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15th September 2018 v Rhyl Over 35s

It had stopped raining but was still overcast as the players arrived at the Corbett Stadium Rhyl for what was going to be the first of annual games to be played for the “WO Kevin Walton Shield”. Kev was a stalwart of RAF football during his 37 years service and was also a son of Rhyl and he had been involved with his hometown club. What better way to combine three of his favourite loves as a lasting memorial...RAF, Rhyl and Football!!

The RAF were to kick off in front of quite a good crowd, (probably more than we are used to), and it was quite apparent from early doors that some legs were rusty. The RAF had 5 debutantes in the side and the first 10 minutes were a little scrappy as debutantes tried to impress whilst “old hands” tried to wrestle the rust from their own legs. Once the boys had settled, the play was effective but the finishing was to let them down. Cooper, Young, Zenko and Dixon (all making debuts) had chances but it was not to be. Wide of the post and side netting seemed to be the order of the day. A great through ball from Dixon saw Young away but, after rounding the keeper, he went too far wide and saw his shot nestle in the side netting again. A couple of minutes later, only a worldy of a save from the Rhyl keeper kept the scores level as he brilliantly saved from a Young header. With 26 minutes on the clock, the RAF lads were on top but were still not playing to their full potential. Passing was sloppy and some good moves came to premature ends as the ball was given away cheaply. Luckily, Rhyl seemed to be having an even worse day and never once looked like capitalising as they were expertly managed by the RAF defenders and the hard work of closing down by the other players in an attempt to win the ball back. After 33 minutes the unthinkable happened. A soft free kick to the left of the penalty area was conceded and it was whipped in. The header from a striker was initially well saved by Laurie in the RAF goal but the ball went up in the air and another striker following up headed into the net. 1-0 to Rhyl and that was their first attempt on goal.

The RAF responded well and just 4 minutes later they were level when Young was brought down in the box after turning his marker. He took the penalty himself and struck it hard and low to the keepers right. The keeper went the right way but was not stopping that and the ball nestled in the bottom corner. 1-1. A pressure penalty if ever there was one following five or six spurned chances but he took it well.

The RAF continued to press before the half time whistle signalled the end of the first half with the scores again level but the RAF thinking they should have been at least 4-1 up. As it was...it was 1-1

Second half underway with the same starting 11 before substitutions started taking place in the 55th minute. It didn’t take long before the RAF were 2-1 in front with a good solo goal from Zenko. A ball down the left to Rooney was then played forward to Zenko just to the left and outside the box. He took it one way before coming back inside his marker and as another defender came across he shot into the far corner to put the RAF ahead for the first time in the game.

Now the RAF were playing some of the best football yours truly has had the privelege to watch in a long long time at any level. Crisp passing, fine movement of man and ball and possession. Foster and Patterson came on, the latter also making his debut and still it continued. It was a joy to watch but the Rhyl keeper was keeping his team in the game with a string of saves. That was to change however when the RAF won a free kick about 22 yards out in the 75th minute. Robison and Dixon stood over it before Robison backpedalled and Dixon ran in to strike right footed. The ball stayed low, went round the wall and nestled in the corner of the net. 3-1 to the RAF and all goals scored by debutantes.

A couple more chances went begging before we suddenly found ourselves in the 87th minute and “Shock...Horror”...Rhyl scored. The attacker was allowed to turn in the box and his shot was part parried by Laurie in the RAF goal but the ball managed to cross the line and end up in the net. 3-2 RAF

Worse was to come...in the 89th minute the RAF stepped up looking for offside but it wasn’t given, and rightly so, as the defence was slow out. The striker ran through and slotted past the advancing keeper. 3-3 and that was how it stayed for what was left of the game. Honestly, and it’s only my opinion, a draw snatched from the jaws of victory but as one comment from the sidelines said “Big Kev will be happy with that”.

A superb fixture, played in a great spirit by both sides and lots and lots of plus points to take away for future reference. Special thanks have to go to Rhyl FC for kindly hosting the fixture and to Alan Evans, amongst others, for providing the opposition and the post match refreshments.

RAF Starting XI: Laurie, Robison, Laing, McLean, Rooney, Dixon, Stewart, Zenko, Edwards, Cooper, Young.

Subs: Algar, Dales, Patterson, Knox, Foster.

Management/Support: Beattie (RTM), Hancocks (Mr A), Sullivan (Match Liaison/Officials), Payne (Therapist), Sheehan (Comms/Photo), Reeves (Fundraising)

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