Sunday 4th September 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Senior Vets lose their way after transfer deadline day drama
The number of our dear departed swelled to four this week. After Rob Lipscomb and Gary Fentiman over the summer, two more exited this week in the forms of Waine Hetherington and George Kleanthous – all will be missed to some extent, for different reasons. In fact George was missing us already and offered his re-apparition, gratefully received, in between the sticks. We have yet to find that last piece of the jigsaw – which in football (unlike in the board game) is the hardest piece to put down. Would we be able to achieve penetration after the defenestration of two potent forwards (31 goals between them out of the 97 we registered in 37 games last season)? First we had to enter Norman Park by the Hayes Lane entrance, find the right “pavilion”, pitch, and get the nets on etc. There were some other tasks to take in hand. Simon Thomas was appointed “Golden Shovel” to clear the latrine dug by the Hound of the Baskervilles in the centre circle.
The day was overcast and there was quite a breeze which caused the corner flags to droop. For one of them Roger French had needed help from (Petts Wood FC’s) Meryl Clarke to put it in. Referee Mick Gearing arrived just on time, he may even have hurried to put his shorts on, to get us underway.
Ian Coles, Mick O’Flynn, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard
Stephane Anelli, Sinisa Gracanin, Simon Thomas, Obi Ugwumba
Andy Faulks, Des Lindsay
Referee: Mick Gearing
Substitutes: Steve Blanchard, Roger French, Pete Harvey, Ian Lyons
Supporters: Thomas French, Louie Dwight, Obi Ugwumba Jr (also linesman), Hannah Kleanthous
I should mention also the presence of spectator Peter Wheeler in the Erith contingent. Peter was a star and fiery striker for Farnborough Vets twenty years or so ago when I first started playing Vets football for Farnborough (and Mick Gearing was running the team them). It was good to see him again.
The first exchanges were very positive for us – early pressure with the wind advantage, lots of passing, a good scoring opportunity after barely five minutes which fell to Andy Faulks drawing a smart save from the Erith keeper. Erith however are no pushovers and have plenty of experienced individuals, some big units, and the most dangerous of the forwards on display (who went on to get a hat-trick I think). Playing on the break they forced three or four successive corners which had us worried for various reasons. George Kleanthous pulled off a series of stupendous saves from close range and was quick off his line to snuff out any danger.
We scored first after a quarter of an hour. Whilst the goal was with the run of play there was an element of fortune about it as a goalbound shot from Sinisa Gracanin (played in by Mick O’Flynn) was steered past the Erith keeper by one of his own. We had several chances after that – the best was a header from three yards out from Des Lindsay – getting at the end of a cross from Stephane Anelli. Andy Faulks fashioned a one-on-one which the keeper saved well (when a square pass to an unmarked Simon Thomas might have been a better option). But Andy is desperately looking for that first goal to restore his mojo. Erith had their chances too, and I recall a free kick bent round our wall which skidded low against the base of the post.
We made four changes on the half hour as our four substitutes came on for Coles, Faulks, Mongelard and Ugwumba. Both teams would have found it hard to believe that the score remained unchanged at half time. We lost a bit of momentum and Erith took heart from that, and into the second period, as we could not get the cushion of a second goal.
The trouble with the second half – well there was a lot not right, was that we conceded early and a pattern was set for Erith to get the upper hand. A ball over the top to the forward of the day drew them level despite George’s best efforts. Literally moments earlier we had forced a good save from the Erith keeper. We came back into the game – and were within a whisker of restoring our lead when Stephane Anelli broke through and shot across the face of the goal – with the ball just eluding Simon Thomas’ outstretched legs at the far post – if only he had been wearing clown shoes, to go with that yellow tartan suit on his stag do. We were unlucky we felt after Pete Harvey intelligently played Stephane Anelli in on goal, and we had a goal disallowed for offside. I have seen them given as they say. On the hour O’Flynn, Gracanin, Lindsay and Mant made way for the four players who had gone off half an hour earlier.
I cannot say that it ended well for us. We were undone by two balls over the top which were finished very well. Roger French was taken off to lower the mercury after a mistimed tackle and plenty of verbals. Mick O’Flynn came back for the last ten minutes. Pete Harvey saw a shot come back off the angle of post and bar.
The mood was not great – there was a sense of déjà vu. The showers were cold and not much was said in the changing room. The opposition did not follow us back to our clubhouse. Pity, as they usually do much for the takings, and we have never had trouble with, or from, them. This time there were six of us to eat sandwiches from Shoebridge Catering Solutions meant for twenty-four. Buffet Hound Nick Waller missed out again, but we got some late assistance from a few of our Sunday team. Amanda Sim and Daisy Thomas also helped with the food mountain. The conversation was the usual rich tapestry ranging from stag do antics, craft beers from LIDL, food allergies, Mercedes automobiles, Jehovah’s witnesses, testicular jokes and the importance of goalkeepers.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous, after a very successful but not permanent reincarnation as a Number 1, who more than filled Gary Fentiman’s jersey.
Man of the match: George Kleanthous