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Aki 7’s, 4 October 2017, Day 1

I normally save the thanks until the end but this is such a great competition with great people involved, I’m going to put the thank you’s first...

Massive thanks to Mally Mallinson and his committee for organising this event in the first place. I’m sure there is so much to do to arrange and run a competition such as this and for arranging our pick ups from various airports as well as accommodation. On a personal note, thanks to Adam Hodges for picking us up at Larnaca late at night. Well Done all!!

Thanks to Matt Beattie and the rest of the backroom staff of the Vets for the organisation on our side as, once again, the tournament was a huge success for all those Vets that travelled.

Finally, thank you to all the Vets that took part whether they already lived here in Cyprus or travelled, for making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience full of laughs, banter and the occasional beer!! Some superb talent on display this year and not necessarily on the pitch...but more of that later!!

...and so it was we entered Day 1. The first 5 of 10 round robin matches.

Game 1 v Shadwell. Taylor, Smith, Rooney, Hodges, Edwards, Bartley, Clarke. Subs. Beattie, Robison, Mallinson, Coull.

No “Dusty Bin” tactics this year as the 3-2-1 system has been assigned to...the bin. The Vets kick off and after playing the ball about a bit, a long ball is played but it’s slightly overhit and the keeper comes out to kick clear and it’s a throw to the Vets. A couple of minutes later a quick ball into the feet of Bartley sees him drop his shoulder and with the defender going one way, he spins and hits the ball in the opposite direction and into the corner of the net. Great start...1-0 Vets. A shot from Clarke almost makes it two but the keeper saves. A slightly overhit cross into the box by Shadwell almost had us in trouble but the striker could not get above the ball and it goes harmlessly wide off the top of his head. The Vets are creating most chances but just can’t seem to finish as everyones shooting boots seem to be putting the ball wide or over. Half Time 1-0 Vets.

Half time came and went and still Mallinson couldn’t get on. His comment of “I’m happy with that” went down well on the line. A shot from Bartley is straight at the keeper and it looks like the Vets have continued where they left off...missing chances. The game is following the same pattern as the first half with the Vets playing some nice football but with no end result and Shadwell being kept to attempts from distance. A groin injury to Bartley sees him come off and Mallinson goes on. Last years curse of injuries seems to have returned for the Vets but by this time last year we had lost 3 players so we have to count our blessings. The old legs are not as fit as they once were but Bartley is a youngster and last years talisman, so this could be a costly injury. A break by the Vets sees Robison run down the right. Clarke is inside and a great ball from Robo finds him and it looks like a 1v1 with the keeper. Unfortunately Clarke stands on the ball and the defenders get back. A minute later, a superb ball from Mallinson puts Coull through but his shot balloons over the bar. The referee is looking at his watch now as the 20 minutes are up when the ball is put out for a corner kick to Shadwell. It comes to nothing and the ball is punted up field. With almost 22 minutes on the clock Shadwell mount one last attack and the forward and Rooney collide in the box. To everyones amazement the ref gives a penalty. It’s stroked past Taylor and the ref blows for full time. 1-1. Missed chances and a dubious pen have cost us the win but it’s a point on the board.

Game 2 v 1 Lancs. Taylor, Robison, Edwards, Mallinson, Smith, Coull, Clarke. Subs. Hodges, Rooney.

This is going to be a hard game as the 1 Lancs Army lads are a fit looking bunch and chase everything at 100mph. We need to keep possession in this game and try to tire them out. Vets kick off. A minute into the game and the first attack from 1 Lancs sees the ball in the net 1-0 Lancs. Another shot sees the ball safely in Scotty’s hands. Some good build up play saw Edwards get in a shot that was charged down but the ball hit Coull who then took one touch before buring the ball in the net...1-1. Game on. Another shot straight at Scotty but his kick upfield comes straight back as the army lads press and press. A great save from Taylor after a defence splitting one-two by the army lads was quickly followed by another great save, tipping the ball around the post. It would take a cracker to beat Taylor and so it proved. A volley from almost 40 yards caught out the Vets keeper and nestled in the back of the net. It was no surprise Scotty didn’t see that coming...nobody did. 2-1 to 1 Lancs. Half Time.

Rooney and Hodges come on at half time for Smith and Coull. The Vets are having to work really hard here as they are given no time in possession and are chasing shadows when defending. These army lads are young and fit and it shows against the Vets who, despite playing some nice football, just can’t match the intensity of 1 Lancs. The Vets still create chances though but the target is not being hit with the closest effort hitting the side netting. After a wide shot from Clarke, Edwards comes off for the returning Smith and this is closely followed by an excellent save from Taylor. The Lancs are tiring but so too the Vets and with chances at a minimum the ref blows for full time 2-1 to 1 Lancs. A tough game but the Vets were most certainly not outclassed. Fitness was a factor but the Vets played the better football and a lot of those watching commented on that fact. It was to be heard many times more throughout the remainder of the competition.

Game 3 v Real Chadwell. Taylor, Robison, Edwards, Mallinson, Hodges, Rooney, Clarke. Subs. Coull, Smith.

Chadwell kick off. A couple of passes into no one had yours truly quietly cursing but then a good ball from Mallinson almost set up Edwards. Manager Beattie was given short shrift when he kept coming out of the technical area and blocking the view. He took no notice and apart from a header from Mallinson that went over the bar I saw nothing (truth is it was a very sterile game and not much happened). Half time whistle went and it was 0-0.

Mallinson and Clarke made way for Smith and Coull in the second half and it paid immediate dividends. Some lovely interchange passing down the left hand side and the ball found its way forward to Edwards who cut inside and curled a beauty into the far corner. 1-0 Vets. The Vets are playing some nice football again with a short pass and move game. Rooney gets in a shot but the keeper saves and Hodges is having a busy game in midfield. Smith is cynical in pulling back a Chadwell player and the ref has a word giving him one more chance and no yellow card...lucky boy. Taylor makes a great save pushing the ball out for a corner and from the resultant kick, the ball is put back into the box and a fine turn by the Chadwell forward sees his shot rebound off the post and out for a goal kick. Edwards then tried a David Beckham from the half way line...alas, it was more of a Del Boy from Peckham and went nowhere near the goal. That’s it, full time and the Vets have won 1-0.

Game 4 v JLS2. Taylor, Edwards, Lancaster, Coull, Smith, Rooney, Hodges. Subs. Robison, Clarke.

Vets to kick off and Coull plays it back to Hodges. Nip and tuck here with both sides looking comfortable on the ball but the final pass from both sides is lacking. The Vets now seem to pick up their game and are playing some lovely stuff whilst keeping the ball and chances are being created. Last minute tackles and hurried shots are keeping the scores level as the Vets go in search of the elusive goal. Half time comes and it’s 0-0.

Hodges and Coull are replaced by Robison and Clarke and the second half kicks off with no goals on the board. Almost immediately, Taylor is called into action with a save low to his right. A nice bit of “ballet” on the ball by Edwards bamboozles the defender and he gets a long pass out to the left to Coull. The move ends with a good save by the JLS2 keeper. Suddenly JLS2 break away and there is a 2v1 against Taylor. The forward doesn’t use his teammate and Scotty manages to force the player wide but he manages to turn and fire a cross back across the box. There are two JLS players there now with an open goal and one of them side foots the ball toward the empty net but hits the side netting. A let off for the Vets!! Hodges comes back on for Robison and Coull replaces Edwards but this time the substitutions couldn’t turn it around and the game ends 0-0.

Game 5 v Eng Wing FC. Taylor, Clarke, Coull, Hodges, Smith, Robison, Lancaster. Subs. Edwards, Rooney.

EWFC kick off. Coull tries a snap shot but it’s deflected for a corner and from the kick there is a call for a penalty but the ref says no. EWFC were lucky there...the Vets don’t dive!! Lancaster almost scores with a side foot shot but the defender half blocks. With Bomber following up, the keeper manages to dive at his feet and holds onto the ball. Still 0-0. EWFC get in a shot but its wide and then the Vets go up the other end and Clarke hits an absolute screamer. A great run by Smith down the right, whilst Clarke had the ball, saw the defenders come across expecting the pass to Smithy. Clarke cut inside and let fly a left foot shot and BOOM...roof of the net. 1-0 Vets. What a goal!! Half Time 1-0 Vets.

Edwards on for Coull. EWFC have a chance but first a great tackle by Robison saves the first effort, Taylor makes a great save from the follow up and then Robison dives in front of the striker to block the third attempt. Great defensive play from the Vets...they want this!! Rooney replaces Lancaster and then Taylor messes up a simple collect when the ball hits his shin and goes out for a corner. It comes to nothing. Once more the Vets get up the other end and with the ball in the box bouncing off players like a game of bagatelle, a defender tries to smash the ball clear but it hits Rooney and nestles in the net. 2-0 Vets. EWFC respond immediately with a long ball over the top and the number 9 takes the ball on his chest, turns and smashes the ball into the net. 2-1 Vets with 2 minutes to go. There were no more chances of note and the final whistle goes with the Vets the winners 2-1.

End of Day 1 and the boys did good. W2 D2 L1 and with 8 points the Vets are in 5th place. The downside being there are a lot of players carrying knocks, pulls and strains so Gus Payne is going to be busy. I should say busier because he seems to be treating anyone and everyone between games including the opposition players. Overall, a superb performance from the lads and it’s hoped that a good nights sleep will see the pains subside but first...a meal and a few beers!!

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