Tuesday 28th April 2015
By Patrice Mongelard
Paul Scotter and thirteen team mates too strong for Santos Vets
I was mildly rebuked for not giving sufficient column inches to Man of the Match Paul Scotter in Sunday's match report. So, by way of an apology, today’s report might well appear to be suffused with Paul’s presence. This was the first of this season's trio of consecutive Tuesday evening games to get our own back for the waterlogged pitches of the winter, and get us very close to the 40-game mark for the season. The weather obliged - the light was good, the last warming rays of the day's sun could still be felt but there was a fresh breeze which dried the pitch. Septuagenarian referee Mick Gearing was back on duty just over 48 hours after his last game.
Our previous game this season against today’s opponents (on 1st March) had been an 8-goal thriller and today’s game went one better. We lined up like this for an 18:30 start.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Ian Lyons
Colin Mant, Obi Ugwumba, Jim St John, Paul Scotter
Andy Faulks, Barry Grainger
Substitutes: Roger French, Sinisa Gracanin, Simon Thomas.
Supporters: Obi Ugwumba Jr who did a better job running the line for part of the game than Patrice Mongelard. There was no Louie Dwight today, and no French enfants either. Isabelle and Thomas have not been seen for two games now. I hope they are OK. Club President Ian Couchman was also there although the game he watched finished 8-2. George Kleanthous and Mick O'Flynn were also in attendance as was Match Photographer Colin Brazier whose action head shot of Colin Mant belonged to an identity parade.
The game took a while to get going. We were dominant early doors without creating any clear cut chances. Santos were holding their own with their excellent keeper but having to defend deep, in numbers, and robustly, whilst experiencing difficulty taking the game into the Farnborough penalty area. A 25-yard free kick from last Sunday's man of the match Paul Scotter was not too wide. Steve Palmer looked confident in our goal - did well with his goal kicks and overarm distribution and was not really troubled. At times we were rushing the play instead of slowing it down and picking our passes. Then our goals came quickly:
Barry Grainger on 25 minutes (stray back pass from defender) rounded the keeper and finished from a tight angle. Jim St John crowned a masterful midfield performance on 32 minutes by carrying the ball through midfield into the box and finishing his own move. Very soon after Barry Grainger harried a Santos defender into an error, dispossessed him and beat the keeper from close range. Simon Thomas then capped a fluid move on 37 minutes by gliding past his marker to latch on to a Barry Grainger through ball, entered the box, opened his body and curled the ball into the net with his left foot.
Yes, Simon Thomas - only two days after suffering a broken nose - was back playing. His first action was to head the ball, minus phantom of the opera mask, before ghosting down the wing in his usual way. I even let him off defensive duty at a corner as I feared another knock to his proboscis would leave him auditioning for the Ermes Efron Borgnino biopic. The make-up department will have to do something about his hair though - greying it on Sunday mornings will help suspend disbelief that he is over thirty-five years old. At that point Santos were not happy - there were grumbles about our relatively younger elements (i.e. Simon Thomas nosing past his marker at will) even though the average age of the squad yesterday was 47.35 years (48.3 without baby-faced Simon). There were one or two niggly tackles, and suddenly the game did not seem such a good idea for a group of adults enjoying an evening friendly game in a rural setting. However, to the credit of both sides there was an outbreak of maturity and things never got out of hand and football won. In fact once Santos stopped being angry – their game improved as there was quality in their squad. Nevertheless, George Kleanthous agreed with my assessment that it was the wrong time to bring Roger French on, so Roger's introduction was delayed until the second half.
Before the half-time oranges (which had been quartered by Mick Gearing) Santos got a goal back after a good move. Steve Palmer saved the initial effort but the ball squirmed out to a Santos forward who lashed it home from close range. At that point Santos had rallied, stopped complaining, were playing some good stuff and deserved their goal.
The substitutions we made looked like this:
30 minutes: Patrice Mongelard and Obi Ugwumba off for Simon Thomas and Sinisa Gracanin.
40 minutes: Patrice Mongelard back on for Ian Lyons
45 minutes: Roger French for Patrice Mongelard, Obi Ugwumba for Jim St John.
60 minutes: Patrice Mongelard for Paul Scotter
70 minutes: Jim St John for Sinisa Gracanin
85 minutes: Sinisa Gracanin for Patrice Mongelard
Santos had regained their poise and looked a stronger proposition in the early part of the second half (playing with the breeze). There were some scares in our box which needed some last ditch defending from us - Steve Blanchard's posterior, and Roger French's upper body with a soupçon of metacarpal action, bailed us out - the latter almost tempting tantric Mick Gearing to come to a decision about a penalty. The height of Jim St John came in useful, as did Obi Ugwumba’s impression of a brick wall to shield the ball just inside the box with a Santos player rebounding off him. We remained a threat on the break though and more goals came, as Andy Faulks decided to put some clear blue water between himself and the hungry George Kleanthous snapping at his heels for the golden boot. On the hour Andy finished from close range after an assist from Barry Grainger. Five minutes later he repeated the dose with the service provided by Simon Thomas who got behind the Santos defence and squared the ball unselfishly to Andy.
Santos were by no means out of it and they reduced the deficit on seventy minutes with a well-taken penalty in the bottom corner after Roger French almost “caught” a Santos cross in the box. That was not the end of the scoring. On eighty minutes Andy Faulks profited from a poor clearance by the Santos keeper to squeeze the ball home, for his hat-trick (unbelievably his first this season) which was duly marked with the proverbial jug later. I am sure George will have been pleased for Andy, and only George’s bruised ribs prevented him from joining in the celebrations. The same injury incidentally befell a Santos player early in the game after a coming together with Ian Lyons which brought on their only substitute. We had three substitutes to play with today and that contributed to the difference between the two teams.
We were all showered and in the bar by 8:30. The food eventually arrived at 9:00 - good thing Buffet Buff Nick Waller was not playing today - he would have been gnawing at the Montessori table legs as Roger French made increasingly frantic calls to ask about the eta of pitta, chips and kebab meat which might not have been the diet of athletes but was very welcome.
I got home just after 11:00 and struggled to explain to Mrs M why it took five hours to play 90 minutes of football, without using the word Oranjeboom. Still unlike Simon Thomas I did not have to find a late night petrol station that sold chocolates. I suspect neither did last Sunday's man of the match Paul Scotter. Paul astounded the changing room with the revelation that his pre-season training might be curtailed because he was going to get a new hip over the summer. Out of respect for Paul's big heart and love of the game I will not name the team mate who suggested Paul should ask for a faster hip this time round.
It was good to get back to winning ways. Riverside visit Farrow Fields in five days and we want to give a better account of ourselves this time but injuries are taking their toll and only ten fit players could be pencilled in for that game as things stood last night. Paul Scotter will be one of the absentees.
Man of the match: Barry Grainger – with two goals and two assists, with Paul Scotter's mate - Colin Mant, whose search for a goal goes on, not far behind.
Man of the match: Barry Grainger