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28th October 2018 v Essex FA Veterans

Onto Day 2 of our latest double header and with everyone fed and watered from the night before (more on this later), it was a welcome sight for many of Saturdays players to see an influx of fresh blood for the Sunday game. Some players had left after the game Saturday so it would be a much changed side to take to the field for this game against a strong Essex FA Veterans League Select XI that contained a number of ex professionals in their ranks.

Kick off was delayed 20 minutes following an accident on the M25 that delayed the arrival of the Essex team bus but that was a bonus for the RAF lads as those who had played the previous day had time to loosen up aching muscles with Gus’s treatment table looking like a scene from Casualty following a major incident.

The RAF kick off. The first effort on goal came from Essex but it was high before sterling work by Stockport saw him win the ball and play in Wanless. Wanless held up the ball before firing a low cross back across the box where Stockport was waiting and he smashed the ball home. Seven minutes gone and it’s 1-0 RAF. The RAF boys were playing as they had the day before, a high pressing game and plenty of width and Pugh in particular was finding space out wide when the RAF won the ball back. A cross from him almost increased the lead when the keeper failed to collect a cross and actually knocking onto the back of one of his own defenders. The ball headed goalwards but was cleared off the line by another defender. After yet another cross caused problems, an Essex mix up in midfield saw Bartley emerge with the ball. He took one touch and hit a screamer from fully 30 yards. The keeper got a hand to it but could only push it onto the inside of the post and in. Eleven minutes gone and 2-0 RAF and a superb strike from Bartley. Wanless and Stockport were causing the opposition problems and Rooney was now coming into the game more on the left as the RAF switched the ball from side to side in an attempt to open up the opposition. A good counter attack by Essex finally saw a through ball split the defence on the right of the box, Algar looked as though he slipped just before the shot came in and it left him helpless to stop the drive as it nestled firmly in the corner of the net. 2-1 RAF and game on with seventeen minutes gone. The RAF responded immediately however, as just two minutes later, a lovely break down the left hand side saw Watkins drill in a fabulous low ball across the six yard box. It defeated forwards and defenders alike except for Pugh who arrived wide and late and he smashed the ball home. What a response to conceding and 3-1 RAF. Good work by Robison at the back, in intercepting a pass, saw the RAF on the attack again and Bartley decided to have another go from distance. Again, the keeper got a hand to it but this time he managed to steer the ball around the post and out for a corner. Once again the RAF were quick to punish any mistakes by the opposition as this high press continued to keep Essex on the back foot and they struggled at times to get the ball out of their own half. Once they did however, they looked quite good going forward and were denied a penalty appeal when an attacker ran into the “man mountain” that is Robison (my thoughts exactly). The referee was having none of it as the player went down too easily and it’s a goal kick to the RAF. The game was fast and furious and played in a great fashion by both sets of players. The worst a free kick was given for was a little shirt pull or an offside as both teams attempted to play the game and it made for a good viewing for the spectators, quite a few of whom had travelled by car or on the team bus to support the Essex lads. After 39 minutes the RAF defenders went to sleep when a break down the left by Essex seemed to have been cut out. It hadn’t and as the cross came in, the RAF lads seemed to be looking a different way as a little midfield player appeared from nowhere to get his toe to the ball and send it into the net via the far post. 3-2 RAF. In the 40th minute, Watkins picked up a thigh injury and was replaced by Stewart and despite almost 6 minutes of time added on that’s how it stayed until half time.

Shanks replaces Bryan, Green on for Robinson. Almost straight from the kick off Stockport tested the Essex keeper with a blistering shot that he did well to tip over for a corner. Both sides were creating chances but as is the norm it seems, shots are high and wide. In fact, this first fifteen minutes of this half, the RAF are terrible. Yes, they are attacking at will but it seems the final ball is short, overhit, passed straight to the opposition or, if it is played right, the final shot is woefully high or wide or totally miskicked. Then, in the 61st minute, Wanless broke forward. A defender managed to get a toe on it but could only divert the ball into the path of Stockport who then played it straight back to Wanless. After what seemed like an age, and it all seemed like slow motion, he finally wriggled his way around everyone in the six yard box and slotted the ball home. 4-2 RAF. Robison was then replaced by Donnelly. After a couple more scary moments, the RAF then seemed to find their passing ability, keeping the ball for nigh on six minutes without an Essex player getting anywhere near. It only came to an end when the boys in blue changed momentum and attacked with pace but alas, Wanless struck his shot wide. Essex then had a couple of chances, the second of which came from a free kick in their own half. A long ball was played over the top of the RAF defence and the forward running onto it managed to lift it over Algar and into the net. 4-3 RAF after 77 minutes. Five minutes later, the RAF extended their lead again when the ball found its way to Stockport in the opposition box. He managed to turn and fire in a shot that beat all and nestled safely in the net. 5-3 RAF. Amazingly, this game still wasn’t over as two minutes later, Essex reduced the deficit again when a mistake saw the RAF give the ball away. A driving run through the middle then saw the ball passed out to the left edge of the box. The forward drew the keeper and calmly slotted. 5-4 RAF. Essex picked up the pace looking for an equaliser but the RAF defence stood firm. They continued to defend from the front and still created a chances themselves although they have Algar to thank for a couple of great saves. The first majestically tipping over a long range effort and secondly, a double save the second part of which I’m unsure as to whether he knew what happened as it came flying back out off his backside. The referee finally blew and it was victory for the RAF in an excellent game of football.

Two days, two games and victory in both. As Matt Beattie said after the game “If we were in a league then that’s 13 goals scored, 5 conceded and 6 points. Happy days”.

All the representatives can be mighty proud of their achievements this weekend as the family continue to improve both on and off the pitch and a big thanks to all the women that turn up to support us all.

Starting XI: Algar, Robison, Taylor, Robinson, Rooney, Bryan, Bartley, Pugh, Wanless, Stockport, Watkins. Subs: Laurie, Green, Barker, Donnelly, Shanks, Butt, Stewart, Richards

Other RAF representatives: Hancocks (Mr A), Beattie (RTM), Salkeld (Coach), Wilkinson (Coach), Milam (GK Coach), Payne (Therapist), Bones (Photo), Sheehan (Comms), Robertson, J. Bartley (Support staff), Ellis (latecomer back from his golfing holiday). Again, if I’ve missed anyone then I offer my apologies. My memory is not as good as it was and I think I may have to start up the register again.

It was nice to see all the ladies there this weekend but a special mention to Helen Pugh, for whom this was a first taste of Vets football...I think. Anyways, Steve and Helen turned up as a couple and went home as a threesome as Steve became the new jockey for Harry the Horse. His citation read...

“Going out on the Saturday evening to Sainsbury’s and buying an outfit as he’d only turned up with his tracksuit and RAF blazer...oh, and his phone went off during Matt’s pre-match team talk”

ps. The whole outfit cost him 20 quid!! #neighbother

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