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30 November 2019 v Liverpool FC Vets at Hope Park, Liverpool James Sheehan·Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Due to a UEFA tournament that was to be played at the LFC Academy in Kirkby, unfortunately our game had to be moved at short notice to Hope Park, the home of Hope University Sport in Liverpool. The facilities however were pretty good and with the use of two dressing rooms, we would manage to get everyone in. This would be a really tough fixture and with an unprecedented six players pulling out within 24 hours of the game, it would be tougher. That said, those who braved the cold would be rewarded with a game of football and the “carrot” of a night out in God’s City to celebrate the family Christmas as this was to be our last game of the year.Mention must be made at this point of Ian Aitkenhead who, despite having met up with the manager on the Friday night and despite the fact that the change of venue had been splattered all over facebook, still managed to arrive in Kirkby and interrupted the pre-match management meeting with his constant phone calls asking “where are you?” He did manage to find us in the end...well done Ian and I was shocked you didn’t get a single nomination for Ulrika (more on UTU later...).Onto kick off and the first couple of minutes was just both sides putting out feelers but it soon got a little feisty to say the least. The RAF were gaining possession more often than not and were playing the ball around nicely but this just seemed to irritate the LFC lads and there were some niggly fouls creeping into the game. The referee could have/should have stamped this out early doors but didn’t and soon there were full on assaults taking place before the referee did do something and booked a player after a particularly nasty two footed tackle and cries from the sideline asking for something to be done. This was certainly a tough game and shinpads were taking a battering but the RAF lads were no mugs and knuckled down to play the game that was in front of them. This however was a game of football, so let’s concentrate on that. The RAF were looking good in possession and, using the full width of the pitch, stretched the LFC team on numerous occasions but couldn’t find that killer blow. Hollis, Coull and O’Hagan went close before Zenko did get the ball in the net only to be denied by the linesmans flag. Then, with the RAF 70%-30% up in terms of possession, a howler of a mistake let in the LFC forward who didn’t need asking twice and he smashed the ball past a helpless Stones in the RAF goal. 1-0 LFC. Despite the possession, the boys in blue just couldn’t break the resolute LFC defence and some last ditch tackling, some great saves and some poor finishing saw the Reds go in at half time with the lead. HT 1-0 LFC.The second half started with the same intensity as the first half had been played in with the RAF bossing possession but the Reds looked dangerous on the break and Stones was called into action a couple of times to save the RAF any further blushes. Zenko was substituted for Andrew through injury in the 65th minute and Andrew’s first involvement was to be hauled down in the box and a penalty was given. Bartley stepped up to send the LFC keeper the wrong way and it was all square. 1-1. No quarter was being given by either side and it came as no surprise when another penalty was given just a few minutes later, although I’m still unsure if it was given for the tug or for handball, and again it was to the RAF. Bartley to take again but this time the keeper went the right way. He managed to get a finger to it but the penalty had been well struck and it nestled in the bottom right hand corner of the net. 1-2 RAF. The Liverpool lads responded well to going behind and only a great save from Stones, diving to his left, kept the scores as was. Hollis was playing brilliantly, Bartley was immense and O’Hagan was having a stormer. Coull was busy up front and had been unlucky a couple of times but he was to make up for that in the 78th minute when a cross from Hollis was met by Coull. He took one touch toget the ball out of his feet and then, as the tackles came in, he managed to shoot past the despairing tackles and the despairing keeper and find the bottom corner. 1-3 RAF. If the previous 80 minutes were anything to go by, this would never be a game that would fizzle out and so it proved. Both sides went hell for leather in the last ten minutes but there were to be no further breakthroughs and the final whistle went with the score 1-3 in favour of the RAF.Despite the cuts and bruises both sides shook hands at the final whistle, kissed and made up and we all headed off back to the dressing rooms to change and get ready for the post match presentations. Players from both sides that played knew they had been in a game and those of us who had just watched were entertained but frozen. Both sets of players had given there all and it was...a TOUGH game!!Danny Bartley was given the MoM award though, to be honest, it could have been any one of the RAF squad who dug in resolutely throughout the 90 minutes. Skipper Scotty Taylor was awarded Ulrika after being nominated by the gaffer but in a massive twist and with the endorsement of higher authority (or so Matt told us), the award was taken off the skips and was awarded to Craig Zenko. Zenks apparently decided to start his celebrating early and decided to dress for a night on the town early, whilst leaving half his stuff in the dressing room. Anyways, after the presentation we all set off to get ready for our Christmas night out...but that’s another story!!


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