17 October 2020 v Stamford Vets at St George’s ParkJAMES SHEEHAN·MONDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2020·
Well then, only 2 of the successful Aki 7’s group made it back to SGP for the next adventure but both Gus Payne and Jim Sheehan were looking forward to regaling the lads with how they won it (despite neither of them playing I might add) but enough of that, there was a game to play. The squad were a little short on numbers for this fixture and the traitor that is Yorkie Bryan elected to represent Stamford (only because he could be skipper) but never mind...in these covid times, a game is a game.
Stamford kick off. The first chance fell to the RAF after four minutes but Grove could not keep his shot down and it was a goal kick to Stamford. Barely a minute later only a great save by Stones in the RAF goal, at the feet of the striker, kept the scores level as Stamford probed for a breakthrough. Matt Beattie, RTM, had spoken before the game regarding the system we play calling it our DNA and the new boys looked to have been born with it, taking control of the game by the scruff of the neck. The longer the game went on the stronger the RAF team got so it was a bit of a surprise that the first goal took 30 minutes in the making. A great move down the left saw the ball fed into Grove and he took aim from 20 yards. He curled a beauty, right footed, beyond the reach of the Stamford keeper into the top corner and it was 1-0 RAF. Just three minutes later, Grove got his second with another 20 yarder this time to the bottom left of the keeper and it’s 2-0 RAF. That’s how it stayed until halftime but Stamford did begin to fightback and created a couple of half chances but overall, the half belonged to the boys in blue. HT RAF 2-0 Stamford.
Onto the second half and in the 51st minute, half time sub, Pickering, picked up a loose ball in the Stamford box and rifled into the bottom right corner to make it 3-0 RAF. Just a minute later it was 4 and it was that man Grove securing his hatrick. Again, it was poor defending by Stamford and once more the ball was loose in the box. A bit of trickery by Grove drew the keeper and he calmly slotted the ball past him into the net. 4-0 RAF. Stamford were not playing badly but their mistakes had been punished and the boys in blue were working hard to force those errors. That said, in the 77th minute a defensive pass across the box landed at the feet of the Stamford forward who steadied himself and shot. It was a poor shot but inexplicably the ball rolled past Stones in goal and trickled over the line. 4-1 RAF. The goal gave Stamford a little buzz and they started to take control of the game but the RAF stood strong despite Yorkie barking out his orders and system changes to his Stamford team mates. Stamford did score again in the 82nd minute but the comeback was too little too late as the RAF went back to basics and played possession football passing it around amongst themselves and forcing a tired Stamford outfit to play chase ball. In the last couple of minutes the RAF had a couple more chances with O’Hagan and Pickering both close but the game ended with a 4-2 victory to the RAF.