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26 October 2019 v England Over 50s at St Georges Park

Back again at St Georges Park for yet another home game...can’t complain though, what a great place to be.

A couple of new boys will make their debuts today and it’s England to kick off. Norton’s pace almost paid dividends in the first minute but he was well closed down by the keeper before a Bartley free kick narrowly missed the head of Patterson but as the ball looked to be heading to Sharp at the back post, a leg came out and cleared. The first ten minutes were even stevens but the England side gradually started to take control of the game and were playing some lovely one and two touch football. in the 15th minute, Sharp who had been having a good game, went over on his ankle and had to be replaced. In the 23rd minute the RAF took the lead. Nice play down the right before the ball found Patterson who stroked the ball back across the keeper and in off the far post. 1-0 RAF. Wanless was chasing everything and was unlucky with a shot of his own that went just over. A slightly different system today for the RAF in that they were playing a 4-3-3 and they just did not seem to be firing on all cylinders and it was to cost. In the 37th minute the equaliser came when the offside trap was beaten and the England player raced into the right of the box. He shot across Algar in the RAF goal and despite the keeper getting a hand to it, he couldn’t keep it out. 1-1. Just a minute later a sloppy ball straight to the England forward almost made it two but this time Algar was equal to it and it was a corner. However, in the 41st minute, Norton turned two defenders inside out in the box before being pulled down. Penalty to the RAF and Bartley to take. Bartley scores. 2-1 RAF. However, my thoughts of getting to half time leading and with a chance to regroup was sadly remiss as, just a minute later, England equalised again. Poor passing by the RAF resulted in losing the ball and with the back four caught flat, the England number 6 waltzed in, waltzed around the keeper nd slotted home. 2-2. In the 45th minute, only a great save from the keeper prevented a Bartley free kick from fully 30 yards handing the initiative back to the RAF but the half time whistle went and it was... HT RAF 2-2 England.

The second half started quickly...for England. in the 47th minute, a break down the left and a slip by the RAF defender saw a cross come in and an unmarked England forward headed home. 2-3 England. It got worse in the 50th minute when a break down the right saw the ball pulled inside a a superb strike looked to have beaten Algar but it came back off the bar. Whether the RAF defenders thought it was going in, nobody knows but none reacted whereas two England players did, one of whom calmly nodded into an empty net. 2-4 England. Suddenly the RAF seemed to wake up and Norton in particular was causing the England defence some pain. In the 55th minute, he stormed down the right flank, cut into the box by the by line, beat 2 players before pulling the ball back and then beating the keeper to slot home. A great solo goal and now 3-4 England. This was better from the RAF lads against a very skilful and technically aware England side. Only a great save by the England keeper kept out Norton following great work by Wanless down the left and now the England boys were not getting it all their own way and tensions were rising amongst the white shirts. Norton and Wanless were to the fore again in the 62nd minute when the ball was well won deep in the RAF half. Wanless drove forward before finding Norton who then smashed the ball across the box. Wanless had kept going and met the ball perfectly to smash it into the roof of the net. The score was now 4-4 and the performance of both sides in this second half was a joy to watch at times despite what may look like defensive frailties. Both sides still made mistakes but both sides were going for it...an exciting game of football for a neutral but there weren’t many of those in the watching throng today. The England boys slowly began to regain their composure though as the RAF missed numerous chances and three or four of their players in particular started to wrestle control of the game from the boys in blue. In the 68th minute, England took the lead again when they won the ball in midfield and drove forward. The cross shot was too good for the kepper. 4-5 England. With the RAF now trying to play too quickly in an effort to equalise, the England players began to slow things down and it was no surprise in the 78th minute when the RAF lost the ball with most of the players upfield. A quick counter saw the England player through on goal and he chipped the keeper to make it 4-6 England. That’s the way it stayed until the full time whistle and it was, perhaps, a timely reminder that you have to earn the right to win games and that right starts in the first minute and lasts for ninety.

The lads were honest in the dressing room after the game and identified why and where it went wrong on the day. They can hold their heads high though as this was a good side that we played and we scored 4 goals despite not reaching our required standard on the day.

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