Sunday 25th September 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
A tale of goal keepers as Farnborough pay the price
If I said to you this was all about goalkeepers you might not believe me and yet I know it was so – and if I did forget my own team mates would remind me, again and again. This was our first trip into the Kentish Weald to West Farleigh to play in what surely is one of the most arcadian settings we play in. Conditions were initially overcast but brightened steadily as the day wore on. 17 players had been due to travel but only fifteen made it there with Andy Faulks and new goalkeeper Steve Hazell missing out on counting sheep. We also had two players making their debuts – Gary Johnson and Rob Faulkner – a couple of blokes Mick O’Flynn and I met down the pub. Nick Waller and Chris Bourlet were also making their debuts this season – Nick likes pubs and Chris does not like it when they close. Patrice Mongelard came through the stampede of players volunteering to go in goal to claim the oversize gloves, shirt and shorts of the goalkeeping position.
After walking across two fields and two sets of farm gates this is how the Farnborough prize livestock lined up on what looked an overgrazed pitch – bone dry and the colour of straw.
Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard, Gary Johnson, Colin Mant;
Sinisa Gracanin, Kypros Michael, Simon Thomas, Obi Ugwumba;
Rob Faulkner, Des Lindsay.
Substitutes: Chris Bourlet, Ian Coles, Pete Harvey, Nick Waller.
Supporter: Obi Ugwumba Jr (also linesman).
Strategist (with one man of the match vote): Mick O’Flynn.
The opening moves from both sides were inconclusive. Both sides moved the ball about well. West Farleigh had Deano – the turbo-charged Tintin – who would yet again expose our failings against teams with a Deano. Both defences were generally on top and the midfield was congested. Like West Farleigh we were looking to mobile forwards to make the incision. We had early changes to accommodate as Gary (5 minutes) and Rob (15 minutes) had to be replaced with Ian Coles and Pete Harvey. This was not unhelpful – Ian Coles had anti-Deano thrusters of his own, and Pete brought a cutting edge to our front line. We scored first after Kypros Michael was played in on goal by Des Lindsay for a smart close range finish. Our lead did not last long – five minutes later West Farleigh were level with a crisp shot from inside the box by Deano beating the semblance of a block from Patrice Mongelard. The ball on the ground was not proving to be a problem for the ersatz Farnborough No1 but anything in the air was challenging. I could use my feet, and spring off the line to do so, but the hands were another matter. After a while even my goal kicks were ropey and Sinisa Gracanin had to take on the job of kicking the ball over the half way line. For the avoidance of doubt I had to issue a high decibel and pithy reminder to Simon Thomas, all my team mates, the opposition and all the sheep in the surrounding fields that I was not a goalkeeper. Simon had had the nerve to ask why I had not rolled the ball out fifty yards to him like you see on the telly on a Saturday night.
Before the half hour was up we had got our noses in front after an excellent run and deadly finish from Pete Harvey after a pass from Sinisa Gracanin. Despite the introduction of Chris Bourlet and Nick Waller for Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba we had the clearer chances to edge further ahead but headers were missed at the far post twice – by Simon Thomas and Kyp Michael. We deserved our lead at half time though knew we would have the wind and slope against us.
You know from the score at the top of this report that things did not go well for us in the second half. Yet that half started so well for us – in the first twenty-five minutes we created four or five good chances to score. We had failed to register that West Farleigh had changed their goalkeeper at half time and what a good move that was. He made two or three worldies at point blank range as Kypros Michael (twice), Des Lindsay and Pete Harvey were denied acrobatically at close range. The West Farleigh defenders had the bit between their teeth and were throwing bodies in the way and from their resilience the tide of the game started to turn. The odds of a worldie at the Farnborough end were not as good as say Roger French winning the Nobel Peace Prize or Nick Waller winning the title of Vegetarian Slimmer of the Year. Still I muddled along and kept West Farleigh at bay until Chris Bourlet (who used to live down there and played for them) decided to hack Deano from behind in the box. The diminutive but sharp-eyed, and fair, local referee had no choice. Patrice Mongelard guessed the right way and got a hand to the ball but it was too fiercely hit.
We had lost some impetus and Simon Thomas limping off with a badly bruised foot (we compared swellings later) did not help. Obi Ugwumba found himself in the unaccustomed position of right winger. Colin Mant was now a right back having replaced Phil Anthony. Colin was playing in another position but at least spared us his Kama Sutra joke. All the jokes were at my expense as I flapped ineffectively at a ball five minutes from the end – struck you have guessed it, by Deano. The most charitably-minded in our midst suggested that the slope of the pitch had played a part. The less charitably-minded were still mimicking my wave at the ball several hours later in the Farnborough clubhouse. As Pete Harvey remarked astutely we stopped playing midway through the second half and there was no service to the forwards. Put simply the game hinged on the last twenty minutes and West Farleigh had the edge on us – more composure, more possession and perhaps more luck, and of course a better goalkeeper.
We made our way to the Good Intent Public House to lick our wounds where I found Buffet Gargantua, Nick Waller, licking his chops. Sausages and chips were being consumed at an alarming rate before my arrival. Here was something else that slipped through my hands today. I was amused as a local dog vied vainly with Nick Waller for the last sausage. There was time to get back to the Farnborough Old Boys Guild clubhouse in Farrow Fields for the FOBG Open Launch Day Event to mark the refurbishment of our changing rooms and pitches at great cost. I was able to catch two burgers with relish and onions. It was going so well until I bumped into Toby Manchip, erstwhile goalkeeper for the FOBG Senior Vets. My presence always triggers the use of the word Peruvian in him, whilst his presence triggers a different word in my mind but I won’t tell you what it is. Anyway it was good to see him and his family again, and as is his wont he made a generous contribution to the FOBG fundraising effort and bought a round. Many others had contributed to the funding effort for our new facilities, and not all of it had been recognised. Anyway I was asked if Toby had any conditions (for his return in goal perhaps). I thought how long have you got? A poor sense of geography was the least of his concerns I felt.
Man of the match: our midfield maestro again – Sinisa Gracanin (with a bigger share of the vote than even Jeremy Corbyn managed).
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin