Sunday 14th April 2019
By Patrice Mongelard
Balti derby ends in honourable draw
This game was a battle between two teams sponsored by curry houses, with the Palace of India in Farningham versus the Village Cuisine in Farnborough. You could say on the day that Game of Thrones returns to our TV screens that this was a Game of Naans. I thought of a dodgy curry when Sinisa Gracanin had to run home soon after putting the kit in my car to attend to a plumbing emergency that was a shock to his cistern. Perhaps it was an iffy Ruby that keep Obi Ugwumba from showing up today. As a result, we had to borrow a Riverside player to start the game whilst fashion icon Phil Anthony got changed. The morning chill and grey skies dissipated as the morning wore on. The cold start afforded me a rare opportunity to give an outing to my vintage Arran sweater (circa 1978) which narrowly avoided a Peter Harvey bingo moment about sucking a fisherman’s friend although he did mention trawling. Phil Anthony thought the jumper would look good on his dog Caesar and he even had the cheek to question my sartorial sense – yes, that’s right, Phil the MAMIL and a sandals & socks man.
Phil Anthony (eventually), Michael Hills, Patrice Mongelard;
Mark Harrington, Waine Hetherington, Sinisa Gracanin, Ian Lyons, Gary Mason;
Peter Harvey, Dean Murphy.
Supporters: Paul and Rory Tanton.
Chief Football Correspondent: Patrice Mongelard.
The Riverside pitch, or Eynsford Bowl, is notorious for its slope and curvature. The surface was lush and a little agricultural in places. It is the same for both teams you will say but it is a place where teams like to win the toss. We kicked up the mountain in the first half and our aim was generally to not fall behind too much in the first half. In the end the deficit was one goal only and I would be lying if I said we were unhappy with that. The first threat on goal was ours - as Peter Harvey flashed a cross across the face of the Riverside goal which took the polish off the boot of an outstretched Mark Harrington at the far post. Dean Murphy blasted a ball against the angle of bar and post just as an offside whistle went.
Despite these encouraging signs we fell behind after a quarter of an hour. Rob Faulkner had kept us in the game with a couple of stunning reflex saves from close range but corners at the bottom of the hill are particularly problematic. From one such set piece the ball fell kindly to a Riverside forward in a crowd of players and the ball was prodded over the line. It did not take long for us to draw level – a sort of reverse pass from Peter Harvey had released Dean Murphy on the right, the uphill slope was helpful and Dean’s low finish arrowed into the net despite the presence of a more than competent keeper in the Riverside goal.
Parity did not last long. Riverside pulled ahead ten minutes later when the ball bounced off Phil Anthony’s knee in an attempted clearance and fell kindly to a Riverside forward on his best foot with a propitious angle to curve the ball past Rob Faulkner. Worse followed for us when a muscular intervention by Gary Mason inside our box yielded a penalty for Riverside which none of us questioned. Despite Grobbelaar antics from Rob, and some diversionary theatrics from Michael Hills, the penalty was well struck. 3-1 felt like a mountain to climb. 3-2 felt less so after Peter Harvey earned and converted a penalty with five minutes of the half left.
We were cheered up as the second half got underway by the sight of Farnborough legend and Vet Paul Tanton (400+ goals for the club) and his lad. We would have been even happier if Tant had been on the pitch. We felt that the slope would help us keep Riverside kettled in their half and by and large this was the story of the second half, interspersed with some forays into our half that were less dangerous than what we were engineering at the other end. Engineering is the right word for the equaliser that we struck on the hour or so when Peter Harvey’s perceptive through ball released a marauding Dean Murphy who calmly guided the ball past the Riverside keeper. At that point it felt like there could only be one winner of this game and it would not be Riverside. There were certainly more incidents in the Riverside box. Dean Murphy and Peter Harvey had shots that drew very good saves from the Riverside keeper. Mark Harrington came agonisingly close from one corner. Waine Hetherington had a shot from the edge of the box that curved the wrong side of the post at the last minute. Our midfield quintet showed great spirit and there was resilience in our back line with Michael Hills snapping at anything loose and the two sexagenarians holding their own.
In the end a draw was a fair result. Riverside did enough in the second half to earn a point. We did enough to feel this had been a very good team performance with only eleven players. This draw felt better than some of the wins we have had this season although it will soon be hard to recall what victories feel like (our last one going as far back as 3 March). Injuries have not helped. Players not turning up when expected help even less.
I cannot end this report without a mention in dispatches for the referee today – a former Riverside player who filled in for a missing referee. Despite a touch of somnambulism he was scrupulously fair and contributed to the good humour and sporting spirit in which the game was played despite the best efforts of one or two players with not much hair (on both sides).
Nor can I fail to record what a copious feast our hosts served up for us in the Five Bells public house: piping hot vegetable samosas with sweet chilli dipping sauce, onion bhajis, sausage rolls, chicken breast nuggets, baby pizzas, egg mayonnaise and ham and tomato on white bread, and cheese and onion on wholemeal bread. No wonder we had nine out of eleven players in the bar (just one less than we had to start the game). To add to the atmosphere there was even a Jimmy Greaves lookalike in the pub, spotted by Spurs fan Peter Harvey.
It is Easter Sunday next week – we will do well to get 11 players out and will once again need to call on our other Vets team probably. I do not think any of our injured players will be back. News from the crowded Senior Vets treatment room, received yesterday from matron Amanda Thomas, was that “Hurty Toe” Thomas was making progress but still could not strike a ball properly. We might have a very long wait for that, even after a full recovery.
Man of the match – six players curried favour with the voters today but the two most cracking poppadums were Dean Murphy who struck like a cobra twice, and Mark Harrington with a vindaloo of a performance.
Man of the match: Dean Murphy and Mark Harrington