24 February 2019 v Stamford/Rutland Select XI Vets
And so we are onto Day 2 and although playing at the same venue, this time we are on the astroturf next to the main stadium. Once again, there are personnel changes as some leave and others arrive and due to circumstances, Scott Taylor and Geordie Salkeld are going to look after the squad today. Again, it’s a really nice day and the RAF kick off. Within two minutes the RAF have created a half chance with Pugh and Macek raiding down the right and when the ball finally got across to Watkins, his shot on the turn was narrowly over. A brighter start to a game from the boys in blue. This was a different game to yesterday’s but once again the teams were cancelling each other out. There were some nice passages of play by both sides but little opportunity in front of goal. It took until the 20th minute before either side registered a proper chance and it fell to the RAF. Dixon played a defence splitting pass forward to Stockport but he was thwarted by the keepers legs and it was still 0-0. That wasn’t to last however as in the 22nd minute, a slip by Shanks allowed SR to come forward. The pass was played into the area and a clumsy challenge saw the forward go down and it’s a penalty. Croucher was sent the wrong way from the kick and it’s 1-0 SR. How would the RAF respond to this setback? They had been on top but were not creating clear cut chances but just two minutes later that was to change when the RAF retained possession across the back drawing the SR players forward. A long ball from Robison over the top then found Tweedie running on and his low cross was tapped in by Pugh to level the scores. A great response and it’s 1-1. in the 35th minute the RAF were unlucky not to take the lead when a corner was flicked on and a Stockport header was cleared off the line however in the 38th minute they did take nthe lead when a Watkins corner was pulled back to Rooney who swung in a cross to the head of Tweedie and it was powered into the goal. 2-1 RAF. Another corner just before half time saw the RAF unlucky again but as the ball came out to Dixon, the half time whistle went just before he put the ball into the net so no goal. HT SR 1- 2 RAF. A much better start to today’s game and showing character to come back from a goal down against a good team. The half time talk was a little less tense than the previous day though the message was the same...Earn the right to play by working hard. The boys were earning that right. SR to kick off the second half. Watkins was straight into the action and his square pass found Stockport. Rather than hit it first time he cut back inside and struck his shot wide. A missed opportunity but minutes later, Macek was the unlucky one after his “goal” was chalked off for offside after Watkins again had caused defenders problems before sliding the ball across to Macek but the linesmans flag was up immediately. However, from the sideline that looked close but I wasn’t level so I’ll give the lino the benefit of the doubt. In the 53rd minute, SR changed their system to 4-4-2 in an attempt to slow down the speed of the RAF attacks but in all honesty, the boys worked even harder and now the defenders were able to keep possession a lot more and build up from the back keeping possession away from SR. A break
through by Pugh saw him cross into the box but Stockport mistimed his header and the ball flew straight back to Watkins who powered in a header from 8 yards only to see it bounce back off the post and out of play for a goal kick. It was easier to score in fairness. Dixon got in a shot from 20 yards before Croucher was called into action after a good break by SR, the number 19 in particular, had created a good chance. Half chances still came and went with the RAF creating most of them as Croucher was marshalling his defenders superbly again and the defenders were responding with excellent performances all round. In the 82nd minute an attack by SR was broken up by debutant McMahon who drove forward. His pass forward to Watkins looked to have been misplaced as it looked as if it would travel through to the keeper. The SR defender thought so too and he allowed Watkins to chase it. After rounding another defender Watkins squared for Stockport to tap in and it’s 3-1 RAF. There was still time for Stockport to reciprocate and when he waltzed through, and round the keeper, he unselfishly squared for Watkins. No one knows how but somehow, the keeper managed to get up and get back and make a brilliant one handed save from Watkins goal bound shot. It’s just a corner and no one can believe it, least of all Watkins. That’s how it stayed till the end and another 3-1 RAF victory. RAF Squad: Croucher, Macek, Robison (C), Laing, Stewart, Shanks, Dixon, Pugh, Tweedie, Watkins, Stockport, Bryan, Pierre, Coull, Foster, Rooney, McMahon, Findler Other RAF representatives: Beattie (RTM), Scott Taylor (Coach), Salkeld (Coach), Green (Coach), Payne (Medic), Morris (Medic), Sheehan (Comms), Bones (Photo), Hill (Referee), Robertson, Jones, Sarah Taylor (Support) Another big shout to the ladies who attended, the staff at the Zeeco, to our own Yorkie Bryan for his organisational skills in sorting the venue, food etc and to Anthony Hill who stepped out of his medic duties to referee the game at short notice following a late withdrawal. It really is an honour to be involved in this family!! Apologies to anyone whose name I have missed...I’m going to start a register again so if I forget next time it will be your fault as you didn’t sign the register!!