfield craft and we were defending soundly. It was in the middle of the Riverside box that our problem was crystallised. The Riverside centre halves did not look that pressured particularly with Andy Faulks dropping back and the occasional forays from midfielders were not enough to sustain Farnborough pressure in a crowded penalty area where Riverside defended in numbers. The changes we made on the half hour to bring on Dave Green and Nick Waller for Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba did not disturb the pattern of our play. In fact Nick Waller was to have arguably our best chance of the half when he found himself at the far post, unmarked two yards out from a set-piece but lost his footing at the point of contact with the ball and he screwed his shot wide. Nick was not expecting to play today as he was due to attend an air show but the poor weather had cancelled the flights. Nick was to look to the skies for other reasons before long.
The game turned on a period of about ten minutes at the start of the half. In that time Neil Connelly saw his close range shot, following a Farnborough corner, beat the Riverside keeper only to hit the bar and we suffered not one but two pieces of misfortune. The first was an own goal of terrible beauty scored by Nick Waller. One own goal is unlucky, two unfortunate, three tragic (the season is not over so the criminal stage might yet be reached). Yes, today Nick Waller completed a hat-trick of own goals this season – all crackers. Today’s was the pick I think. Following a Riverside corner Gary and the big Riverside double wardrobe of a forward had come together – the ball dropped a foot of so from the goal line, in a pocket of space occupied only by Nick Waller. Nick shifted his weight from guarding the post and shaped to clear the ball; and in so doing sliced it, spinning it with great force against the underside of the crossbar behind him into the net. As I looked at his face I thought I could see a smile cross it as he raised his eyes to the skies to look for the Spitfire he would have been watching if the weather had been better this morning. In that moment I was struck by the wisdom of Colin Brazier, sadly missed today along with a few others, who always advises left-footed players to defend corners from positions where they can use their left foot. What I am trying to say is that had Nick Waller used his right foot the outcome would have been different.
Five minutes later – Dave Green got between a bulky Riverside centre-half, up for a set-piece, and the ball and was running back towards our own goal when he was bull-dozed from behind, flung to the ground and the Riverside player stepped over his prostrate body and lashed the ball into the net. Referee Mick Gearing turned towards the centre circle and we were 3-0 behind having witnessed the closest thing you’ll see to a mugging on a football pitch. By then our linesman, or linesboy, was Obi Ugwumba Jr. I have no doubt he is keen and honest like his father but there are things that children should not have to deal with – with the numbers we had we should be able to give the flag to an adult.
There was just time for me to make a terrible hash of a free kick before we made four changes on the hour: Patrice Mongelard, Neil Connelly, Ben Clunn and Simon Thomas were replaced by Barry Grainger, Roger French, Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba. At which point we swap match reporters, although the last 30-minutes gave less to write about than the first 60.
We threw more resources forward but Riverside had the bit between their teeth. They had a comfort in their play which we lacked, and it was a blow as they added a fourth. Gary Fentiman’s spaffed clearance went straight to their ‘big unit’, still reeling from the force of a French challenge moments earlier, but he managed to push through the pain barrier, advance unchallenged towards Gary, to finish with panache.
There was time for a consolation as Barry Grainger collected a Colin Mant throw-in and lashed in a 35-yarder from the right-side of the box in a rare moment of Farnborough quality on the day. The final whistle blew and Riverside completed a 10-1 aggregate win over the course of the two games we’d played, and well deserved too. If reading that scoreline doesn’t hurt, then it should. In those games they worked harder than we did, played for each other and wanted it more….we need to look at ourselves and get back to those very qualities if we want to end the season on a high. We can’t just turn up hoping to win, it takes graft.
It felt rather flat in the bar afterwards, although there was a fair bit of mirth at Nick’s oggie. The Great White Buffet Shark had plenty of choice today, especially as the Buffet Barracuda had left him to his own devices. The girls (and Shoey!) had done quite a spread…various rolls, samosas, pizza, sausage rolls, Des’ favourite…slow cooked sausages, veg spring rolls, potato croquettes, tomatoes, crisps…a feast to lift the mood. My mood lifted somewhat (as well as something else) as Simon revealed that he knew and had worked with Sheridan Smith, a fine actress in my estimation. He showed me a clip of him working with her in ‘Legally Blonde’, snogging the Lincolnshire beauty…..spawny git.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard, a beacon of hope on a grim day.
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard