Sunday 23rd October 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough edge contest as tight as a bugle boy’s cheeks
The mists of autumn are always part of this late October trip to the leafy suburbs of Park Langley at Old Dunstonians RFC, before the clocks change. There was a frisson in the air as we had two birthdays separated by a letter to bear in mind, and the return of RF, as well as of the quiffed one after a metatarsal scare. We mustered thirteen players for this second fixture against CUACO this season, having won the “home” game 3-0 a few weeks ago when it was summer.
It appeared to us that CUACO had reinforced their defence and the other thing that struck us was that CUACO were on average the tallest team we play in our season. This was a problem for us during set pieces at both ends.
Patrice Mongelard, Ian Coles, Colin Mant, Roger French
Dave Green, Sinisa Gracanin, Simon Thomas, Mick O’Flynn
Pete Harvey, Andy Faulks
Substitute: Steve Blanchard, Barry Grainger
Supporters: Thomas French, Eden Grainger, Teresa Blanchard and granddaughter Georgia, and later on, Amanda Thomas, daughter Daisy and son Louie.
Strategist with special instructions for full backs: Mick O’Flynn
CUACO surprised us by earning three successive corners in the first five minutes. Once we had seen these off we played the more fluent and cohesive football. In fact we were 2-0 up by the twentieth minute and could be forgiven for letting a touch of complacency creep into our game. The persistence of Pete Harvey on the edge of the CUACO box had resulted in a block which saw the looping ball teed up nicely for a crisp volley from Andy Faulks which the CUACO keeper could not keep out. This was vintage Faulks which Pele (seventy-six today) would have appreciated. The quarter of an hour after this goal was great for us, lots of movement and passing with good penetration on the right where Patrice Mongelard and Simon Thomas combined well (without the usual flashing blue lights that accompany Simon’s lay-offs to his defence). Sinisa Gracanin and Pete Harvey were bringing the best out of the CUACO defence.
It was no surprise when we got our second with Andy Faulks latching on to a loose clearance on the edge of the CUACO box to rifle the ball home, via a slight deflection which took some pace off the bullet. If we thought that this was going to be a stroll in Park Langley – our opponents soon altered this perception. They clawed their way back into the game, tightened things at the back and spent more time in our half. They pulled a goal back from a set piece after we failed to track their burly yet skilful forward into the six-yard box and he produced a deft header from very close range to guide the ball into the bottom corner.
On the half hour Mick O’Flynn and Patrice Mongelard made way for Barry Grainger and Steve Blanchard. We lost some of our cohesion, and in fairness CUACO’s goal had given them a lift. We were now playing on the break with Barry Grainger in particular providing an outlet on our left, and one exquisite cross field pass to Simon Thomas on the opposite wing caught the eye. We had a couple of dodgy moments from CUACO corners but kept them out.
The second half was hard fought. We created the better and more numerous half chances but remained vulnerable to the set piece and had to be vigilant at the back. And we had to rely on our goal keeper to keep our noses in front. The referee let the game flow as they say but even he had to give us a few free kicks on the edge of the box. Pete Harvey and Barry Grainger whipped these into the box with intent and the average height of the CUACO defenders served them well. When we did get at the end of these crosses we lacked the killer instinct. I recall specifically a point blank quiff-cum-header from Simon Thomas a yard out which cried out for something firmer. You might surmise that a player who did not have quiff issues, or if you prefer one with less or no hair, would have buried the cross.
Barry Grainger scored what we thought was our third goal from a pass from Pete Harvey but the goal was ruled offside. I have seen them given as they say. But the referee was not to be trifled with and we let it go. It was harder to accept that we did not get a penalty twice after Barry Grainger was interfered with in the box.
Patrice Mongelard replaced Roger French on the hour and soon after Mick O’Flynn came back on for Simon Thomas but Mick’s calf could not finish the game and Simon’s quiff was beckoned back on for the last ten minutes or so.
In the end we were indebted to Paul Parsons for two stupendous saves in the last five minutes. The first was a low dive to his right to palm the ball away, from, you have guessed it, a CUACO corner. The second was even better – as he got his hands in the way of a pile driver struck from inside the box. The CUACO players must have felt this was the equaliser. Probably many of the Farnborough players thought so too – but the day belonged to us, and Paul (another P).
The game was played in good spirit by both sides, if you exclude the number of times Pete Harvey was taken from behind, a few days short of his 50th birthday. Even Roger French had a mellow autumn air about him today, perhaps due to the pleasure of playing again after several weeks attending to son Thomas’ own love of the beautiful game. We were, as Colin Mant put it, gutted that Thomas did not have a game this week (joke!).
The beer in the wooden clubhouse full of history on the walls, with the autumn sunshine bathing the playing fields, was a moment to treasure. This was a good game for Buffet Presence Nick Waller to be absent. I have no food porn to describe for you today. There were a few packets of crisps on show but no scampi fries. As I left the clubhouse to make my way home swiftly to rustle a small (yes – dear reader - small) fried rice with pak choi I saw the toxophilites at it. I reflected on how we had hit the bull’s eye twice early on, but could not quite hit the target after that – but got away with it to register a third consecutive victory, our best run so far this season.
I said last week that Andy Faulks was igniting and his two smart goals today blew away the morning mists – and he dedicated his goals to Pele’s granny. He seems fond of grannies, our Andy.
Man of the match: Paul Parsons – you know you have been in a game when your goal keeper gets the nod over the scorer of your two goals.
Man of the match: Paul Parsons