Tuesday 17th May 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Inter The Valley bury Farnborough at the death
This was our 37th and final game of a long and eventful season, our fourth consecutive Tuesday evening fixture, and against opponents who were an unknown quantity. We started digging a hole for ourselves when our usual goalkeeper, 6ft 3in Gary Fentiman, was caught on the wrong side of Dartford Bridge which had closed because of a serious accident and others had to fill the large space he left. Still the evening weather was clement, the pitch appeared to be in good nick and our opponents – a team of Charlton fans, looked like they had the same average age as us – 50, albeit with a couple of double wardrobes. When referee Nick Kinnear got us under way at around 6:45 we lined up like this. In fact, Colin Mant was to have a ten-minute quickstep for Inter as they had only ten players with two more on the way.
Phil Anthony, Ian Coles, Steve Blanchard, Roger French;
Mick O’Flynn, Sinisa Gracanin, Rob Lipscomb, Ian Shoebridge;
Waine Hetherington, George Kleanthous.
Strategist: Mick O’Flynn.
Substitutes: Colin Brazier, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard, Simon Thomas.
Supporters: Ian Couchman, Des Fallon, Andy Faulks, Barry Grainger, Peter Harvey, Hannah Kleanthous, Obi Ugwumba Jr (also linesman), Steve Viner.
To be honest with you we thought after the opening half hour that we were going to win this game such was our degree of control and inter-passing. Inter defended well and had some nippy forwards and midfielders but we were limiting them to playing on the break. Obi Ugwumba was sitting in his goal until he had to pick the ball from his net for an Inter equaliser. Waine Hetherington had crashed a shot against the bar after fifteen minutes, Ian Shoebridge had a long range effort that was not far from the upright. More importantly, Sinisa Gracanin had given us the lead on twenty minutes with a crisp volley from inside the box as a defensive header fell nicely for him. Our most technically gifted midfielder buried the chance. His absence in the second half – when he went in goal, was keenly felt. Ian Shoebridge had hobbled off after twenty-five minutes undone by a blade of grass viciously attacking his calf (so it seemed) and that was the end of his match. He was replaced by Colin Brazier once we worked out which Colin to put on. By then Inter had seized on some hesitancy in our defence to draw level a few minutes after we had opened the scoring.
We made three changes on the half hour with Colin Mant, Simon Thomas and Patrice Mongelard coming on eventually after the usual confusion, for Waine Hetherington, Ian Coles and Roger French. We continued to be dominant but without creating any further chances. As the second half started we made an unexpected substitution as Rob Lipscomb had been invited by referee Nick Kinnear, firm, fair and wise, to cool off (and Waine Hetherington was back on). As the first half ended Rob had been involved in a contretemps with an Inter Valley player who was still under the impression, wrongly, that he had been elbowed in the face by Rob in the one incident of the first half. Yes, Rob does a lot of thrashing about with his high energy, big-hearted muscular approach and limited finesse, but he plays without malice. There was nothing untoward in the second half I am pleased to say.
The second half was quite remarkable. I think even the Inter players would agree that we should have scored at least five goals. Waine Hetherington admitted that he would be re-living four glaring misses in his mind all night. George Kleanthous could have had a hat-trick – and so could Simon Thomas who had three one-on–ones which came to nothing. At other times he elected to shoot from tight angles when a threaded pass to a better placed team mate would have brought greater joy. I noticed Simon was a bit despondent in the clubhouse afterwards – not even the pizzas could cheer him up though he did perk up once we started to talk dirty tractor.
For their part Inter were more dangerous in the second half too and we had some last-ditch clearances to make. They forced several corners where we missed Gary Fentiman’s commanding presence. Sinisa Gracanin pulled off a great one-handed save when he tipped a shot bound for the top corner round the post. The truth though is that Sinisa should have been in the outfield where he does his best work. Mick O’Flynn lasted the regulation fifty-five minutes – thus bringing Rob Lipscomb back in play. Phil Anthony and Steve Blanchard departed on the hour with Ian Coles and Roger French returning. Roger did not last until the end and Steve Blanchard finished the game in his place. As our toothless display unfolded – it was ironic that our fans included Andy Faulks, Barry Grainger and Pete Harvey, arguably the three most prolific goalscorers for Farnborough Vets. They were prowling like wolves with fangs bared as the twilight approached – itching no doubt to bury Inter.
Instead it was Inter who gave us the last rites. Five minutes from the end a ball over the top had left Sinisa Gracanin facing an Inter attacker on his own and we just about got away with it. But with barely two minutes left we were undone by another ball over the top and the Inter forward twisted and turned and could not be stymied by Patrice Mongelard before scuffing his ball into the Farnborough net. That eternal football lesson was in evidence again – if you do not bury your chances you will get punished.
The Inter The Valley manager and goalkeeper admitted that they had got away with it. I went into their changing room to congratulate them on their win, asked them to stay for a beer and some pizza (pity Charlton fan Nick Waller the Buffet Undertaker was not there). I advised them not to rush off as the local constabulary was going to want to talk to them about the robbery of three points that evening at Farnborough. We felt like our pockets had been picked – a bit like the victim of a Cruyff turn. I noticed the Inter manager had the T-shirt – the latest offering in the Guardian football T-shirt collection. I mention this in case your loved ones are stuck for ideas for your Father’s Day present.
The wonders of Facebook had uncovered a dark secret in the Mant household. We had an international in our midst, who had performed at both the Winter Gardens and the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. Yes, dear reader, Colin Mant has represented England at ballroom dancing and the Mant on Anton anecdotes had a ring of authenticity, and there was a photo of Colin in his “gigolo on a cruise ship” days but no Darcy. Colin explained that he had a bit of Italian in him. Too much information I thought but it gave a man called French the opportunity to call Colin dago-wop (as a term of endearment of course, a kind of double espresso if you like), perhaps revealing his voting intentions for 23 June. However, it was not going to be possible to raise the tone with a discussion about Brexit. Strictly speaking, it was proving very hard, conceptually, for us to associate Colin with a sport, an art even, which called for balance, two good feet, rhythm, and spatial awareness? Where had it all gone? Was this another reminder of the ravages of time?
Time was on my mind too as I got home and Mrs M asked me “Is that it, then?” I think she meant for this season as she added “Until training starts in two weeks”. It reminded me of a fanciful suggestion from Mick O’Flynn that next season I could still write the match reports even if I retired from playing. I’d rather take up ballroom dancing I think. So this report could be a collectors' item – although the trouble with collectors’ items is that you do not know at the time if you have one on your hands.
There were about ten of us left in the bar once Inter had departed. There was an end of year feel to the mood music. Our scores were P37, W16, D3, L18, GF 97, GA 106. This was not great but not shabby either – we scraped a pass. The school report will say – there were some promising high marks as well as a lack of application at times, some indiscipline (including one serious breach that required rustication), potential was unfulfilled, and as Toby Manchip’s school report once said - a more serious approach would have paid dividends.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous – who will probably be unmasked by Facebook as a star of “Fifty Shades of Blue” one day, wrapped in a cyan towel desperately trying to score.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous