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Aki 7’s, 5 October 2017, Day 2

After a fantastic team meal (and the odd beer) the previous night followed by some rousing speeches from Geoff Hancocks in his role of Mr Ambassador, and Matt Beattie RTM, most of the lads breakfasted at Lady Lampsons and there looked no sign of the previous nights meal and beers having taken a toll. What was noticeable however, were the moans and groans as tired muscles strained to carry breakfasts to the table and soon the conversation was all aimed toward Gus Payne, team medic and physio. “Can I have a rub down please before the start Gus?” came first. Then it was “...and me”, “...and me”, “...and me”...you get the gist. Another busy day ahead for our Gus then and so it was on to the games.

A couple of additions to the squad today but the headline at the start of day 2 is that triple RAF Cup Winner, World Cup winner, hat trick hero in 19 Kentish Cup finals and Ballon D’Or recipient Ian Aitkenhead has offered his services to the cause and...he’s made the bench!! Never let the truth get in the way of a good report (laughing)!!

Game 6 v Limassol Police. Taylor, Clive, Mallinson, Hodges, Coull, Clarke, Rooney. Subs. Edwards, Robison, Smith, Lancaster, Grundy, Aitkenhead.

Last years winners of the Carter Cup are next up and this will be a tough game. The police kick off and we are expecting a slow game here as both sides are pass and move teams and are packed with erm...older personnel. First chance is to the RAF but alas, yesterdays shooting boots are still on Rooney as, he skies the shot over the bar and then looks angrily at the pitch in the forlorn hope of fooling us into thinking the ball bobbled. Almost immediately, Hodge is into the box and tries to find Coull but this time the ball did bobble and is straight out for a goal kick to the police. The police go straight down the other end and the number 17 tries a shot from the right side of the box and it strikes the inside of the post and into the net. 1-0 Police. The RAF respond immediately and some good work by Mallinson and Coull ends with a shot but again it’s over. That just seemed to wake the police up and a mazy run by their centre forward, last years top goalscorer and ex Cypriot International, sees him bamboozle all the defenders and he smashes the ball into the net. 2-0 police. A great cross from Gary Clive sees a header from Coull but the keeper dives and saves and the half time whistle goes. 2-0 police.

Edwards for Coull, Smith for Rooney and Robison for Clarke are the substitutions and the second half begins. Edwards had obviously been watching their forward as he too goes on a mazy run and fires in a great shot but it is brilliantly saved by the Cypriot keeper. No luck there then. Corner to RAF. It comes to nothing for us but sets up a quick counter for the police. Another dribble into the box sees the ball once more in the back of the net. 3-0 police. Just then an ambulance turns up and the lads are agreed that it is for Aitkenhead as, since he found himself on the bench, he has been sweating profusely whilst stretching and screaming out “I’m ready gaffer” at every opportunity!! A header from Robison is saved by the keeper quickly followed by a shot by Robo, again saved then sees the police launch another counter. A brilliant one handed save from Taylor then sees him run 75 yards up the pitch with the ball at his feet and he shoots...unfortunately, the corner flag was in more danger of being hit than the back of the net. Still 3-0. More great work from Edwards and he nutmegs the last defender. He squares the ball to Robison who has the easy task of stroking the ball into the net and it’s 3-1 police. Is this the comeback? Alas no...the final whistle goes and it’s 3-1 to Limassol Police.

Game 7 v JLS 1. Taylor, Robison, Mallinson, Rooney, Edwards, Lancaster, Clarke. Subs. Clive, Hodges, Coull, Smith, Aitkenhead.

Vets kick off. The first opportunity falls to JLS but the shot curls wide. They were just range finding as with the next attack, the forward cuts inside onto his left foot and drills the ball into the net. 1-0 JLS. A couple of minutes later it’s two, when the striker again attacks the box. This time he cuts outside and drills a right foot shot into the roof of the net. 2-0 JLS. Seconds after the restart, a superb diagonal ball, with his right foot, from the JLS left back finds the winger free. He takes the ball to the byline before pulling the ball back for a simple tap in. 3-0 JLS. Half time.

Edwards, Lancaster, Robison are off and Hodges, Smith and Coull are on. JLS kick off but immediately the closing down by Rooney pays dividends as he wins the ball. The ball falls free and the ever aware Coull lobs the ball from 40 yards over the keeper and into the net. Great goal. 3-1 JLS. Now that was a throw in...with all the players near post bar one JLS player who remained at the back post...the ball was launched over everyone to the back post where the player had a free header but a great save by Taylor kept the ball out and it was cleared. That’s the longest throw in I’ve ever seen!! Another great save from |taylor tipping the ball onto the bar and over sees the score remain the same and the final whistle goes with the score 3-1 JLS.

Game 8 v Odiham. Taylor, Smith, Hodges, Rooney, Clarke, Clive, Coull. Subs. Mallinson, Robison, Edwards, Aitkenhead.

Odiham kick off. A good save from Taylor low to his right seemed to be the only thing that happened in the first part of the game. For all the excitement this game was generating we may as well have just sat down and had a game of snap with the Odiham lads!! Rooney suddenly gets some excitement going when he shoots from 25 yards and has the Odiham keeper scrambling across his goal to tip the ball round the post for a corner to the Vets. It comes to nought but soon, with very little on, the Vets play the ball around before they all charge upfield in a mass attack. The ball is played back to Smith, who just has to lob the ball over the Odiham ranks to see a four against one situation in the Vets favour, but...he stands on the ball, falls over and now the situation is reversed as it’s 4v1 in Odiham’s favour as the ball is picked up and they bear down on goal. They take advantage and it’s 1-0 Odiham. That’s it, half time and Odiham go in ahead.

For the first time in the competition, the Vets make no changes at half time despite the pleas and tears from Aitkenhead, as Matt Beattie is more than happy with the way the lads are playing so he’s giving them the go ahead for the second half. The game follows the vein of the first half and there is little to get excited about in this half either but a good flick on from Coull finds the head of Hodges who heads just over. The Vets are now starting to control this game and a fine save denies Clarke an equaliser but it’s a corner to the Vets. Nothing comes from it but then Coull has a shot from distance which goes over. A couple more chances for the Vets come and go as they are fired high or wide and then...Final whistle and it’s 1-0 Odiham.

Game 9 v 2 RA. Taylor, Smith, Hodges, Rooney, Clarke, Clive, Coull. Subs. Mallinson, Robison, Edwards, Aitkenhead.

Anglians kick off but immediately the ball is won back and it’s a corner to the Vets. Coull gets his head on the ball from the kick but it’s over. We really need to be hitting the target. A corner to Anglians almost results in a goal when Taylor mishandles and sends the ball back toward the goal but he manages to hang on at the second attempt. The RAF boys are looking tired and the muscle aches and strains look like they are beginning to tell but they battle on. A little sustained pressure from the Vets sees a couple of corners in quick succession but again, opportunities missed and then...Coull goes into the box and as he takes his shot he is brought down. Penalty to the Vets. Smith steps up to take and...it’s in. Only just mind, he popped it and it bounced four times before passing the keeper who went the wrong way. Who cares? 1-0 Vets!! Coull is through again and side foots the ball past the keeper but also past the post. Still 1-0. Half time.

Coull off and Edwards on. Good interplay on the left sees a shot from Rooney but the keeper saves and then a shot from Edwards goes wide. The Vets seem to have a new lease of life but were then caught napping from an Anglian free kick. Luckily, the ref pulled them back for taking it too quickly and the danger passed. Edwards, who is non stop, then sets off on another run. He gets to the edge of the box, cuts inside and unleashes an unstoppable shot. It’s 2-0 Vets. A great ball from Rooney finds the unmarked Edwards in front of goal but he takes his eye off the ball and it bounces over his foot and out for a goal kick. A shot from Coull is saved by the keepers legs and despite the tiredness, the Vets are bossing this game. Is it because they are up against an Army side I wonder? Edwards is then wrestled to the ground but the ref thinks it’s a rugby game and allows play to continue. It didn’t continue long as the full time whistle ends the game. 2-0 Vets.

Something amazing happened between this game and the next. Ian Aitkenhead was seen donning a pair of light blue shorts and socks. Would he be getting a shirt? I spoke with him to get his thoughts and he said, “I’m very excited to be here and to be fair, I’m well stretched. I’ve been stretching since yesterday and I am ready whenever the gaffer needs me”. News quickly got around and the watching crowd for the next game doubled in about five minutes in an effort to see the returning Leg end (the space is there deliberately!!) but he, and they, will have to wait a little longer as he is again named on the bench.

Game 10 v Flamingoes. Taylor, Smith, Hodges, Rooney, Clarke, Clive, Edwards. Subs. Mallinson, Robison, Coull, Aitkenhead.

The Flamingoes are the Akrotiri Rugby team and they are a big, big side. All credit to them for taking part but this is our game and we should do the business, just let’s not underestimate them as they have already caused some upsets in this competition. The Flamingoes kick off and it’s not long before the Vets have the ball and are playing it around nicely but with no end product. Smith pulls up injured and is replaced by Coull. A volley over the bar by a Flamingoes player reiterates the comment “don’t underestimate them”. If they knew how to score under the bar as opposed to over it we could be in some trouble!! A snap shot from Clarke is close and then Hodge provides a bit of class when he brought the ball forward, he finds Edwards whose low cross into the box finds Hodge who nets with a back heel worthy of Cruyff. 1-0 Vets and it’s half time.

The second half starts and a short corner to the RAF sees the ball end up in the back of the net via Coull. 2-0 Vets. And then it happened...Ian Aitkenhead is on replacing Coull and he’s going to play up front as the lone striker. Almost immediately, another jinky Edwards run sees him put the ball, on a plate, to Aitkenhead who chips the keeper but puts the ball wide. What an inspired substitution that nearly was!! Taylor launches a ball upfield and as it comes down from the sky with ice on, Aitkenhead controls it in one movement much to the amazement of the watching crowd and lays it off. The crowd are now shouting “Give it to Ian” every time the Vets are in possession but a good bit of build up play sees another chance for the Flamingoes though he puts it wide. More chances came for the Vets with both Edwards and Rooney both missing the target before Aitkenhead was put through again but unfortunately, his legs were not the same as when he was stand in for Nobby Stiles in 1966, and although he couldn’t get there he still forced a corner. The game finishes and it’s 2-0 Vets but the talking point and tomorrow’s headlines will all be about the return of the Leg end (still a space).

Day 2 is over and the Vets have finished in a creditable 6th position, thereby qualifying for the quarter finals of the main competition. Learning points from today are that tired old muscles take longer to recover than youngsters muscles and take longer to get started each day. That said, a superb performance from all those involved. Bring on the knockout stages.

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