29th May 2021 v Wales O50s at St Georges Park. ko 1200hrs
It’s great to be back, not only at St Georges Park but also to football in general. Some old heads, some of them new to the family, turned up on a nice day to pit their wits against the Wales FA Veterans. As it was, as kick off approached, it started drizzling but that did little to dampen the enthusiasm. Covid regulations meant that normal facilities were not available but that did not detract from the occasion. It was just good to be back playing.
The Over 50s were up first and the game was kicked off by our own Gaff Elliott who, sadly, is struggling with a battle of his own but it was great to see him and have him with us today. Wales kicked off at 1205hrs and it took less than a minute for them to test the RAF keeper Harris who saved well following some neat first time passing by the welsh team. Five minutes later, a corner to Wales and Robinson, in nipping in front of the welsh forward, tried to head clear. Alas, whatever happened saw the ball bounce down off his head, up onto the bar and over the line. 1-0 Wales.
After 10 minutes it was two when some nice work down the welsh left saw a peach of a ball played into the box for an easy tap in. 2-0 Wales. Worse was to come as just five minutes later it was three with a great strike from outside of the box. 3-0 Wales. The RAF were trying their best but these welsh players play regularly in Veterans leagues, get together often for training sessions, know how each other play and are at the tops of their games for the age range. That said, the RAF were unlucky after 22 mins when Coull managed to get in a shot after a decent one touch passing move. Unfortunately for the boys in blue, the shot was well saved by the keeper although he only managed to parry it but the defence cleared the danger. Wales came storming back and only a superb last gasp block by Starkey kept the score as was. Once again the RAF responded with another sublime move down the right and when the cross came in, Arnell headed narrowly wide. In these games, substitutions are a way of life and yours truly struggled to keep up with the constant changing of personnel but whatever 11 were on the pitch, were giving their all in response to the almost constant welsh pressure. After 41 minutes it was four when the ball was needlessly given away in midfield and a welsh player waltzed through all and sundry before rounding Harris and slotting home. then, in added on time, Wales made it five when a quick break and early ball into the box saw Fredrikson (ex RAF but playing for Wales) slotted home. HT. RAF 0-5 Wales.
The second half kicked off and within six minutes, Wales had made it six when a welsh corner was played to the far post. The ball was headed back across goal and then headed in. In the 54th minute, the RAF were then unlucky twice as the welsh keeper flapped at an RAF corner and a defender, in trying to clear, smashed the ball against his own crossbar. As the ball fell to the feet of an RAF attacker the referee spotted an infringement and stopped play. Free kick to Wales. In the 61st minute the RAF were caught upfield and a ball over the top did the boys in blue and the welsh midfielder drifted round Stones, now in the RAF goal, and made it 7-0. Fair play to the RAF, they kept looking for that bit of happiness that would be a goal but Wales were disciplined and soaked up any pressure the RAF could muster. Not only soak it up but then deliver the coup de grace in breaking quickly with balls over the top to the non stop midfield runners. It paid dividends again in the 72nd minute and again in the 86th. Goals 8 and 9 for the welsh. The final whistle went and the final score RAF 0-9 Wales.
Plenty of plaudits for the RAF boys who, despite the scoreline, stuck at their task against a well drilled, strong and ruthless welsh team. This was the first Over 50s game for the RAF in this format and to play it against Wales was obviously a step too far but that said, over the years, the RAF Vets have learnt a lot from the Wales FA and we will continue to learn. This was a lesson but one that will hold us in good stead in the games, years to come. Outstanding perfomances from Robinson and Starkey notwithstanding, ALL the RAF representatives never gave up and though the result may hurt, this is a learning process for the Over 50s and learn from it they shall.
RAF Starting XI: Harris, Stone, McLeod, Robinson, Bryan (C), Croucher, Brown, Pugh, Robertson, M.Smith, Coull.
Other RAF team representatives: Salkeld, McGlasson, Findler, Starkey, Armour, McCherry, Donnelly, Hill, Stones, Arnell.
There are many thanks to be given but I’ll save those until after the Over 35s report