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14th March 2018 v Army. Inter Services

Well, it’s that time of the year again when the Forces go head to head in the Annual Inter Services Football Competition. As a Liverpool fan, I’m acutely aware of the saying “this is our year” but as far as the RAF FA Veterans are concerned, that is a saying I am reciting in my head constantly. A great build up this season has seen the side reach new heights and I am quietly confident that we will better the Army and Navy in this years tournament. Oh, how wrong was I?

First up is the Army, last years winners on goal difference, a rankle to me as goal difference in a two game tournament is a bit of a lottery but hey ho, same for all sides. The game is being played at Lilleshall and it is windy...my word it is WINDY!!

The Army kick off and play the ball backwards before a huge punt upfield. Opportunity here to put a stamp on the game as the ball is in the air for a long time. Attack it and take out anything that gets in your way and let the opposition know you are here to win or, do as we did and wait for it to land on one of our defenders heads, the army forward nips in front and takes the ball but puts it harmlessly into the hands of Stones in the RAF goal. Opportunity for both sides then within the first few seconds, the Army with the chance to score, the RAF with the chance to put down a marker...neither taken. Another mistake by the RAF defence when a backpass went short saw Stones run from his box to put in a great tackle but the ball was smashed back goalwards but Stones got a hand to the shot to send it out for a corner to the Army. The RAF were at sixes and sevens and in the 7th minute, the Army took the lead. A long ball down the centre of the field beat the RAF defence and the big Army centre forward nipped in to chip the advancing keeper. 1-0 Army. A couple of minutes later, things got worse. With the RAF playing really deep another long punt forward found that big man again and he laid it back to an incoming midfielder who struck it sweetly from 25 yards and it found the back of the net. That was a cracker but alas not for us. 2-0 Army. The RAF then created a chance of their own but a smart save from the Army keeper saw the good work just yield a corner. A series of RAF corners followed as the Army defenders just relied on “the big hoof” to clear their lines but it was effective. In the 20th minute, Thomas was booked for a tackle after the ball had gone quickly followed by an Army player for a tackle from behind. The ref had seen enough of the dodgy tackling and was going to try and cut it out but this was the Inter Services...it’s expected. Another great save from Stones but the ball dropped to an unmarked player who put the ball into the net. However, the linesman had his flag up for offside and the score remained 2-0. The RAF keep giving the ball away and this is not how the season had gone so far. This is a poor performance from the boys in blue and it was only going to get worse. In the 33rd minute, another misplaced pass and another hoof upfield from the Army. The ball finds the centre forward who rounds the keeper and slots it home and it’s 3-0 Army. Fredriksen then finds himself through on goal after some good work by Rooney down the left but he’s pulled back for offside. It was the first meaningful set of passes put together by the RAF and 35 minutes had elapsed. Were things to change? The answer was yes but not how we wanted. Another Army break and another great save by Stones but the ball ballooned up into the air. Two RAF defenders jumped to head clear and both missed it and the ball fell to the feet of an army player and though the first effort was blocked the follow up was smashed into the back of the net. 4-0 Army. A good set of passes saw the RAF move the ball from right to left and up the field before a push in the back saw the RAF win a free kick wide to the edge of the Army box. Robison took it and whipped in a fine ball to find the head of Martin. The header was superbly saved by the keeper although everyone was unsure as to whether the ball had crossed the line first. No matter, Wanless was following up and his right foot steered the ball into the back of the net to make it 4-1. Half Time whistle goes and it’s a very poor effort from the RAF though they did improve in those last 10 minutes.

No punches were pulled in the half time talk.

The second half kicks off and almost immediately, a short goal kick puts Bartley in trouble as he is closed down quickly. The Army take the ball and a little chip over the advancing keeper sees the score at 5-1. That short kick was Stones’ only mistake...it was never on...but with the lads having been told to build from the back, I think the decision to play it out was hurried.

In the 59th minute the RAF put together a series of passes that finally saw Thomas through on goal, he rounded the keeper and slotted home to make it 5-2. This was followed a couple of minutes later by another great break forward. The ball found Wanless out on the right and he drove for the line before pulling the ball back across goal for the waiting Thomas who calmly stroked the ball into the net. 5-3. Good work by Fredriksen finds Thomas but his shot is wide and things are starting to look rosy again with the RAF now on top and looking dangerous but...a break down the right by the Army sees the winger go round Stones. It looked as though he had over run it but he managed to pull it back across goal wrong footing the defenders in the process and it’s a simple tap in. 6-3 Army. Wanless gets in a shot that the keeper saves at the expense of a corner before the same player has another snap shot but it’s harmlessly wide. The game is wide open here with both sides creating chances but with nine goals in the game already the luck in front of goal seems to have run out. Both sides have more players booked for minor offences as the officials seem to be getting a little too officious now in a game that’s being played hard by both sides but there are no more goals in the game and the final whistle goes with the score at 6-3 to the Army.

Congratulations must go to the Army team as they are now Veterans Inter Service Champions having put seven past the Navy a week earlier. The RAF now take on the Navy to avoid the wooden spoon but in all honesty, we must improve on today’s performance. The first half was dire bar the last 10 minutes and the second half showed we can compete. We need to put that second half performance together for 90 minutes.

Oh well, maybe...just maybe, “next year is our year!!”

RAF Squad:

Starting XI. Stones, Robison, Rooney, Green, Lamont, Brown, Pugh, Thomas, Fredriksen, Bartley, Martin.

Subs: Hodges, Foster, Wanless, Coull, Stewart, Stockport, Laurie, Bryan, Butt, Edwards, Turner, Robinson

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