Sunday 24th March 2019
By Patrice Mongelard
Hearts race as Farnborough snatch draw from jaws of victory
We look forward to this spring outing. Games against Catford Wanderers are keenly contested. The pitch is more than half decent. Hospitality is good. And we occasionally run into old friends. The spring sunshine added to the quality of the experience. After last week’s debacle against Glendale we were looking for a performance, let alone a result. Numbers were tight but we mustered thirteen with the late inclusion of Tom Naughton from our other Vets team, and debutant Gary Mason brought in today to make sure Michael Hills kept his head. The delayed kick off of 11:00 was helpful as waiting for Gordon to arrive with the kit felt a bit like waiting for Godot, with the absurdity of Matt Angelo's utterings to keep us entertained.
Colin Mant, Michael Hills, Patrice Mongelard;
Sinisa Gracanin, Waine Hetherington, Gary Mason, Gordon Thompson, Obi Ugwumba;
Jay Hardy, Peter Harvey.
Substitutes: Phil Anthony and Tom Naughton.
Supporters: David Orji, Michael Ugwumba (Jr).
Linesman: Michael Ugwumba Jr.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
Chances were few and far between in the early stages as both teams looked to establish a foothold in the game. Farnborough had marginally more of the play and cohesive passing but both defences were as tight as clams. It took a set piece to break the deadlock. Peter Harvey’s quick feet and snake hips unbalanced his marker who resorted to an agricultural intervention which lifted Peter off the ground, well inside the box. The languid referee had little choice but to award the penalty. Peter rose like Lazarus to place the ball past the less than tall but agile Catford keeper into the top corner. Catford pressed for an equaliser but Matt Angelo was catching everything today and curbing his Brazilian tendencies. With Gordon Thompson on the left and Sinisa Gracanin on the right we had a balance and guile to our play allied with penetration that was pleasing whilst Gary Mason and Obi Ugwumba provided the muscle in midfield with Waine Hetherington pulling the strings. We needed some clearing headers in our box though, including one from Patrice Mongelard (which that smart lad Michael Hills described as just like Virgil) to preserve our advantage.
We made changes on the half-hour with Tom Naughton and Phil Anthony coming on for Obi Ugwumba and Patrice Mongelard. It is fair to say that we lost some momentum then and Catford became more insistent. Yet just when it felt the tide was turning, with five minutes to the break, the Catford keeper connected poorly with a clearance and it looked like he had passed the ball to the ever-alert Jay Hardy who was unmarked, lurking with intent just outside the Catford box. Jay’s control of the ball was instant. He made the most of the Catford keeper having to come across a little diagonally and guided the ball in. Unlike a couple of weeks ago against Reigate, Jay’s poke had the right angle and thrust to double our advantage.
2-0 up at the midway point with the not unreasonable prospect of more goals, there was probably not one among us who would have put money on a draw. The more clear-cut chances were falling to us but the finish was not there. Peter Harvey, Gordon Thompson, Jay Hardy and even Tom Naughton had chances to stretch our lead but came up short. At the other end Matt Angelo distinguished himself with a stupendous save diving low to his left to palm out what would have been a Michael Hills own goal, after a header glanced off Michael Hills to move in the opposite direction Michael intended. Things started going awry with injuries taking a toll. First Jay Hardy twisted an ankle with an awkward landing and Obi Ugwumba was back on while Jay waited for the pain and discomfort to subside. It was not long before Gordon Thompson who had been shining brightly in the Farnborough firmament, came off with what he fears is a recurrence of a previous injury which kept out for three games earlier in the season. The wisdom of having substitutes was proven soon after when Phil Anthony came off with hamstring trouble and Patrice Mongelard was back on a little earlier than planned.
With a quarter of an hour left a Catford free kick from the left found the Farnborough defence indulging in a tribute to the Easter Island statues. The smallest Catford player, all five foot two of him had run forty yards from the full back position, untracked and unchallenged, to get his head to the ball and Matt Angelo was finally beaten. If you think that was naughty there was more to come.
We still had chances to put the game beyond doubt and silence the very noisy home crowd. Peter Harvey was held back from behind in what looked like inside the box coordinates but the free kick was taken on the line. Obi Ugwumba produced a peach of a thirty-yard cross for Jay Hardy at the far post and Jay’s stooping header had the keeper beaten but was three inches away from the right side of the post.
With barely a minute left, the otherwise faultless and immaculate Michael Hills (who surely deserves to play a higher level of football on a Sunday morning) was tempted to bring down the youngest player on the pitch (whom one Catford player suggested to us was forty years old (which make me 85 years of age)) in a dangerous area. There was a bit of a commotion as the referee awarded a free kick – you guessed it, on the line. There was even a female Catford fan who advanced on the pitch threatening to sort things out if a penalty was not awarded. When the free kick was eventually taken the shot was sweetly struck with power and accuracy, beat the wall, making the most of the absence of a player on the post (much to Obi Ugwumba’s displeasure), to give Catford a last gasp equaliser which was celebrated like a golden goal in extra time in the final of an inter galactic world cup. There was no time to go back to the centre circle even though in a real sense, things had come full circle.
Our old friend Roger French, ex-Farnborough Vets defender and co-manager, appeared for Catford in an incident-packed last twenty minutes, reminding everyone, and Peter Harvey and Jay Hardy in particular, of why Norman Hunter is Roger’s favourite player. Things were done and said in the heat of the moment but did not boil over.
In the end Catford would have been more pleased with the draw than we were but we cannot deny their spirit. The lesson as always is that if you do not put away your chances when you get them there is a good chance you will get punished. This is football.
As customary the enlightened Catford Wanderers management laid on a wonderful spread for their visitors. I was late out of the changing room and missed out on most of it but rustled up a small bacon sandwich when I got back (though Mrs M would not believe I would eat anything small, ever).
Man of the match today – Jay Hardy who hobbled off momentarily with a badly twisted ankle but came back on to give as much as he got, and was three inches away from a happy ending. New old boy Gary Mason also registered a couple of notches on the MoMeter. Next week it is Baltic at home with the prospect of another old friend, Des Lindsay, visiting us, and a fair share of our match subs going towards pizzas. Quite how many of us will be there is another matter as injuries are taking their toll and we have another eight games to play this season, before our European tour.
Man of the match: Jay Hardy