22 October 2017 v Manor Athletic FC
Matt Beattie had said this game was going to be a challenge and that certainly rang true when we arrived at Cobham FC for this fixture. Manor FC are the current National Over 40 Champions and their line-up consists of ex pro and ex semi pro footballers living in and around London/Surrey with the clubs they have represented reading like an A to Z of the Football League...clubs including Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Doncaster Rovers, Bradford City, Walsall, Wigan Athletic, Brentford, Grimsby Town, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Sheffield United, Millwall, Plymouth Argyle, Bolton Wanderers, Rotherham United, Tranmere Rovers, Stockport County, MK Dons, Peterborough, Reading as well of some of the major Non-League clubs in the country. Players included Sean Davis, Barry Hayles, Jamie Lawrence, Derek Brown, Mark Thomas, Mark Hynes, Scott Taylor (not our Scotty) and many more. A certain Paul Merson used to play but has just signed for a Welsh club because he struggled to get into this team. This team are lean and fit...Merson is not!!
Cobham FC, the venue, is now a nice little ground on the site of the former Chelsea training facility however, as many found out on the way there, there is still some dispute over the postcode (I did put KT11 1AA on the poster but those who looked it up on google got KT11 1AQ, didn’t they Gus?) and a lot of us ended up at White Lion gate, a rather posh gated community estate that was previously their home ground. Anyways, we got there in the end and after watching a local league game first it was time for the big game.
Cooper, McCormick, Taylor, Robinson, Stewart, Pugh, Shanks, Bryan, Rooney, Bartley, Seddon was the RAF Vets starting line up with Stones, Laurie, Dales, Letch, Broad and Coull on the subs bench. It was good to see Darren Broad back in the fold as a player and there were a number of current players out with injuries and former RAF players, Martin Bonner included, who came along to watch. After a warm up routine led by Craig Gill, it was time for kick off.
RAF kick off with Seds playing the ball back to Yorkie. Manor soon had the ball and a great tackle by Yorkie and a ball out wide left saw the RAF on the attack. The start was 100mph from the RAF and the shout from the line was to “calm it down and keep possession”. A long ball over the top of the defence saw Coops rush from his goal in an attempt to stop the onrushing striker but the striker got there first, rounded Coops and then hit his shot over the bar. A let off. A nice passage of play then by the RAF saw the ball reach Seds but he pushed the defender in the back and it’s a free kick to Manor on the edge of their own box. The Manor team were playing with four in midfield but in an unusual box like formation and it was causing the RAF problems as our wide men were marking their full backs whilst our two central midfielders were having to pick up two central midfielders and then two more as they made the runs from behind. This led to a number of breaks by the Manor team as they got into the space behind our midfield on a number of occasions with the runners breaking quickly and some quality balls into them resulting in 4v4 in front of goal. The RAF defence though stood resolute. From an RAF free kick, Scotty curled in a lovely ball that found the head of Seds but it was straight at the keeper who then threw out to set up an attack down the right. The number 7 picked up the ball and cut in from the right before unleashing a powerful left foot shot that was brilliantly saved by Coops. Corner to Manor. It certainly wasn’t all one way traffic although Manor created the better opportunities and looked much more composed in possession. They were playing football the way we wanted to but we were just that little bit too hurried at times and it cost us the ball. A shot from Seds, over the bar, but we were still creating. A slight change of formation saw Bartley drop deeper into midfield to counteract the Manor runners and it seemed to pay off as there was much more of a flow to the game now with both sides having to pick their way through the midfield/defenders. The pace slowed and the game was much better for it as passing and possession became the key. Manor broke the deadlock in the 15 minute when after a series of first time passes the ball found its way out to the left back on the halfway line. He went outside Stevie Pugh and whipped a ball into the box along the floor. The little number 7 flicked it up and over the incoming defender, turned and hit a beauty into the net past Coops. No stopping that and a great goal. I saw Bergkamp do that once years ago and these ex pro’s still have it!! 1-0 Manor.
The RAF defence were still the busier but they were doing really well against a class outfit and Scotty Taylor and Woz Robinson at the centre of the defence were, for the most part, keeping the Manor strikers quiet whilst full backs McCormick and Stewart were flat out trying to keep the crosses from coming in. Rooney in particular, on the left side of midfield was having a good game but as a PTI you would expect him to run all day and he was having to!! Shanksy and Yorkie were busy in the centre and Stevie Pugh was up and down the right hand side creating and defending. Danny Bartley was picking up the pieces in and around midfield and Seds was causing some problems with his skill and pace but we just couldn’t seem to find that final touch in front of goal. Manor still lead 1-0 but the RAF lads are still in this and the Manor boys know it. Another good RAF build up and the ball is through to Seddon, he turns two defenders and gets a shot in but unfortunately it is deflected and it’s just a corner. Pressure came from the corner and the ball pinged about in the Manor box before a mistake from Shanks, after the ball was cleared out of the box. He tried a crossfield pass that was easily intercepted by a Manor player who set off toward goal. Only a great save by Coops kept the score at 1-0. Coops was called into action again when Woz let the ball travel across his body only for the little number 7 to rush in, square the ball and the resultant shot was well saved. Another RAF attack and, once again, the ball found Seds. Great control and he gets his right foot shot away. BANG...it hit the post!! 4 or 5 times at St George’s and he’s at it again...the onion bag is 8 yards wide and he manages to regularly find the 4 inches of the post...I bet he never got his marksman badge when he was in the mob!! Yorkie and Seds then chase the same ball and Yorkie brings Seds down before falling over himself and Manor come away with the ball. There are some really good passages of play by the RAF but the switching of the play is not working too well as once again, passes are being overhit and/or drilled between players and straight out for throw ins/goalkicks. The lads are trying a bit too hard me thinks. All that was forgiven though five minutes later when route one by the RAF pays dividends. A long punt by Coops finds Seds who controls the ball with the outside of his right foot and in one movement, turns and lobs the ball over the keeper from about 20 yards. A cracker and it’s all level. 1-1. Manor come back and a fine double save by Coops keeps the scores level at the expense of a corner. Both sides then have chances that are easily cleared and/or high and wide before the referee, our own Sully O’Sullivan, brings the first half proceedings to an end. An entertaining game of football.
Matt, Rudy and Gilly, the management/coaching trio on duty today, talk to the lads at half time accentuating the positives, and there are many, and decry the negatives, very few. This is an excellent performance against an excellent side. We just need to be a little more like them ie. expansive in possession, tight and compact in defending and let’s play in the future, that is, know your outlet options before looking to get the ball. Close the spaces quickly and settle down. All good relevant stuff and the lads are ready for the second half.
Manor kick off and the RAF, mentally, are still in the break as Manor quickly attack and a long ball over the top finds the striker who lobs Coops but luckily, it also clears the bar. Still 1-1 but a massive let off there. The RAF wake up and good work by Bartley sees them coming forward but a good tackle and clearance sees the reward of just a throw in. Del Stewart then gets into the action himself with a superb tackle that stops Manor in their tracks before both sides have a couple of half chances that come to nothing. There is now 10 minutes of the second half played and both sides are knocking the ball around well but the Manor boys look to be playing with the slightly higher tempo. As I said earlier, these boys look lean and fit and I wonder how long the RAF lads can compete as there seems no let up in Manor’s intensity. Bartley is caught from behind but the referee plays the advantage, only for a couple of seconds though, as there was not much advantage to be gained there. Bartley gets up but he’s taken a nasty knock there. Manor are playing a very high game now and every time the RAF try to come out they are being pegged back. The Manor boys are shooting from everywhere but they are all high and wide and then Bartley has to come off and is replaced by Dougie Coull. A break down the right sees Roons come across to close down but he is powerless to stop the cross and only a fine interception by Macca, when he heads the ball out for a corner, halts another Manor attempt. Coull is then pulled up for offside after some intricate one touch passing by the RAF...that was good stuff and the decision was close but free kick to Manor. Then Seds had everyone there in hysterics when the RAF got a throw in. Obviously knowing what he wanted to do and where the ball was going to go, he ran toward the thrower screaming “on the volley...on the volley”. The ball was thrown to him and he tried to hit it...on the volley. Alas, he only succeeded in hitting a fresh air shot and ended up on his backside with Manor coming away with the ball. Hahahahahaha we all went!! Another Manor attack saw some desperate RAF defending with block after block as bodies were thrown in front of attackers before Scotty finally cleared the ball for a Manor corner kick. Coops was called into action to stop a stinger of a drive as the RAF struggled to clear their lines but a rare break saw Roons get in a cross that Coull rose to meet but the ball came off the head of a defender and out for an RAF corner. Manor suddenly broke and it was 4v3 in their favour but when the ball was played out left, the winger had inexcusably run offside and the free kick was given. A breather. Suddenly, the sun had been shining all day but then it started to rain. Not torrential but rain all the same. The rain seemed to galvanise Manor even more and the next attack saw the ball cleared after the shot came back off the post. There were sporadic attacks by the RAF but the legs were tired now, Seds wasn’t seeing as much of the ball now and the RAF were being pegged back in their own half. With 75 minutes on the clock, Manor came again. A great ball forward saw the centre forward get the ball. With one touch out of his feet he turned and drilled a screamer past Coops. 2-1 Manor. Scotty Taylor was then replaced by Al Dales and Del Stewart was replaced by John Letch. Derek Brown came on as a sub for Manor. Brown was a legend at Woking playing there for over 20 years and at 55 still looked as if he can still play. He can. Within a minute he had run down the right, turned the RAF defenders inside out as he raced into the box and then into the six yard box before calmly slotting the ball into the corner beyond the despairing dive of Coops. Jinky Brown is alive and well and scoring goals for Manor. A brilliant goal. 3-1 Manor. A great response from the RAF though when Seds plays a ball through to Coull. Dougie outstripped the defender and got there just before the keeper but his shot went narrowly past the post. Another run by Brown sees him get to the byline before pulling the ball back and the strikers left foot shot finds the net. 4-1 Manor. It might be 4-1 to Manor but a rainbow has come out. Is there a crock of gold at the end for the RAF? The answer is an emphatic “YES”. with 2 minutes to go, a fine diagonal ball finds Seds. He could cut inside but he jinks one way and then the other before flighting a delightful ball to the far post. Dougie Coull takes off and buries a great diving header. 4-2 Manor. That’s it, game over and although the scoreline shows a defeat, this was a great game to have been part of. So much was learnt from today and as is the norm, much will be taken forward to the next game. Opposition of this calibre are few and far between and games like this will hold us in good stead for the biggies against the Army and the Navy. Despite being on the backfoot for a lot of the game, the RAF acquitted themselves superbly. I can’t see them having to run this much in many games this season and that is what ultimately cost us here, fitness. For 75 minutes the RAF were as good as the opposition but their superior know how and game management (expected of that standard of player) saw Manor prevail in that last 15 minutes to run out winners but the RAF lads can feel mighty proud of the shift they put in today.
This was Event 3 (Cyprus not included) in our season of supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund and the WAGs did us proud in baking cakes for the RAFBF stall. It was nice to meet Charlotte, the RAFBF rep in the area, who kindly brought additional stock for the stall and thanks must go to all of those. Well done Ladies.
Thanks also to Jonah Jones, Dave Peel and Steve Findler for manning the stall and sorting the raffles etc. A total of somewhere in the region of £260 was raised on the day. Excellent work.
Finally, to all those management and players of the RAF Vets family:
Matt Beattie, Rudy Pierre, Craig Gill, Geoff Hancocks, Gus Payne, Jim Sheehan, Steve Ellis, Sean Cooper, Paul McCormick, Scott Taylor, Warren Robinson, Derek Stewart, Steve Pugh, Jon Shanks, Mark Bryan, Mark Rooney, Danny Bartley, Gary Seddon, Paul Stones, Andy Laurie, Alan Dales, Jon Letch, Darren Broad, Dougie Coull, Martin Bonner, John Jones, Dave Peel, Darren Robison, Steve Findler, Steve Tindle and apologies if I have missed anyone...
...Thank you all