Sunday 31st January 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat and victory
It had been a while since we had played at the Stone Recreation Ground in DA9 9DQ – our opponents were then known as Welsh Tavern if my memory serves me right – and I have played quite a few games for the Farnborough Old Boys Guild Vets – exactly 500 in fact including today’s. Now they are known as Lads of the Village Super Vets – the significance of the name will be revealed at the end.
The morning drizzle had dissipated by kick-off and the pitch was probably as good as any we have played on in any January. This was our third game this month and we mustered fifteen players for the occasion. We also tried to put out of our minds the result of the last game we played against today’s opponents. It was clear quite quickly that they too were trying to do this, and to this end had a few different players, whilst I fear we were complacent.
Colin Mant, Ian Coles, Colin Brazier, Patrice Mongelard;
Rob Lipscomb, Sinisa Gracanin, Kypros Michael, Simon Thomas;
Waine Hetherington, Andy Faulks.
Substitutes: Mick O’Flynn, Steve Blanchard, Phil Anthony and Obi Ugwumba.
Supporter: Dave O’Flynn.
The pattern of the game was set quite early on, a lot of wasted possession for us, our opponents defending robustly and looking to hit us on the break. We also exhibited a severe lack of scoring opportunities, a pedestrian attack and midfield, too many flicks and misplaced passes, a fear of entering the opponent’s box – a form of pygmachophobia, not enough movement in the final third and defenders asking where the midfield was.
I mean no disrespect to our opponents when I say that Gary Fentiman in our goal had only one shot on goal to deal with (or not, more on that later) in the first half. He had even less in the second and I may be wrong but I do not recall our opponents registering a corner in the whole game (no they had at least two in the first half - ed.). Andy Faulks had our best chance of the half after only ten minutes when he found the keeper with a close range volley. It would take Andy another hour before he had another sniff on goal. Simon Thomas feathered a cross-cum-shot that looked easy on the eye. We earned a few free-kicks around the crowded Lads of the Village box but made nothing of them.
Midway through the half we made four changes as Mick O’Flynn, Steve Blanchard, Phil Anthony and Obi Ugwumba came on for Sinisa Gracanin, Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant and Kypros Michael. These changes were necessary given the size of the squad but I do not think anyone would challenge the view that initially the changes helped Lads of the Village more than they did Farnborough. In a particularly dismal passage of play combining a poor touch in midfield, diabolical defending and a goalkeeping conundrum we contrived to concede and Lads of the Village had a lead that would have been as unexpected as it was welcome to them. The Lads of the Village right winger had picked up the stray Farnborough pass, advanced unencumbered by Farnborough defenders, and decided to have a punt from the edge of the box. The lob was tame and you would think a 6ft 3in keeper, unchallenged, not too far off his line, with a clear line of sight would preserve the integrity of his goal – but that was not to be. We were behind and so it remained at half-time.
There was much wind and fury with the oranges. Too many voices confused Simon Thomas. His lines were muddled in his mind, and words like tracking back, picking players up, running past granddad marking him, were all jumbled up. A few others were no longer sure of their best playing positions; however, once the second half got underway we settled and resumed our domination of possession, hoping for a breakthrough. We thought we had it when Mick O’Flynn played Andy Faulks through on goal and Andy (the scorer of five goals when we last played today’s opponents) could not place his low shot beyond the keeper who saved very well. Waine Hetherington got to the rebound with an empty goal but was adjudged by the referee to have handled. There were no complaints from us. The referee had an excellent game and before the game was over was to show his authority and fairness once more.
With about twenty-five minutes of the half left we brought Patrice Mongelard, Sinisa Gracanin, Kypros Michael and Colin Mant back on, for Simon Thomas, Ian Coles, Colin Brazier and Rob Lipscomb. The last twenty minutes were frantic. We laid siege to the Lads of the Village goal, with Obi Ugwumba imposing himself in the midfield battle and Kypros Michael providing a cutting edge down the left. Waine Hetherington wriggled free of his marker in the six-yard box and opted to shoot instead of rolling the ball to an unmarked, screaming Andy Faulks for a tap-in.
With fifteen minutes left we got the goal we deserved as Kypros Michael bustled his way into the box, drifted wide to the left and from a tight angle found the net at the far post. By then Mick O’Flynn had reached his playing time limit with his calf and Simon Thomas was back on. There was only one winner in it at that point but the game got disjointed. First, Sinisa Gracanin picked up an injury, a knock in the ribs left him winded and he had to be replaced by Rob Lipscomb. Not long after Rob tangled with an opponent who sought to rearrange Rob’s features with his forehead. The referee brandished the red card quite rightly and the Lads of the Village player went off after threatening to disturb the peace further more than once. We ban players for that sort of behaviour. The unsavoury scenes were too much for Simon and he went off to be replaced by Colin Brazier now playing a new role as a right winger (no, really! - ed.). We then fashioned arguably our best scoring opportunity with five minutes left - Kypros Michael found space in the box, with his back to goal, turned and advanced on goal in a central position – he must have been a yard from the goal line when he put his shot wide. The moment was gone. Lads of the Village had earned a draw which they will remember for a long time.
The neutral might say we deserved more but then again did we? Opinion was divided as seven of us plus our sole supporter today Dave O’Flynn, provided the après match analysis. As all seven present were defenders that just meant slagging off the midfielders and the forwards who seemingly only wanted to play in One Direction. Our mood was greatly improved by the splendid buffet served by out hosts – piping hot chips, sausage rolls, sausages, chicken nuggets, an array of sandwiches, in the Lads of the Village Public House, a stone’s throw from the ground. Even though I used one of the serving trays as a plate we could not finish what was on offer – we needed Buffet Quarry Nick Waller. The pub dog refused Colin Mant’s sausage, not enough meat on it I suspect. There was time for me to win the £20 pub raffle and spend most of it in the bar.
Man of the match: Colin Brazier leads with two votes to come in, but as a team though I do not think we deserved anything today.
Man of the match: Colin Brazier