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12th September 2020 v England O55s St Georges Park

And here we go again!!

This season has taken a while to start and it is exactly six months and one day since we last played...a stupendous victory against the Army in the 2020 Inter Services. The IS is to be continued and more of that to come but for now, the first game back in action is a first “Official” Over 50s Vets team game. Opposition is tough, it’s the England Over 55s squad, but the advantage we have in the age gap means nothing as the England lads have played together many times whilst this is a first for the boys in blue. A great turnout for the game saw Geordie Salkeld take charge of team affairs in the absence of the O50s RTM. Yvonne Salkeld, Geordie’s wife, was heavily involved too, taking temperatures on arrival, track and trace etc and ensuring we complied with the Covid-19 rules and regulations whilst at St George’s Park. Then, it was game time.

England kicked off and the first couple of minutes were quite slow in that they kept possession in an effort to try and find some weak spot they could punish. They found it hard. The closest they came to breaching the RAF defence was 2 quick corners that were well cleared by Robinson and Butt respectively. In the fifth minute, a throughball from Butt found Coull whose first time shot had the keeper scrambling and it went out for an RAF corner. From the corner, Robinson outjumped all and sundry but could only steer his header wide. It may sound a cliche but the RAF were winning everything in the air, Butt and Robinson in central defence and Robison and Findler, the full backs, were heading everything clear. England needed to change their game and in the tenth minute, they did. A low through ball up front and the centre forward managed to beat the offside trap. He hit the ball past Stones in the RAF goal and it was going wide but the speedy England right winger had continued his wide run and managed to get there first to slot home into an empty net. 1-0 England. The RAF continued to win everything in the air and now shored up their ground tactics. This limited England to shots from 25/30/35 yards. All sailed high or wide. The boys in blue were playing well with Robison and Robinson immense in defence and the rest of the team continuing to probe the England midfield and defence looking for the equaliser. When the RAF looked on top however, England almost scored again from a carbon copy of the first goal. This time Stones got down at the feet of the centre forward to make a great save. Still 1-0 but only just. Stale is the wrong word but the game went stale. Both defences playing well and despite some good build up play by both teams, defences continued to clear and there was very little penetration or goalmouth action to whet the appetite. This was two finely balanced teams going toe to toe but neither could find the room to land a killer blow. The half time whistle went with England leading 1-0.

Onto the second half and in the Vets game, rolling subs are the norm and this game was being played at a quite good tempo so subs were on at regular intervals and it was one of those subs, Kutcha, the new SRT Manager, who grabbed the equaliser in the 51st minute after some good build up play. Kuchta got into the box and got away from his marker before smashing the ball left footed past a bemused keeper and it was 1-1. It was no less than the RAF deserved as they had matched England all the way in this game so far. In the 66th minute, England regained the lead when the ball was allowed to bounce in the RAF area and the England number 10 swivelled and hit a lovely volley beyond the stranded RAF keeper to make it 2-1. England were now passing and keeping the ball better than the RAF side and that is something the O50s management staff will work on but tiredness was beginning to tell. England, who have played together many times started to control the game and it was backs to the wall for the boys in blue who despite the pressure continued to mount a strong defence. It couldn’t last however and England broke away to score a third just before the end to run out 3-1 winners. FT: RAF 1-3 England

A good game to watch despite my “stale” comment and an excellent start for the O50s in their first official game despite the scoreline. Those involved enjoyed it and now look forward to their next fixture in November (when the legs, lungs and hearts have recovered) when they’ll take on St Anne’s FC.

Special thanks to Yvonne Salkeld for manning the Covid reception area and to young RAF photographer Sam Dale from RAF Cosford who took some amazing photos on the day (even giving our own John Bones a lesson or two free of charge). Also to Darren Robison and Gus Payne who did a lot of work around the Covid issues to ensure the game could go ahead. Well done to all involved, it was great to meet up again and please note...”We’re back!!”

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