04 February 2018 v LFC Veterans
So with Day 1 of the “Double Header” done and dusted and with the players refreshed and rested from the previous days exertions and post match presentation and Q&A session, it was onto Day 2 and a big game against Liverpool FC Veterans. This is always a big game for both sides and despite previous good results against the Reds, nothing would be taken for granted as the games are always closer than the scores sometimes suggests. Some of the players had left after the Saturday game whilst some stayed and were joined by others arriving on the Sunday morning. This was a massive day at St George’s and there was a large presence of TV cameras, journalists and big wigs floating about but alas, it was not to cover our game but to cover an Under 23 game between Derby County and Manchester United. We would play on the same indoor pitch as we had the previous day whilst the kids played on the stadium pitch, known as the Bobby Charlton pitch or Pitch Number 6. We didn’t care, the RTM “liked” us but he didn’t like Derby or Man U so there.
Back in the familiar sky blue, the RAF kick off, with a rerun of yesterdays “I like you but don’t love you yet” speech still ringing in their ears. Done for the benefit of the newcomers on Sunday it set the tone in the dressing room pre-game and the lads took to the field wanting “to be loved”. This would be a much harder game for the RAF as the LFC boys could run all day as they do in every game and have in their ranks a couple of exceptionally skilful and willing players. The RAF quickly force a corner and from the resultant kick, the LFC keeper makes a hash of it but it drops at the far post and there is no one there to take advantage of the error. The boys in blue were certainly making it hard for their visitors as they learnt from the previous day and spread the game wide, keeping possession and making the visitors work hard to get anywhere near the ball...it was all good stuff. Stones in the RAF goal was seeing little if any action but when called upon he made a smart save from a snap shot. The keeper at the other end however (who had borrowed a set of gloves from the RAF) was constantly busy but rarely got his hands on anything with the ball bouncing off his feet, knees and chest to safety on numerous occasions. It turns out he wasn’t a real goalie at all but drew the short straw for this game as their regular keeper was missing. However, as anyone will tell you, it’s just about keeping the ball out of the net and to his credit, that’s what he did. Stones then earned his salt by making an excellent save but the ball bounced straight to an unmarked red player who, with an open goal now to aim at, rushed his shot and put it wide. That was a let off, totally against the run of play but showed the need to concentrate fully even when on top. The boys got their game together again and were attacking at will when a series of cross field passes finally found one that went forward and landed at the feet of Seddon. He turned one defender before cutting across a second and then let fly. As has been his luck this season the ball cannoned back off the bar and was cleared all the way back to Stones in the RAF goal!! Seddon has played in about 4 games this season and has hit the woodwork a staggering 8 times so far. If he could hit the 8 yards of goal net instead of the 4 inches of wood he’d be lethal!! A free kick to the RAF sees Seddon get another chance but he spoons the shot over the bar. Then it happened, the smallest bloke on the pitch, an LFC player, picked on Trigger Green. Bob had tackled him and came away with the ball and the little fellah then kicked out at the back of his legs. Green had the werewithal not to react and the little fellah was given a stern talking to by the referee but he was like a mini rottweiler, chasing everything, biting everything and generally making a nuisance of himself...would he now calm down?...I doubt it. Soon after, Liverpool score but the linesman flags for offside, he being the only person there who thought it was offside but it’s a warning the RAF can’t ignore. LFC are coming into the game more and more and Stones is called upon again to save smartly. The game is stop/start now with free kicks being given away too easily by both sides. A lot of these kicks are in and around both boxes but the set pieces from both sets of players are equally abysmal. I’ve not yet seen one today on target...high and wide or into the wall seems to be the order of the day. Another free kick to the RAF follows a foul on Seddon and he looks to have picked up a knock from that. After some lengthy treatment on his knee, he hobbles off to be replaced by Edwards who is immediately into the action jinking down the right and pulling back a lovely cross that Shanks meets but puts over the bar. Opportunity gone begging. It wasn’t to stay all square much longer though as Wanless, who had started up front with Seddon and was playing well, controlling, holding up and bringing other players into play, took over the main striker mantle and forced his way into the box to then fire across the keeper and into the corner of the net. 1-0 RAF. Despite the goal, the next one looked as if it would come from a set piece as once again the game flowed between penalty areas but both sides would then give away a free kick to stop the advancement. I said the next goal looked like...well to be fair, it didn’t actually look like as the free kicks were more trouble to the corner flags and or the balcony that surrounded the pitch than they were to the goal itself. Luckily we were saved any further free kick action, for the time being, as the referee signalled half time.
The RAF were playing well but so too the opposition. The problem was finishing and both sides were giving away free kicks around the penalty area too easily. Coach Craig Gill had recognised this and had already written on his whiteboard in big letters “STAND UP” when the players gathered for the half time break. However, with so many positives to be taken from the performance and a 1-0 lead, the negatives, though not forgotten about, were quickly covered and the high points pressed home. It was on to the second half and we had quite a big crowd now as those that had come to see the Derby v United game came to watch during their own half time break.
Early pressure from Liverpool saw them create a couple of half chances, both put wide and then Stones picked up a back pass that led to a free kick to Liverpool inside the RAF area. The RAF are slow out of the blocks this half, is it the size of the crowd that has spooked them? The free kick is taken and Brown comes out of the wall to get in a great block on the incoming shot. Throw to Liverpool on the far side. Bartley, obviously bouyed by his screamer the previous day then gets in on the act with a right foot drive from 20 yards that the keeper didn’t even see. Unfortunately, it cleared the bar by no more than an inch. Suddenly, Liverpool break and a ball straight through the middle finds the little rottweiler and he calmly rounds Stones and slots the ball into the net 1-1. If it was the crowd that spooked the RAF lads it wasn’t to last as immediately after the LFC goal, the Derby v United game was about to restart and the crowd disappeared. Funnily enough, the RAF started playing again. The game was end to end but unlike the previous day, the opposition did not wilt as they are a very fit group of lads. Both sides created and should have scored chances but the game once again became a battle of the midfields with neither side giving quarter and chances were at a premium. With just seconds to go, an LFC player landed on his head following a tackle and both Payne and Morris went into action again. These guys are a credit to themselves and the RAF and actually seem to spend more time dealing with the oppositions injuries than our own. Maybe their pre-match rub downs are working well on our lads. Final score RAF Veterans 1v1 Liverpool FC Veterans.
There are so many thank you’s after this great weekend. Thank you to Sir Chris Colville, President of the RAF FA Veterans family who stayed for both days and spoke to the teams before and after each game. Alas, as an Everton fan his knowledge of football is limited. (You know I’m joking Sir Chris). To the staff at St George’s Park who hosted the occasion a special thanks. Nothing was too much trouble for them even with the big event they had on (that other game ended 1v1 too). Big thanks to the players and staff of both North Wales Over 35s and Liverpool FC Veterans for two great games and a bit of banter. To the WAGs who travelled (and those that didn’t) a massive thanks for supporting your other half, and us, in our endeavours and finally to Jennifer Price of the RAFBF and to Tony Reeves and his support team of Alison Reeves, Darrell Kerr and Steve Findler who raised over £850 towards our target for the Royal Air Force Benevolent fund. We are now almost back on track to our target of £10,000 following the postponement of 2 games.
The players and staff who represented the RAF FA Veterans at some stage over the 2 days were:
Sir Chris Colville, Matt Beattie, Craig Gill, Gus Payne, Jon PD Morris, Jim Sheehan, Tony Reeves, Daz Kerr, Steve Findler, John Bones, Lee Croucher, Ronnie Barker, John Irvine, Dave Arscott, Al Dales, Yorkie Bryan, Trev Smith, Gaz Meadows, Craig Foster, Danny Bartley, Dougie Coull, Stu Turner, Wozza Robinson, Daz Robison, Steve Pugh, Russ Edwards, Dave Wanless, Paul Stones, Bob Green, Mark Rooney, Glyn Stockport, Mark Brown, Jon Shanks, Gaz Seddon, Stu Lamont
If you didn’t already know, Matt gave a brilliant presentation on Saturday night followed by a Q&A session. It was the players chance to speak up on where we are and where we want to be. You can check it out here and get involved...
You can also check out our RAFBF just giving page here and just give...