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15th July 2018 v Rhyl Over 35s

And so it was on to day 2 of our double header. With the result of the previous day well and truly forgotten about (in my case Wetherspoons in Burton helped), Rhyl FC Over 35s were to be the next opposition at an even hotter St George’s Park. Some of the players had had to leave due to work commitments and in the morning Mr Ambassador, Geoff Hancocks, had left due to a family matter. Everyone in the RAF Vets family send Geoff our best wishes. Following the depletion in numbers it came as a welcome relief that some of the old heads turned up following their own commitments elsewhere the previous day.

A much changed team were to take to the park for this second game but with the system and style of play intact. The game was being played on the astroturf pitch 2, The David Beckham” pitch as we had been moved due to an England Womens International game being played on the grass of pitch 3, The Paul Ince” pitch, on the Monday and they needed to work on it after we had played on it on the Saturday. There were quite a few things going on at StGP this weekend with Ajax, Benfica and Porto all there for pre-season training along with England Women U19s and U20s and the England Deaf Womens squad in attendance for training camps.

So it was onto the kick off. The RAF are to start. Wanless was straight into the action forcing the keeper to save with his legs before his follow up went wide. A good start for the RAF. The boys in blue are bossing the early minutes but the best they get in the first 10 minutes is a corner due to some good defending and luck for the Rhyl outfit. Suddenly Rhyl seem to wake up and pressure results in the RAF losing the ball twice in quick succession in the midfield that resulted in two good chances for the welsh side. Neither were taken. Another break by Wanless down the right sees Stockport connect to his cross on the volley but it’s just over. Just after this, in the 17th minute, Robison had to come off when his boot split, the first act of a series that was to see him win the coveted Harry D. Horse trophy after the game. Geordie Salkeld was sent on and with his first touch, he turned his marker inside out and layed the ball back to Yorkie Bryan. Yorkie’s pass forward to Wanless was sublime and Wanless ran on to round the keeper and slot the ball into the unguarded net. 1-0 RAF.

Rhyl were trying to play a high line but the pace of Stockport and Wanless was causing them problems. Good hold up play by Stockport saw him hold it up waiting for support. When Wanless arrived onto his pass his first time shot struck the outside of the post and it was a goal kick to Rhyl. It was even hotter today than it had been the day before and as another Stockport effort went wide in the 25th minute, the referee blew for a goal kick but more importantly, a drinks break before the restart.

Following the restart, good work from Clarke in the midfield sees the RAF awarded a free kick when he is unceremoniously dumped on his backside. The resultant kick, by Robison, is straight into the keepers hands. A superb 40 yard diagonal ball by Bryan over the top of the Rhyl defence then saw Clarke in on goal. Alas...Raheem Sterling comes to mind as...Clarke stood on the ball and fell over. The RAF were playing really well and were creating lots of chances and given the hot conditions, they were coping admirably and giving their all yet again. The Rhyl offside trap was not working as time after time the RAF lads got in behind but the final ball was poor and was cleared easily but that just meant the RAF could come again...and they did but the finish was the downfall. (It transpires that some of the players blamed the bank of moveable goal posts that were behind and to the right and left of the pitch goalposts for the shots going wide, they were aiming at the wrong goals...or so they said!!). An RAF break came to a swift end when the ball hit the referee and bounced to a Rhyl player. It was 3v1 in Rhyl’s favour but by the time it reached the last player, it was 3 RAF v 1 Rhyl and the ball was cleared. That is testament in itself to the work and effort the RAF boys were putting in. Brilliant!! In the 40th minute, Taylor in goal for the RAF was called into action, really for the first time with a save low down to his right and a minute later he was at it again when a shot rebounded off the post and he had to be quick to pounce on the ball before anyone could get to it. Coull had a chance but hit it straight at the keeper after again beating the offside trap and a couple more efforts went high or wide before the referee ended first half proceedings with the score at Half Time RAF 1-0 Rhyl.

Rhyl kick off but the RAF soon win the ball back and after some good hold up play by Wanless he lays it off to Rooney whose first time cross sails over the keeper and reaches Stockport coming in at the far post. His effort sails over the bar. A cheap shot by a Rhyl player in the tackle sees Lang go down injured and he has to be subbed but to be fair, the game has been played in great manner and this was a one off but still...

With 63 minutes on the clock the RAF extend their lead when a good passing move and a switch of play from the left to the right finds Wanless and his shot finds the back of the net. RAF 2-0. A few minutes later (68th), the referee stops play for another drinks break...it really is that hot...and both sets of players deserve praise for their efforts in these temperatures.

In the 70th minute, Lang and Wanless attack the same ball from a corner and I don’t know which one got there first but the ball went harmlessly over. The Rhyl players don’t seem to be taking getting beat too well but they all seem to be playing as individuals now. They all seem to want to score themselves and whatever position they are in when they get the ball they are head down just running and trying to beat every man and his dog. It’s not working. The RAF are stoic in defence and are still creating chances for themselves. Following a foul on the half way line, the ball finds its way to Stockport who sets up Wanless. His left foot shot cannons back off the bar and the follow up shot from Rooney takes a deflection for an RAF corner. Rhyl then got back into the game in the 76th minute when a move down the left was switched to the right. The player beat one tackle before running along the byline then pulling the ball back. It was lashed home. RAF 2-1

Just a minute later, another RAF attack sees Stockport brought down in the box. Penalty to the RAF and Stockport himself is to take. No doubt about it and it’s a good penalty. 3-1 RAF

In the 82nd minute, Rhyl manage to lessen the deficit again when a long ball down the centre of the field catches the RAF a bit flat and the forward runs onto it leaving Scotty no chance and it’s RAF 3-2. There are some tired bodies out there now but the Rhyl lads look to have been given a little bit of a boost following that second goal. a good save from Taylor and then a wasted chance by Rhyl when the forward finds himself free in the centre of goal. He tries to volley but totally miskicks and the ball falls harmlessly into the hands of Taylor. And that’s it...Referee blows for full time and it’s a well deserved but hard earned victory for the RAF.

RAF Squad: Taylor, Robison, Shanks, Lang, Rooney, Bryan, Foster, Clarke, Coull, Wanless, Stockport, Letch, Salkeld, Wilkinson, Gill

The weekend is now over bar the usual post match presentation and food. Craig Gill stepped in to Mr A’s shoes for the presentation and did a good job (succession planning Geoff?). Darren Robison wrestled Harry D. Horse plus addition (remember we are a family) from Roons who was in tears to see it go...not, and there were loads of positives to be taken from both days. A superb effort from all involved and I even think that Matt “likes” you after that!!

In all, 23 players turned out over the two days, together with a lot of backroom staff and their partners. FRB and Tilly were there representing the children and all in all a very enjoyable, if hot, weekend was had by all.

Management and backroom Staff (if not already down as a player on one or both days):

Beattie (RTM), Hancocks (Mr A), Payne (Medic), Reeves (Fundraising), Kerr (Fundraising), Findler (Fundraising), Bones (Photos), Sheehan (Comms).

Special thanks to the girls for their support and again to the staff at StGP. It is a pleasure dealing with them.

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