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20th January 2019 v Wales Vets

Onto Day 2 and initial thoughts are that this is going to be a tougher game than yesterday. Wales were one of the last sides to beat us early last year at St George’s Park but the RAF Vets family has gone from strength to strength since then, but so too have the Wales Vets. The formation would remain the same as the previous day but there were a couple of changes to personnel with some players having to leave and others arriving. This is one of the added bonuses of “Double Headers” as the flexibility it allows for players and staff to choose what is best for them...Saturday or Sunday or both days. Despite yesterdays loss this system has worked for us in the main and one blip does make make a catastrophe. The boys were refreshed after their evening in Cardiff and these next 90 minutes would hopefully see a reaction to yesterdays result.

Wales kick off and once again the RAF are quick out of the blocks and win possession. Watkins goes close when he works an angle but pulls his shot wide of the far post. A positive start. Wales then get in on the action when following a free kick, Scotty Taylor, in goal today after his MoM performance outfield on Saturday, pulls off a great double save to thwart the reds. Both sides were looking to create chances but the better ones fell to the welsh though they didn’t take them. That was to tell as, in the fourteenth minute, a lovely long ball over the top of the defence by Wanless saw Seddon run on, chip the keeper, and follow up to slot the ball home. 1-0 RAF. Wales almost responded immediately but the shot was easily saved. Both sides continued to attack and after another great save by Taylor, the ball ran loose and a welsh forward fired goalwards. It look to be flying in from no more than 10 yards but Barker appeared from nowhere and headed off the line and the ball was cleared. Superb defending. No quarter was being given in this game and both sides were defending stoically but in the 28th minute Wales drew level. From winning the ball just outside their own penalty area, they mounted an attack down the left hand side. A cross was whipped in and travelled right across the edge of the six yard box before a welsh forward smashed it back across goal and into the net. 1-1. It was probably no less than the reds deserved and from a spectators point of view, this was an excellent game to watch. Again, both teams kept pressing but the defending from both was first class and though end to end, there were very few actual chances. That changed in the 37th minute when another break down the line by the welsh saw a cross come in and the welsh centre forward outjumped all only to see his header come back off the bar and then it was cleared. A let off for the blues. The score remained the same till the half time whistle went though, in all honesty, I was really enjoying this game and didn’t want it to end. Ah well, still another half to go. HT 1-1.

Once again, Beattie (Manager) and Gill (Coach) accentuated the positives. Some players had an input but the basics were, keep doing what we are doing. The RAF were starting to boss the game as the half time whistle went and Wales were struggling to keep up with the tempo that the RAF lads were playing at despite the fact that Wales were constantly substituting players in an effort to keep them fresh. The fitness of the RAF squad is immense despite the ages and credit to the management and the players in that they are honest. They are asked to give their all for as long as possible, be that 20 minutes, 30 minutes or the full ninety and they do.

Onto the second half and it’s the RAF to kick off. Zenko, on at half time, was quickly into action heading a dangerous corner clear before Thomas headed over from a great Watkins cross at the other end. The game looked to be following the same pattern as the first half before the RAF seemed to find another gear and went on a prolonged offensive winning corner after corner and free kick after free kick. Alas, all to no avail and it could have been costly as, after 57 minutes, only a great save from Taylor, after a rare break forward for the welsh, kept the scores level. That wasn’t to last however as Wanless received the ball out wide on the left. He tried to take on the defender and got a lucky break, as the ball bounced back off his shins from the defenders tackle, before he ran the line and whipped over a cross. The cross was the worst one ever. Everyone thought so including the welsh keeper who was as surprised as the rest of us when the ball floated over everyone before hitting the far post and nestling in the net. “What a goal” I screamed...till I thought about it. 2-1 RAF and sixty one minutes gone. McCormick, Seddon and Watkins all had chances but could not convert but as the Wales team pushed for an equaliser, the vision of Wanless and the pace of Seddon began to cause more and more problems for them as the boys in blue continually beat the offside trap with delightful through balls and only poor finishing or good defending was keeping the score the same. A corner to the RAF saw Watkins come across to take and a sweet left foot cross found the head of Thomas who made no mistake with a powerful header from 8 yards and it’s 3-1 RAF and sixty six minutes on the clock. Taylor was called into action making a good save down to his left after a slip by Stewart let in the reds but by now it was all RAF and the welsh were left fighting to keep the score down. Watkins was flying down the left, Zenko down the right, the midfield led by Thomas were winning everything and the defence were solid. This is a great performance from all. it stayed 3-1 despite RAF pressure until the last minute and then...a free kick to the RAF from inside their own half saw Wanless play the ball forward to Seddon. Seddon had run from left to right across the Wales defence and took the ball on his chest before his overhead kick arrowed its way past the helpless keeper and into the back of the net. “What a goal” I screamed...till I thought about it...”What I goal” I screamed again (you can see it as there is a video of it on the Vets facebook page and I suggest you see for yourself). The final whistle went and it was FT 4-1 RAF.

A great weekend with the family ended on a massive high with a contender for goal of the season to boot. What did we learn?...Lots and lots that will hold us in good stead for the big games to come but most of all...continue doing what we are doing. It works well, everyone has bought into it and whenever there is a blip, the boys respond superbly. It really is a pleasure to watch these players at close quarters and to be involved in this family.

RAF Squad: Taylor, Barker, Robison, McCormick, Stewart, Wanless, Shanks, Stockport, Thomas, Watkins, Seddon, Laurie, Laing, Coull, Tweedie, Zenko, Bartley, Schofield, Rooney, Richards.

Other RAF representatives: Beattie (RTM), Gill (Coach), Dye (GK Coach), Pugh (GM), O’Sullivan (Liaison), Payne (Head Therapist), Foster (Therapist), Sheehan (Head of Comms), Robertson, Robinson, Butt, Armour, Hamilton (Support).

Massive thanks to the players and staff of both HMP and Wales teams, to Craig Gill and all the staff at the University of South Wales for the use of exceptional facilities and to everyone who was there to make this an incredible weekend. Play Up Air Force!!

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