Sunday 6th November 2016
By Patrice Mongelard
Bonfire of Farnborough vanities
Today’s opponents Belvedere Vets would not have been our opponents of choice for our first game on our home pitch this season – eleven matches in. If truth be told you would not want to play them at any time such is their all round quality and resilience. They had inflicted our last defeat on 2 October and our four wins since that game had restored morale and pride. Pride was not in short supply today as we got to enjoy our new changing rooms and new pitch, after much work and expenditure over the summer. There is a bit more left to do, give or take the odd shower hook, brush and dust pan, but in many ways we are in a better place now than when we last played Belvedere on our home pitch.
We lost but competed well for long spells of the game, and if you set aside the usual moaning, whingeing, self-justification and finger-pointing in the bar afterwards from some who should know better, there were positives from the game. Without two regular centre halves we had to adapt and Mick O’Flynn and Sinisa Gracanin called on their networks to find us two defenders in Lee Henderson and John Norton who both gave a very good account of themselves.
Patrice Mongelard, Colin Mant, Lee Henderson, John Norton
Sinisa Gracanin, Simon Thomas, Kypros Michael, Obi Ugwumba
Pete Harvey, Andy Faulks
Substitutes: Chris Bourlet, George Kleanthous, Roger French
Supporters: Thomas French, Jodie Gracanin, Ian and Pam Shoebridge, Obi Ugwumba (Jr) also linesman
Strategist with special instructions for full backs: Mick O’Flynn
Referee: Mick Gearing (Boer War medals to follow next weekend) with new boots, anticipating at least another five years with his tantric method of refereeing.
Despite the final score – this was a tight one. There was not a rizla between the sides after half an hour. If anything we had come closest to scoring until Belvedere broke the deadlock on thirty-five minutes. The best chance had fallen to Andy Faulks after Pete Harvey had rolled the ball to the far post across goal. Andy controlled the ball instead of trusting his instincts and the window was slammed shut by the robust Belvedere defence and their nimble keeper. Even then there was a second bite – had Andy rolled the ball back to screaming Simon for a shot on goal. Andy was below par today – Faulkses usually are on 6 November, and had nearly pulled out this morning. Kypros Michael had flashed a low drive just wide of the post after breaking through and on the other wing there was always the possibility that Simon would get a good cross in. We were coping well with Belvedere corners, a big part of their armoury from which they hit the bar after Patrice Mongelard had cleared a dipping corner at the far post.
We are not too sure what happened in the last ten minutes or so of the half. George Kleanthous had replaced Obi Ugwumba in the centre of midfield and for a while we lost our shape, though George would grow into the game. In that time we were undone by quick passing, and nimble midfielders breaking through on the right of our defence and two quick and broadly similar goals were scored as we could not neutralise the attacks with sufficient numbers and pace. Not to put a fine point on it Belvedere had realised we played with a right winger rather than a right midfielder, and it was not that different on the left.
The half time talk was as usual perceptive, full of insight, hindsight and foresight. We went at them and were rewarded with a penalty about ten minutes into the second period after Pete Harvey was brought down. To his credit the Belvedere linesmen overruled his team mates to confirm the transgression had taken place inside the box and Pete stepped up to the spot to stick the ball away. We had a great spell then and witnessed a sublime lofted pass from George Kleanthous to Andy Faulks unmarked after pulling away from his marker but the instinctive volley was wide. That was the moment to get back in the game and the tipping point passed us by.
We made more changes as Chris Bourlet and Obi Ugwumba replaced Lee Henderson and Kypros Michael, and soon after Roger French replaced John Norton. We were now more vulnerable at the back as Belvedere broke through once more to score two quick goals. We were not out of it though and we were to score arguably the best goal of the match. A corner from Simon Thomas, pinpoint he said, others might say hopeful, found Sinisa Gracanin unmarked six yards out on the right side of the box, and the connection was pure, powerful and the otherwise very good Belvedere keeper was transfixed on his line. An earlier move in the half had seen another coruscating volley from Sinisa that went wide. This time everything was in the right place.
For the second game running Simon Thomas could not see out the closing stages and he exited – giving Kypros Michael another opportunity to trouble the Belvedere defence. But it was all in vain. For a while we thought we would draw the second half – these things matter in defeat but it was not to be. Belvedere put a final gloss on the score line with a fifth goal which followed the pattern of several others. We lost to a better team, our run of four wins on the spin had been brought to an end, and we were brought back to earth – taught a lesson in concentration and hard work.
The buffet served up by Pam Shoebridge was fitting for a home coming - hot dogs, sausages, onion bhajis, samosas, spring rolls, cheese. Buffet Wallah Nick Waller would have enjoyed the occasion had he been there. It was good to see Belvedere players in numbers in the club house, but I was not the only Farnborough player relieved that we do not have to play them again this season.
Man of the match: Colin Mant – who to his credit unilaterally withdrew his unicycle kick against Inter-Vyagra on 9 October from the Goal of the Season competition, and is increasingly well set for a relatively more expensive trophy.
Man of the match: Colin Mant