Sunday 11th March 2018
By Patrice Mongelard
Farnborough collective spirit edges Mother’s Day last minute thriller on home turf
The team played on 25 February, registering a 9-1 victory, without me, as some noted, rather uncharitably. Apparently, a certain player had enjoyed having “a proper right back” behind him on 25 February. My absence meant that the iridescent beauty and supreme artistry of nine goals did not adorn the report of that match. You cannot have everything. On 4 March we lost to the Beast from the East. On 11 March though we were back home for first time since 19 November, and for only the seventh time this season. By contrast we have played 75% of our games this year at Norman Park but there have been no demonstrations from our fans, no pitch invasions, demanding that we be renamed Norman Park Senior Vets, yet. Thankfully our pitch was fit for play and we managed to get thirteen players, as well as new opponents in Riverside Vets. We lined up for our Mother’s Day parade like this:
Steve Blanchard, Ian Coles, Patrice Mongelard, Franco Petrozzi;
Jay Hardy, Michael Hills, Simon Thomas, Obi Ugwumba;
Peter Harvey, George Kleanthous.
Substitutes: Colin Mant, Mick O’Flynn.
Referee: Nick Kinnear (who donated his match fee to club funds).
Supporter: Ian Shoebridge.
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
As far as we could see early doors, Mother’s Day absences had not weakened Riverside one jot. They looked as strong and balanced a side as always, with willing runners in midfield, a crafty and burly target man and some big units at the back (including a double wardrobe of the Rhino brand) and a keeper that looked agile, strong-wristed and youthful even though he claimed to be wearing boots (not gloves!) of the wrong size.
It was therefore a cagey, measured start by both sides. We had marginally more territory and attempts at goal in the early phases. Both defences were on top. It did not feel like a game where there would be a lot of goals and any goals that were scored today would have to be hard-earned. We were quietly surprised and pleased with our collective spirit. The presence of Rob Faulkner in goal was certainly reassuring and his handling and kicking were just the platform we needed. Our midfield quartet knew they were in a game. Michael Hills and Simon Thomas were tucking in and helping out as best they could and Obi Ugwumba and Jay Hardy had to use all their muscle on a heavy pitch. Our first clear scoring opportunity came from Jay Hardy who bustled his way into the Riverside box before unloading and we were able to see what the Riverside keeper was made of. A mishit cross from Patrice Mongelard hit the top of the angle of post and bar from twenty-five yards out. We forced a number of corners which came to no avail. The muscular attentions of the Riverside defence were being felt by Peter Harvey and George Kleanthous, but they just got on with it giving as good as they got. Obi Ugwumba tried one of his howitzers which seemed to trouble one of his own players more than the opposition. Riverside came closest to scoring from a corner but Patrice Mongelard was well-positioned on the far post to clear the ball.
Midway through the half Mick O’Flynn and Colin Mant came on for Ian Coles and Franco Petrozzi. By accident, or possibly design, just after the half-hour Mick became associated with the one moment in that half that broke the deadlock. He lumped the ball forward into the Riverside box, or if you prefer, measured a lofted pass into space that was swiftly occupied by George Kleanthous. George had timed his run to such perfection that the Riverside linesman had to keep his flag down. As the Riverside keeper came out to counter the imminent danger, George produced an exquisite, deft, nerve agent of a half-volleyed lob which left the Riverside keeper paralysed with the ball sailing into the net. We were not able to increase our lead by half-time. There were distractions and even though we were leading there was not much serenity in our midst, for reasons best left unexposed. My own serenity was disturbed further when I realised I had left the half-time oranges behind in the dressing room. I had been too busy thinking about the referee, the valuables, the pizzas (more on that later), and the corner flags.
Ian Coles and Franco Petrozzi were back on for the second half with Steve Blanchard and Simon Thomas making way. We were on the front foot as the game resumed. Peter Harvey was released into space by George Kleanthous and went on to force a great save from the Riverside keeper diving to left to palm away a pile driver. Surely it would be a matter of time we thought. Ten minutes later that same combination worked again and this time Peter rounded the keeper, turned inside and seemed intent on taking his time to walk the ball into the net but the presence of a covering defender close by caused Peter to use his right foot to bundle the ball over the line.
Even at 2-0 up we could not feel the job was done. Riverside kept pressing for a goal but the defence and Rob Faulkner held firm. Midway through the second period Patrice Mongelard and George Kleanthous went off for Steve Blanchard and Simon Thomas. From the touchline I was able to witness Peter Harvey drive a penalty low and hard past the Riverside keeper. One too many agricultural tackles on Peter had earned the penalty and Peter was empowered, through the liberating absence of advice from his team mates to do as he pleased with the spot kick. At 3-0 up with barely a quarter of an hour left we dared to hope. Michael Hills was ‘rhinoed’ on the wing and wailed like a new born baby on Mother’s Day. We thought he had broken something. Of greater consequence were the injuries to Jay Hardy and Steve Blanchard which weakened our spine with about ten minutes left. George Kleanthous and Patrice Mongelard were back on in time to see Riverside pull two goals back in the last five minutes. But what would have been the mother of comebacks never materialised and we held on but Riverside had underlined their enduring quality with that scare. Rob Faulkner was disappointed that his clean sheet had gone but there was no reason for him to beat himself up like this, such is the confidence that we all derive from his presence.
Back in the changing rooms we had that customary awkward moment when we wait for a volunteer to take the kit. Today it was especially muddy and heavy and George Kleanthous, who drives an F-type convertible Jaguar, offered the weak defence that he did not have the right car to take the kit home and that he should have brought his children’s mother’s car. Then he remembered the beauty of his goal and relented. For good measure I reminded him that not even Des Lindsay had tried the ‘wrong type of car for the kit’ defence.
Pizzas ordered by Leanne were there when we emerged into the clubhouse. Mother’s Day roast lunches had thinned the number of partakers, in particular from Riverside, and we were on hand to mop up whatever they left. There was a lingering sense, I felt, nonetheless that we should have doubled the food order, as the post-match analysis went on and on until nearly 5 o’clock. Michael Hills’ ‘injury’ had not interfered with his appetite nor did his damaged finger affect his pizza slice grip. I should add, I almost forgot, that Leanne also did the scoring at the FOBG Quiz on 3 March, and what a grand job she did then too. The Senior Vets collective of Coles, Mongelard and O’Flynn won the mother of battles by one point.
We remain unbeaten in 2018. Glendale Vets next week will undoubtedly test this state of affairs. But first the British weather will test us all. The Farnborough pitch is in danger of being washed away as I write this report (a day later than usual because of Mother’s Day).
Man of the match – mummy’s boy today by a long chalk, our midfield enforcer Jay Hardy.
Man of the match: Jay Hardy