13th September 2020 v Sutton Coldfield Vets St George’s Park
Onto Sunday and next up was the Over 35s. Once again, the opposition would be tough as just 3 years ago, Sutton Coldfield were the National Veterans champions and continue to do well and this annual fixture for the Andy Biddle Shield gives the RAF FA Vets management team an early opportunity to gauge where we are in terms of fitness, personnel and more importantly...hunger for the season ahead. A completely different squad for this game as the Over 50s had their day on the Saturday and there were quite a few “Veteran Virgins” hoping to catch the eyes of Matt Beattie and his coaching staff.
Both teams looked sharp in the warm up and last seasons 6-1 victory in this fixture was a distant memory although it was a great measure as to how far we have come and progressed over the last 3 years or so.
Sutton kick off. Both teams knocking the ball about well but as yesterday, all the good work was coming to nought as good defending by both sides was to the fore. The play in the middle of the park by both teams was excellent but when the ball got into the last third, there was a defender with a toe, or head, to break up the momentum. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of the build up play except to say it was a joy to watch from both teams. The referee was the first substitution however, in the 20th minute, as he went over on his ankle and could take no further part. It took until the 27th minute before the first chance of note and it resulted in a goal. Sutton attacked and once again when the ball came into the RAF box, a toe jutted out to intercept. Unfortunately, this time, Arscott’s toe deflected the ball goalwards and completely wrongfooted Algar in the RAF goal. 1-0 Sutton. One of the many pluses this Vets team have shown over the last couple of years is that they don’t worry about going behind. They pick up their heads and go again and it took just one minute for them to be level. Straight from the restart the RAF went on the offensive and a lovely through ball hit the marauding Arscott on the back of his leg. This time though he had the luck. Defenders stopped as the ball looped up off him and he was the first to respond as the ball came back down, volleying past the keeper. Two goals for Arscott but just 1-1. Norton, was causing problems when in possession, Algar, in goal, was strong, Bartley was always involved and Stockport was always moving his marker looking for a gap. In fact, all of the RAF boys were playing extremely well but so too the Sutton lads. Half time was soon upon us and I have to say, this is a nice game to watch. Defences are on top in as much as both sets are limiting chances but it’s nice watching some of the build up work. Good pace and tempo being shown by the boys in blue. HT RAF 1-1 Sutton Coldfield
The start of the second half was similar but in the 55th minute, some great play involving Deurden, Watkin, Croft and Norton saw Norton upended in the box. Croft smashed home the resultant penalty. RAF 2-1 Sutton Coldfield. It took just six minutes more before the next goal and again it went to the RAF. Duerden, in his white boots, was on the receiving end of another good passage of play and he slotted home. He almost added a quick second when the RAF immediately won back possession from the restart but was denied by a brilliant save from the Sutton keeper. RAF 3-1 Sutton. We didn’t have to wait much longer for a fourth though as Croft bagged his second with a lovely strike and it’s now RAF 4-1 Sutton. Apart from a superb strike from Croft that struck a post, things calmed down a bit. Sutton continued to attack and probe in the hope of salvaging something from the game but this was then leaving gaps that the RAF were seeking to take advantage of. However in the 81st minute, Croft was through again and could have had his hatrick but instead chose to pass to the hardworking Norton to slot home. RAF 5-1 Sutton Coldfield. That was game over...or was it? Another of the pluses of this squad is they play for 90 plus minutes (even with a shed load of newbies in the squad) and it was one of those newbies who got his second of the game and the RAFs sixth. Duerden, still in his white boots, struck a beauty right footed from 20 yards in the 90th minute. There was just time for Sutton to restart before the referee blew for full time. FT RAF 6-1 Sutton Coldfield.
An excellent game of football, an excellent result and if there was any doubt as to how lockdowns had affected the boys in blue...there wasn’t now. This was a superb result and a superb display. Thanks to everyone involved. In terms of Covid, we learnt from the previous day, in terms of fitness, it looked good. In terms of the “Veteran Virgins”, the future looks bright...not orange but air force blue. PUAF and if today is the standard you set...god help the Navy when we get round to playing the missing IS game!!