Sunday 28th August 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
A positive start for Senior Vets if you ignore the score
And so it begins again – the first match in a mostly unbroken sequence stretching to May 2017. Who knows what lies ahead but whether you have played 300 or 500 games for Farnborough Vets, or aspire to these numbers, or are less than a year away from a bus pass, there is nothing like the thrill of a season opener. It feels like the first time every time and in a sense it is. Numbers were good: sixteen players, reflecting two departures and one arrival over the summer break. In the background – at the club there was much to look forward to – new pitch, new dressing rooms, new showers but not quite yet, though not long to wait. We found ourselves in Norman Park within shooting distance of Bromley, for the nearest thing we have to a derby against opponents who have lorded it over us and rung up some big scores in recent times. The weather was not the scorcher that could have been – conditions were overcast, and there was even a passing shower at one point. We saw to the pre-match preparations briskly (involving metal restraints and lots of tape – no it is not what you think – Mick O’Flynn), with young Thomas French doing a great job as litter patrol.
Phil Anthony, Ian Coles, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard;
Stephane Anelli, Sinisa Gracanin, George Kleanthous, Simon Thomas;
Andy Faulks, Waine Hetherington.
Referee: Nick Kinnear
Substitutes: Steve Blanchard, Roger French, Pete Harvey, Des Lindsay, Obi Ugwumba.
Supporters: Isabelle and Thomas French, Jodie Gracanin, Obi Ugwumba Jr (also linesman).
The first twenty minutes or so were evenly contested and we were coping with the Orpington attack which included our chief tormentor who was showing no signs of rustiness and looking to run rings round our defence. We even had the first clear opportunity after the effervescent Stephane Anelli had broken through on the right and done what most of us would have done from six yards out – shooting instead of passing and the Orpington keeper saved well. We were undone with two goals in five minutes. Orpington got behind us in a quick break and although the cross was intercepted the ball was not cleared but instead went up and came down on the boot of the one player you did not want near it and that was it. A few minutes later the same player rolled the ball to the edge of our box for an Orpington midfielder to make the sweetest of connections and Gary Rosslee (a one-match loan from our Young Vets – with a distinctive line in pre-match jokes – sample “I hear Robin Lipscomb has retired but the opposition have appealed”), was picking the ball out of our net. At that point we wondered if we had overdone the attacking players in our midfield. However, you do not get to be the Golden Boot for nothing and Waine Hetherington (who collected his trophy for last season’s exploits moments before kick-off) gave everyone a reminder of his eye for goal and cultured left foot when he spotted the Orpington keeper had gone walkabouts and lofted the ball over his head from thirty yards out.
Soon after, on the half hour as planned, we rung the changes with our quintet of substitutes coming on all at once, for Anelli, Coles, Faulks, Mongelard and Thomas. It took us a while to adjust and in the quarter-hour before half time we fell behind further - first from not marking anyone at a corner, and then from an own goal by Steve Blanchard.
We started the second half well. Obi Ugwumba muscled his way into the six-yard box and then could not decide which foot to use, whether to shoot or pass and the moment was gone. Better and worse followed in one moment when Pete Harvey lashed a twenty-yarder against the bar and the ball came back into play to the only player who had anticipated it – Des Lindsay three yards out but his finish was agricultural. By then, and indeed for most of the second half, we had Orpington looking to play on the break with their lord of the rings at the front – at one point drawing an unorthodox tackle from a horizontal Roger French using his head (oxymoron alert!). A cross from the right travelled a long way to the far post to another unaccompanied darter from the Orpington midfield and the score swelled to 5-1.
I would be lying if I said that our ears were not ringing with the memory of our 9-3 defeat in the corresponding fixture last season – as I, along with the other four substitutes, came back on for Anthony, Hetherington, Gracanin, Mant and Kleanthous. Yet from this position we managed to draw the second half. Stephane Anelli capped a great penetrating run with a smart finish after a Des Lindsay through ball of surprising subtlety. Pete Harvey was taken roughly from behind in the box and Des Lindsay gobbled up the penalty. In between Orpington had another quick break that exposed the vast steppes between the Farnborough defence and the midfield and brought them their sixth goal of the match.
After a memorable shower scene we hurried back to our home ground for beer and three trays of sandwiches, eventually. Buffet Ringleader Nick Waller was missing, and so were the Orpington Vets, and yet eight of us had no trouble clearing the trays. There was not even a bite left for young Daisy Thomas who appeared with mum Amanda – the Daz-zling winner of last season’s Dot Cotton Award, who was clearly not going to give up that trophy without a fight, even hinting at bedroom hopes of a matching T-shirt for Simon for marital harmony (not too much information I hope).
Man of the match: Steph & George – our own ringmasters who sizzled in our midfield.
Man of the match: Stephane Anelli & George Kleanthous