29th May 2021 v Wales FA O35s at St Georges Park. ko 1400hrs
Onto Game 2 in this first one day double header and it’s the Over 35s up next. The games between these two sides are always close affairs and dare I say, great to watch. Once again, there are a number of newbies and, if they get on, no doubt will be eager to show us their skills.
Wales kick of and the first five minutes are spent with both sides probing looking for chinks in the opposition armour. In the sixth minute the RAF came closest to breaking the deadlock when a superb ball from Dixon to Norton out wide right almost paid dividends when Nortons ball into the box was poked narrowly wide by Watkins. After 16 minutes, following a foul on Norton, the free kick was played into the box. Rooney looked to have been fouled...Penalty!! was the cry, but the referee was having none of it. The game was becoming a little niggly now as both sides were giving away needless free kicks but after three needless free kicks against Wales in quick succession, the deadlock was almost broken again when a Croft header was dropped by the keeper but he managed to grab it at the second attempt. Twenty four minutes in and some good harrassing by the RAF saw Wales lose the ball and it found its way to that man Norton again. This time his cross was inch perfect and Watkins stooped to head in at the far post 1-0 RAF. The boys in blue were generally keeping Wales at bay and out of the box but they were thankful for Algar in goal when he made a good save from a rare Wales soiree into the area. In the 33rd minute, the RAF extended their lead when more good work down the right with Norton involved a couple of times, the ball went wide to Croft who placed a perfect ball into the box for Norton to casually backheel the ball home. 2-0 RAF. Watkins then shot over before Wales had their best chance but the striker, in his hurry, sliced his shot wide. Forty two minutes were on the clock when what seemed to be a game of bagatelle broke out in the welsh area with the ball bouncing off every man and his dog. It ended with Croft poking home and its 3-0 RAF. From the restart, Wales went down the other end and following a cross into the box, the welsh strikers header crashed back off the post and is cleared. This IS a good game and the only difference between the sides is that the RAF have taken their chances. HT: RAF 3-0 Wales.
Once again, substitutions is the order of the day and then the RAF kick off. Its end to end stuff with some lovely football being played by both sides but it was Wales who had the first meaningful action of the second half when they once again hit the woodwork. Good build up play saw the welsh striker hit the ball from the edge of the box across goal. With the keeper beaten the ball canonned back off the far post. In the 68th minute, the RAF extended their lead when a shot by Greenhalgh was parried by the welsh keeper. Tweedie was there to knock in the loose ball and its 4-0 RAF. If you are reading this and weren’t there then don’t for one minute think this game is over. These welsh boys are a force and its just their finishing that sees them in this position. That was to change however when the RAF lost the ball in midfield and, similar to the earlier game, the welsh forward chased the through ball outstripping the RAF defence in the process to slot past Potts now in the RAF goal. 4-1 RAF. Five minutes later the welsh have a penalty...but wait...the assistant referee has his flag up. The ref goes to speak to him and offside is given. Who needs VAR?? The let off only lasted two minutes as a flat back four were caught out on a Wales breakaway and its now 4-2 RAF.It’s all Wales at the moment and they hit the post again when a free kick is whipped in and the resultant header rebounds out. The RAf wake again and go straight down the other end and great strength by Stockport sees him drive into the box. As his cross ball across the box looks to be heading for a tap in, a welsh leg juts out and steers the ball against his own post whilst trying to clear. In the 89th minute however, Wales again break and Potts makes a great save. However, he can’t hold it and the striker following up smashes home. 4-3 RAF and there is still a minute plus stoppage time left. Both sides still going for it but the last chance went to Wales. Great play in the attacking third and when the ball came into the box the welsh striker struck...unfortunately for him he pulled it wide. With that, the referee decided enough was enough and blew the final whistle. FT: RAF 4-3 Wales.
A superb game to watch, a game of two halves, tit for tat, the analogies could go on but this was a game between two teams who both wanted to win, gave their all and provided a feast for those of us unlucky enough to have had to hang up our boots. Oh! to have been part of that.
RAF Starting XI: Algar, Burns, Dixon, Taylor (C), Arscott, Rooney, Groves, Norton, Croft, Duerden, Watkins
Other RAF team representatives: Beattie, Buck, Robison, Hennessy, Baker, Tweedie, Thom, Greenhalgh, Potts, Lusardi.
Support Staff: Payne, Morris, O’Sullivan, Sheehan, Jones, Pye, Yvonne Salkeld, Fi Aitkenhead, Suzanne Claxton,
There were many other RAF representatives there so forgive me if I haven’t included your name. (If you drop me a message, I’ll edit)
Special thanks to the Officials for both games and to the all the Wales lads. Special praise for the ladies, Yvonne, Fi and Suzanne who manned the Covid desk ensuring everyone who arrived was covid free and keeping all attendees safe. Well done all.
Recipient of the Most High Order of Jockey of Ulrika - Sandy Armour
Wash Up - ONE day - TWO games - HARD WORK - but ENJOYABLE and in terms of results on the day it finished 1-1...outstanding effort by all.
Congratulations also go to Geordie Salkeld who received a number of gifts in recognition of his achievement of representing the RAF FA for 50 years...as a PLAYER. A unique achievement!!