Sunday 30th April 2017
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough all at sea against Riverside
Last week we could not get a pitch at our home ground. This week we had a choice of two. I am not sure we picked the right one, opting for the bigger pitch but I could understand why the prospect of playing our first game this season on our premium surface was appealing. The problem was that our performance was well short of what we know we can deliver. When the opposition keeper comes off the pitch and makes the (correct) observation that he did not have a save to make you have got to take a long hard look at things. This is what we did, and as I told Mrs M there was a lot of analysis to process, which five of us, all defenders, did up to three and a half hours after the game ended, with the lubrication of Farnborough halves.
It all started so well. It was a good day for football - mild, sunny, still. Everyone was there, even Andy Faulks, the various keys to things were found, the changing rooms had been left tidy from the day before, the organisational side of things off the pitch was flawless, leaving aside that one of the corner flags could not be planted in the ground (Mick O’Flynn just could not find the hole).
Jim St John;
Colin Brazier, Ian Coles, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard;
Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Shoebridge, Simon Thomas, Obi Ugwumba;
Peter Harvey, Des Lindsay.
Substitutes: Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard and Andy Faulks.
Supporters: Thea, Kathleen and Freya Anthony (and dog Caesar), Des Fallon, Jordan Glen and Christian, Jodie Gracanin, Tony Harvey, Pam Shoebridge, Vicky Tanner and Obi Ugwumba Jr who doubled up as linesman.
Co-Manager, DJ, Strategist: Mick O’Flynn.
Referee: Mick Gearing.
When the football started there was some Farnborough optimism. We had a degree of initial control which was a surprise. There was passing, composure, great confidence in the athleticism of Jim St John in goal, and probing down both flanks. But there was no end product. Riverside were tactically smart, organised, disciplined, compact, patient, looked after the ball, and they encouraged each other – come to think of how the game unfolded, this was everything we were not. We have a lot to learn from them.
Yet, the two early chances were ours. Des Lindsay thought, as we all did (including some of the Riverside players) that he had earned a penalty when he was taken roughly from behind and shoved to the ground in the box. Referee Mick Gearing thought otherwise, and later explained that this was because he felt Des was a diver (I thought I heard diva – equally applicable some might say) who had a tendency to go down easily. Referee Mick Gearing had earlier revealed to the management that this was his penultimate game officiating for us. He will be eighty years of age next February and it felt right for the tantric one to call time. I have fond memories of my first game for the Farnborough Vets in November 1996, playing in a back four with Mick in it, and being told by ‘Commander’ Gearing that my arrival would prolong his playing career for another five years (which it did). Here I was, over twenty years and five hundred and forty-three games later, and he was still hanging around. I will sue anyone who says Mick has done us any favours as a referee.
There was a brief interruption when the Anthony dog Caesar ran on the pitch having escaped his minders. Master Phil summoned all his authority to order Caesar to sit but it must have heard sniff judging by what Caesar did next, to another dog. With hindsight a semiologist could see this as a fitting metaphor for our match today – an illusion of control shattered by a kick up the ass.
The referee did give us a free kick after twenty minutes after Peter Harvey had another of his accidents on the edge of the Riverside box. Peter curled the sphere towards the far post where Ian Shoebridge running in alone, unmarked, a yard out, got his head to the ball but without the convincing and forceful contact that was required. The last scoring opportunity we would fashion had gone. Five minutes later Riverside had edged ahead with their first real incursion into our box. Some initial uncertainty, hesitancy and an unpredictable spin conspired against us, and the ball was poked in from two yards out. This was against the run of play but from that point the game changed. We made changes on the half-hour with Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba making way for Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard and Andy Faulks. I cannot say that our game improved, and Riverside were worth their lead at half-time.
The second half was not good for us. Des Lindsay limped off with a twisted ankle very early after the restart. Obi Ugwumba was back on. We made more adjustments after sixty minutes with Patrice Mongelard and Colin Mant returning for Colin Brazier and Ian Coles. Things went rapidly downhill. A cross from the right was cleared in the six-yard box by Sinisa Gracanin against the tanned frame of Steve Blanchard and into our net. Pam Shoebridge had observed in the first half that we looked ragged. I am glad she did not see the last half hour. I cannot remember a more ineffectual period this season. We were second best, slow in deed and thought, outrun, outplayed, lacked imagination or intelligence, wasted possession, blamed each other. We could not penetrate the Riverside defence. We looked like a team which could not wait for the season to end, or bear to play with or for each other. Not surprisingly the Farnborough player who emerged with the most credit today was Jim St John – that we were not engulfed in a sea of despair was down to him.
Shoebridge Catering delivered once again a delightful mix of oriental and traditional fare with the sausages this time having a distinctive woody coal-grilled flavour. We made light of the absence of Buffet Heavyweight Nick Waller – everything went, only a small pack of cherry tomatoes were left standing.
Next week it is our club fixture against the Farnborough Young Vets – a good game to miss you might think, and a few of us will do just that, including Andy Faulks who is having a re-run of his Butlins stag do. If we play like today, we should not be surprised to see Help the Aged and The Samaritans at the club for post-match trauma counselling.
Man of the match: Jim St John who was immense in goal, and deserved better from the outfield players in front of him.
Man of the match: Jim St John