3rd February 2019 v LFC Vets
So on to Day 2 at St George’s Park and after a quiet refreshing evening in the hotel bar it was now back to business. As is the norm, some players had left and others had arrived but the early action happened in the foyer of the hotel. Don Jamieson had arrived on the Saturday and watched the game and was about to do the same on the Sunday but unfortunately he suffered a heart attack at the hotel. Don is known to many of us old guys having been an RAF man himself but he also knew a lot of the Liverpool lads and in fact, lives on the same street as one of theirs back in Liverpool. Tony Reeves and Gus Payne were quickly into action as would be expected of those two well trained medical chaps and kept Don going till an ambulance arrived. Suffice to say, Don is now home and on the mend following surgery...get well soon mate...and I don’t normally start my match reports with thank you’s but this time...Thank You Tony and Gus, well done guys!!
And...then it was kick off. A couple of changes to the previous day but the system remained the same. The RAF kick off and immediately go on the offensive. A diagonal ball over the top and out wide found Zenko who raced down the line and across into the box before squaring the ball to the inrushing Edwards who smashed home. One minute gone and 1-0 RAF. Both sides were cancelling each other out in the midfield and chances were few and far between but the RAF got another in the 11th minute when Zenko crossed for Wanless but his shot was well saved in the LFC goal. A couple of minutes later, great covering by Taylor to thwart a promising LFC break down their left saw him pull up after clearing the ball and the skipper was quickly substituted. The pace of Zenko and Watkins was causing problems to the lads in red and Edwards was making some good runs through the centre as the centre backs were being pulled out wide to try and counteract the flying RAF wingers. In the 21st minute the pressure looked to have told when following a corner, Turner headed goalward only to see, what would have been a goal, handled on the line. Penalty RAF. Zenko stepped forward to take and smashed it straight down the middle. The keeper saved it with his knees!! A missed opportunity there but the boys in blue were creating quite a few so hopefully it would only be a matter of time. With thirty minutes gone, Macek tried an audacious lob from near the half way line but it narrowly went over and the rest of the half was nip and tuck with both sides creating and missing though Zenko did have the ball in the net in the 43rd minute but the flag had gone up for offside. HT RAF 1-0 LFC
Not much needed to be said at half time except try to keep those tired legs going for another forty five and keep doing what you are...it’s great stuff. LFC were a much tougher opposition from the team we had played last season but that said, no one could have argued had we been 3 or 4 up at the whistle. We weren’t so it was onto the second half.
LFC kick off but the RAF win the ball quickly and only a great save stopped Wanless extending the lead. This was a tight game in all areas and the Liverpool lads are a fit bunch, army like in their approach to games, so this was going to be a big test especially for the lads who had a played a part the day before. However in the fifty first minute, some good football by the RAF saw them break down the left. Keeping possession, they played the ball crossfield to Wanless who raced to the byline before pulling back to Edwards who smashed home his, and the RAFs, second of the game. 2-0 RAF. As i said, this was a tight game and LFC were not out of this by any means. The next goal could be crucial. Bryan played a lovely ball with the outside of his foot to Wanless but his shot was narrowly wide. Turner and Watkins then combined before Watkins put in a lovely cross but alas, no speculation today and the ball came to nothing. Liverpool were causing problems of their own and missed a gilt edged opportunity when the forwards broke. The player on the ball drew Laurie in the RAF goal before squaring to a teammate whose shot hit the post and was cleared. A massive let off this time. Tiredness was playing a part now and LFC were coming more into the game. In the 70th minute they had a 3v1 scenario bearing down on the RAF goal but when that one is Robison, there was only one winner. Robison came away with the ball. Brilliant defending. The game slowed right down and chances were few but in the 87th minute, Milam, who had come on for Laurie, fell over his own feet following a back pass and left the red striker with an eay tap in. 2-1 RAF. That goal galvanised the reds and they went on an onslaught. Two minutes later it was 2-2 when some good build up play saw a cross into the box smashed into the back of the net. From the kick off, LFC came again and a shot was narrowly wide before...in added time...one last attack from the reds and the ball is launched high and goalward. As the ball fell to earth the ref blew the final whistle only for the ball to end up in the back of the net. It didn’t count and the final score was RAF 2-2 LFC.
A great game for the neutrals and to be fair, even from my biased point of view, it was a good game to watch. The lads had done well, some two days on the bounce, and we were unbeaten over the weekend, so, nothing to be down about and today was a good test of what it will be like against the Army in the Inter Services.
RAF Squad: Laurie, Turner, Taylor, Bryan, Stewart, Macek, Shanks, Wanless, R. Edwards, Watkins, Zenko, Robertson, Findler, Robison, Salkeld, Milam, G.Edwards, Barker, Bartley
Other RAF Representatives: Sir Chris Coville (President RAF FA Vets), Beattie (RTM), Wilkinson (Coach), O’Sullivan (Match Liaison), Payne (Head Therapist), Morris (Therapist), Hill (Therapist), Reeves (Fundraising), Sheehan (Head of Comms), Bones (Photo), Morris Jnr, (Support)
Again a massive thanks to all involved, to the ladies, the staff at StGP, Steve Hollis and Ken Hegarty and the boys from LFC Vets and to the officials.