Sunday 5th March 2017
By Patrice Mongelard
Eagles dare to scare Phil Anthony’s defence
The penultimate prophetic words in my match report last week (against today’s opponents) were “I expect a tougher outing as more players will be available for the Eagles”. I just did not realise just how tough. If I told you we were 3-0 down after fifteen minutes that should give you a sense of the challenge our opponents posed today, having refreshed their side with not a little talent and steel. Football fans are superstitious as I might have mentioned before, and I confess I had misgivings about the unfamiliar kick-off time of 14:00 (just like there are many fans who just want their team to kick off at 15:00 on a Saturday afternoon). Still we were all there in good time, except Nick Waller who had the kit (it is amazing how often the player who has the kit is the last to arrive - another of football’s parallel universe alternative facts). The later kick-off did not seem such a bad idea after the miserable damp morning had given way to a sun-dappled afternoon, on a hydrophilic pitch in Catford which was a treat to play on.
Steve Blanchard, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard , Mick O’Flynn;
Sinisa Gracanin, Kypros Michael, Simon Thomas, Obi Ugwumba;
Andy Faulks, Pete Harvey.
Referee: An apprentice.
Substitutes: Phil Anthony, Ian Coles, Nick Waller.
Supporters: Obi Ugwumba (Jr).
Strategist and DJ: Mick O’Flynn.
I was under instruction from Phil Anthony to say more about the defence in this week’s match report. Obviously, I had a severe case of writer’s block after fifteen minutes. Yet we could have edged ahead in only the second minute. A pass from Patrice Mongelard had released Kypros Michael with a clear run on goal. The jinking quick feet and bustling style had done the trick and Kypros was in on goal only a yard out yet the shot flashed past the post – too early to score as the boys in the Paphos taxi rank were still tapping their Bet365 wagers. Moments later the Eagles had their first corner. The ball kept low and reached Mick O’Flynn positioned on the near post. He was unchallenged (except by himself) the swing of the right boot was laboured as he failed to connect as he would have wished. There was a nick from Mick as the ball was deflected against George’s unready hands and that was it. In less than five minutes the Eagles had done what they failed to do in ninety last Sunday. But they had not landed yet – a few minutes later a long clearance from the Eagles keeper, wind-assisted, was allowed to bounce and the offside flag never came and the Eagles forward had swooped to put the ball into the net. We were playing against the wind as our tosser Peter Harvey had not been favoured by the coin. Before the quarter of the hour was up the same Eagles forward (absent last week) had extended their lead after hesitancy on George Kleanthous’ part to come off his line, and when he did it left an a empty net for the nippy Eagles forward to lift the ball into (again no offside flag – something which got forgotten in the heat of the second half).
We had a mountain to climb. At that point we were not exactly playing as a team, the forwards and the midfield blamed the defence that Phil Anthony wanted to see mentioned more in the match reports. Mick O’Flynn’s muscles had enough and Phil Anthony was on sooner than expected to shore up the defence. At the other end the Eagles had shored up their defence with a muscular, tall, robust and youngish defender (in Senior Vets terms) who was coping well with what we had to offer. Yet, the Michael-Harvey axis dragged us back into it. Just before the half-hour Kypros set up Peter for a neat finish, and not long after Peter returned the favour for Kypros. We had stopped the rot. On the half-hour Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba made way for Nick Waller and Ian Coles. Nick’s brief was to add weight to our attack. We finished the half strongly with several corners, taken by our tallest player, which yielded little even when we got our heads at the end of them as Steve Blanchard did.
We had the wind behind us for the second half and we took advantage as we clipped the Eagles’ wings. The tone was set early in the half when Patrice Mongelard again released Kypros Michael down the left and his forceful run and shot nearly drew us level. We had penetration on the right too with Simon Thomas and it was through Simon that we drew level about ten minutes into the half - I say through him because the final touch was not his but everything else was. His shot after a back-heel from Peter Harvey on the edge of the box had squirmed out of the Eagles keeper’s grasp and rolled behind him and predator Andy Faulks made sure, as he said later by driving the ball home. We’ll never know if the ball would have rolled over the line – Simon says it would have, Andy says we cannot be sure. They both would say that, wouldn’t they? The goal that finally gave us the lead came on about seventy minutes. Sinisa Gracanin and Steve Blanchard had been replaced by the returning Colin Mant and Obi Ugwumba. Michael went on to produce a sublime moment – a 45-yard shot that was intended to sail over the Eagles’ keeper head into the top corner. And so it did, with finesse and power allied in an artefact of terrible beauty.
Our fifth goal of the game had some beauty in it too, as Patrice Mongelard floated yet another ball for Kypros Michael to arrow in on goal and this time he did provide the finish the pass deserved. It is all about the service I reminded the Cypriot Express. My service was done as I had twisted my left ankle and Sinisa Gracanin came back on for me to see the game out. We went on to get a sixth after Kypros Michael wriggled free of his marker in a dangerous area and crossed low for Peter Harvey to tap in. We nearly got a seventh after Andy Faulks had a shot come off the bar to be met by Nick Waller unchallenged, free in the box, three yards out but his volley was poor. Nick later confided that his 84 year-old mum, an ex-Catford Wanderers Tennis Club member, would have tucked the ball home. The thought did not put him off his pale ale and sausages though. Just before the final whistle Eagles produced a shot which whistled past George Kleanthous to cap the scoring in what had been a ten-goal thriller.
This was a competitive game, be in no doubt about it, and the fans got involved too. One Eagles fan was spitting feathers about the offside rule, and things were said, but nothing came of it because in the end the attitude of both teams was quite sporting and there were no bad tackles in the game. The apprentice referee did a good job and took no nonsense from anyone. He’ll go far, and I hope will not have to go on strike one day.
Val delivered a great buffet as always – a wonderful spread as I said to her (and I was not the only one to say so). The hot chips, sausage rolls, chicken nuggets, pizzas and sausages were a welcome counterpoint to the cold showers (not many takers for that). The tomatoes and cucumber were not attracting much interest either – certainly not from Buffet Raptor Nick Waller. As I left the ground for home I wondered if the mayor of Catford would come across the tomatoes and cucumber during his visit to the club later to mark some tennis event. I hoped so as I do not like to see food wasted, as those who know me will attest.
Man of the match: Simon Thomas for acts of great philanthropy down the right.
Man of the match: Simon Thomas