Sunday 1st October 2017
By Patrice Mongelard
Six games into our normal season and six defeats – our opponents cannot wait to play us and those who might derive pleasure from our misfortunes are at risk of ecstasy. It is no wonder that Mick O’Flynn now refers to himself as the Farnborough Senior Vets Chairman, and to me as Caretaker Manager. I missed the last two games but there is a clear pattern emerging. We lose matches but morale remains good, as we know there is not much missing from our performances – well, apart from the most important bit in football, which is scoring goals. Recently I read about the Maya Ballgame – a sort of football variant, where the captain of the winning team is decapitated. Obviously, we do not have the same rules, although something is holding us back individually and collectively.
Anyway, we made the journey to Belvedere with only twelve players available on a still overcast but dry morning, a little apprehensively if truth be told, because this has been a difficult fixture for us, traditionally. As we warmed up I cushioned a ball on my right instep and casually mentioned my newly-acquired South American skills, which Mick O’Flynn took to mean taco making.
Phil Anthony, Steve Blanchard, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard;
Sinisa Gracanin, George Kleanthous, Simon Thomas, Michael Ugwumba;
Peter Harvey, Waine Hetherington.
Substitute: Mick O’Flynn.
Supporter: Michael Hills.
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
I think we surprised ourselves with the degree of control that we exercised as the game flowed more up the slope towards the goal we were attacking. To the neutral the early exchanges pointed to a Farnborough goal as the more likely outcome. We got behind the Belvedere defence, raided down both flanks with Simon Thomas and Peter Harvey providing penetration, had shots on goal but could not find the final ball or touch to trouble the very assured Belvedere keeper. Both sides played a measured passing game but not many clear chances were being created.
Farnborough provided the comedy moment of the game when we broke quickly midway through the first half, outnumbered the Belvedere defence in a promising move, only to have Simon Thomas run into the back of Waine Hetherington on the edge of the Belvedere box with not a Belvedere defender involved. I know that sometimes players close their eyes when they head the ball but does Simon run with his eyes closed too, I wondered? As he picked himself up off the ground from a tangle of legs with Simon, Waine wanted a free kick, a claim which the referee smiled away. We had a milder comedy moment in the second half when Colin Mant produced a scything tackle on fresh air, but it will take a monumental effort to top the slapstick served up earlier. Simon can rightly be proud of that performance given his occupation.
On the half-hour Mick O’Flynn replaced Phil Anthony and the first meaningful pass from Mick nearly set up Peter Harvey. We got even closer soon after – as Peter Harvey teed up Waine Hetherington from close range. The Belvedere keeper made an excellent save but Waine got to the rebound first and lifted the ball for what we thought was a formality only to see the ball hit the bar from two yards out. A minute later we were behind from arguably, the only meaningful strike that Belvedere had on goal in that half (and some will say for the whole game). The very good Belvedere left winger rounded Mick O’Flynn and was able to fire a low shot just where he wanted, inside the far post. It felt harsh but at that point there was no reason to think we would not get back in the game.
The Belvedere ground is well known for its size and gradient and we thought that a deficit of one goal at half-time could be reversed with the slope which would work in our favour in the second half. It is certainly true that we created a host of chances in the second half. I can remember only one, possibly two Belvedere opportunities, in the whole half against the half dozen or more that we had. It is difficult to know where to begin or to recall all of them. Suffice to say that Peter Harvey, George Kleanthous, Waine Hetherington and Simon Thomas all had half decent chances to score. Poor finishing, selfishness, bad luck, the wrong foot, and the quality of the Belvedere keeper all conspired to frustrate Farnborough. Simon Thomas crashed a volley against the bar with about ten minutes left, and the Belvedere keeper saved the follow up. Two low fizzers from Peter Harvey stand out in the mind’s eye but Belvedere held out as the seconds ticked away. It was all quite symptomatic of our season so far.
As often happens I was criticised for not flagging for a Belvedere offside when I ran the line in the last half-hour, after Phil Anthony had come back on, for me. Phil reported that ten players had already signed up for our conquest of Lille on next summer’s tour.
As often happens too, people get frustrated in such circumstances and Michael Ugwumba usually gets strongly-worded advice from team mates. Today was no exception – at one point he was berated by Steve Blanchard for standing still, a yard away from Steve Blanchard to defend a corner. Moments later it was Peter Harvey’s turn to criticise a 40-yarder from Michael. Nonetheless Michael must have done some things right because he got one MoM vote. Five players shared the eleven votes recorded – with Sinisa Gracanin standing out from the crowd.
We might complain about the result but the game was played in excellent spirit. Our hosts produced a tray of sandwiches, piping hot sausages and potato slices/wedges. This reminds me that I have so far this season not made any mention of the Buffetsaurus - Nick Waller. He has not been around, and in any case Peter Harvey pointed out that there was one other person present (today, and indeed at every occasion when Nick Waller was there in the past) who was Buffetsaurus Rex. Guess who? But please do not tell Mrs M.
Next week it is Inter Vyagra - surely that will be the time to stop firing blanks.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin, a thoroughbred among donkeys, you might think, at times.
Man of the match: Sinisa Gracanin