Sunday 30th September 2018
By Patrice Mongelard
You boys do not have much luck down here, do you?
The headline you have just read was spoken by a Belvedere player on his way to the bar, as he passed some of us who were still in the showers. Obviously, he was referring to the outcome of the game. Oddly, we look forward to this away game on the biggest pitch we play on, and one where it really matters whether one is kicking downhill or uphill. Today another significant variable was the referee, a Belvedere associate who was helping his mates out.
Michael Hills, Colin Mant, Patrice Mongelard;
Waine Hetherington, Franco Petrozzi, Ian Shoebridge, Simon Thomas, Gordon Thompson;
Peter Harvey, Kypros Michael.
Substitutes: Mick O’Flynn, George Kleanthous, Obi Ugwumba.
Supporters: Sinisa Gracanin, David Orji, Michael Ugwumba Jr.
Director of Football: Mick O’Flynn.
Croatian Technical Director: Sinisa Gracanin.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
Both teams moved the ball well from the off. The early penetration was ours though. The first clear chance fell to Peter Harvey who got his head to a Gordon Thompson cross in the six-yard box to steer the ball low into the corner only to find the Belvedere keeper equal to it. He got down well for an ample man and was to surprise us again in the game later (and, once, his team mates). We fashioned a second good scoring opportunity, another header, this time for Kypros Michael, launching himself off the ground to direct the ball over from two yards out after a cross had arrowed in from the right. Kypros told me later that he should have gone for a volley. I was not entirely convinced the result would have been different, but I opted to nod sagely. As a Man U supporter his mood is fragile at the moment. Simon Thomas on our right wing was achieving what Boris Johnson would call salience, whilst Gordon Thompson sparkled on the left. Waine Hetherington was mopping things up in front of the back three, Franco Petrozzi was having his usual muscular game and Ian Shoebridge was full of running. We had reason to be optimistic.
But then we were undone with two goals that felt, to us at least, to be against the run of play. The first and only corner that Belvedere got was turned to profit as we failed to clear the ball properly, there was a bit of a crowd scene, and a Belvedere shot went in via two Farnborough deflections. Five minutes later a well struck shot from twenty-five yards by the best Belvedere player on show had enough power and dip to elude Jabba in our goal and we were 2-0 down. On the half-hour Kypros Michael, Patrice Mongelard and Franco Petrozzi made way for our three substitutes. We were thrown a lifeline when a long ball from Gordon Thompson was followed into the Belvedere box by Simon Thomas. The Belvedere keeper had stirred himself, come off his line and shaped to hoof the ball away. He was always favourite to get to it first but perhaps he was distracted by Simon’s Tarzan impression, and he kicked fresh air. Simon just glided round him and stroked the ball into an empty net. At 2-1, with the slope in the second half in our favour, we had reason again to be optimistic. But then Mick O’Flynn had one of his Copacabana moments, when he imagines that he is performing in front of bethonged Brazilian beauties. He attempted something fancy that did not come off in a dangerous area and the youthful Belvedere forward (he must advertise moisturiser for a living) did the rest with quick feet and Chris Jablonski was beaten again with a sharp low drive. Talking of attempting something fancy, Michael Hills did a bit of unnecessary juggling with the ball in our box, fell over, looked at the pitch in a very accusatory and fierce manner, but thankfully only his pride was hurt.
We knew from experience that playing with the slope in the second half was worth an extra man. Initially though Belvedere kept us away from their box. But after the initial ten minutes of this second period and in particular after a goal from an angry Obi Ugwumba who bulldozed his way into the Belvedere box past two defenders before lashing a left foot drive past the Belvedere keeper – we felt we would get back in the game. On the hour, Kypros Michael, Patrice Mongelard and Franco Petrozzi were back on for Peter Harvey, Mick O’Flynn and Ian Shoebridge.
We then applied sustained pressure on the Belvedere goal, forcing a string of corners but there was always a Belvedere body or their keeper in the way. Obi Ugwumba departed with an injury and that brought Peter Harvey back on. Peter then lashed a free kick against the bar after the first controversial moment of the game. We could have done with VAR. George Kleanthous had entered the Belvedere box and managed to lift the ball over the shoulder of the Belvedere player who was slightly ahead of him, in other words nearer to their goal and therefore even deeper in their box, but the referee ruled the handball was on the chalk that marked the boundary of the box. There followed two further instances where we had a decent shout for a penalty. First Simon Thomas was upended deep in the box – and was in fact unable to continue (after hitting the post moments earlier). Thespian Simon left for his matinée performance soon afterwards. Manty thought it was a performance with a manatee. Ian Shoebridge, back on the pitch as Simon’s understudy, then had his standing leg whipped away from under him by a zealous Belvedere tackle in the box but once again the referee’s eyes glazed over. By then I thought he was a splendid walking advert for the importance of a visit to the local Specsavers.
We finished the game strongly, with Belvedere hanging on. The last meaningful Farnborough shot fell to Kypros Michael, teed up by Gordon Thompson in the last minute, two yards out on Kyp’s favourite left foot. However, once again, the huge presence in the Belvedere goal saved their bacon. He certainly made up for his first half aberration.
We were beaten, only just, but spirits were high. The feeling in the changing room was that we had given a good account of ourselves and maintained the quality of play and level of performance shown in recent weeks. There was a moment of light relief when Manty won the Peter Harvey bingo contest by predicting correctly that Peter would compliment Sinisa Gracanin for having had his best game in weeks. The other bit of light relief came from Michael Hills’ inability to recognise circumcision but I will spare you the detail on grounds of taste.
There were only four of us left in the bar when an enormous platter of assorted freshly-made sandwiches, a plate of hot pork sausages and a tray of roast potatoes arrived from our hosts. The four included Mick O’Flynn, a vegetarian who is allergic to eggs – so really you could say there were only three of us. Patrice Mongelard (it would be him wouldn’t it), Colin Mant and Michael Hills put in a great shift, taking more than one for the team. If only our forwards could finish like that, noted Manty, we’d be in the Champions League. Mick O’Flynn admitted that he was considering changing his man of the match vote in my favour following my intake.
Despite this setback we just have to keep it up. Next week it is Inter Vyagra.
Man of the match: by a long chalk, Gordon Thompson.
Man of the match: Gordon Thompson