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RAF Vets v Royal Navy Vets at RAF Cosford 29 March 2017

Forget all the pre-match hype of we need to score 6 to win etc etc. This was an Inter Services fixture and the be all and end all of this game was that we needed to beat the Navy. Pre-match we had all met up at the Spiders Webb cafe just along the road from the stadium and overwhelmed the place with the poor girls out the back struggling to keep up with the orders of full breakfasts, bacon and black pud on toast and endless cups of teas and coffees. Fair play to them, they coped admirably. Having all had our fill, Matt Beattie and Geordie Salkeld took the players out one by one to deliver the facts...you were starting or you weren’t. I saw some smiling and some not so smiley players return to their chairs in the cafe and then it was off to the ground.

Playing on the pitch next to the stadium (the ladies having the honour of playing on the stadium pitch, the players listened in to an impassioned plea from the boss...”get out there and beat the fish heads!!” Tactical talks came and went, players were gee’d up and it was time. The players and staff took to the field.

Navy to kick off. RAF playing 4-5-1. The first few minutes were nip and tuck but in the fifth minute following a bit of RAF pressure, the Navy centre half, under pressure, played the ball back to his keeper who promptly fumbled the ball into the path of the onrushing Gaz Seddon who slotted the ball home and it was 1-0 to the RAF...what a great start!! Back to the nip and tuck but just 4 minutes later the Navy were almost level when a quick break saw the Navy forward through one on one. With Andy Laurie rushing from his goal, the Navy forward took aim and fired his shot...wide. There was not too much action in the game as passes went astray probably due to the intensity and speed the game was being played at and it seemed obvious the Navy lads especially were desperate for a breather as they seemed to go down at every touch in an effort to get their breath back. After 20 minutes, my own thoughts were that it was a scrappy game and the swirling wind, together with the pace that the game was trying to be played at was having a detrimental effect on both sides. That said, the next 10 minutes was all RAF. Firstly, after a great break by Seddon, his cross was headed narrowly wide by Neil Thomas. After a throw in, another cross is again headed wide this time by Paul McCormick. Bob Green got in a header too from a great free kick by Scott Taylor but it landed safely in the keepers arms. It was all the RAF now and after 30 minutes, Danny Bartley shot over the bar quickly followed by a Thomas shot being saved by the Navy keeper. After 35 minutes Bartley made way for Mark Brown and soon after Mick Clark got in a shot that was again saved by the keeper. Our own keeper, Andy Laurie, then had to come off having pulled his hamstring and Paul Stones took over between the posts. A minute later it was 2-0. A free kick to the RAF on the far left was taken by Andy Martin and Gaz Seddon rose above all to head home. Things looked to be going right for the home side at that point but don’t be fooled. From the kick off, the Navy broke down the right and from the resultant cross into the box, the ball was slotted home and it was 2-1. Almost half time and we can still go in ahead but....a silly corner is given away. The cross went right across the goal to beyond the back post. Stones stopped the original shot but the ball cannoned off him onto Green back into Stones and over the line. 2-2 and the half time whistle goes. “What’s just happened?” everyone was asking. The Navy looked to be taking the break 2-0 down but suddenly they are right back in this game and on the up. There were a few expletives used during the half time break but there was a game still to be won so the positives were accentuated and following a couple of substitutions, the team were out for the second half.

The Navy started the better and McCormick was shown a yellow card for a foul as both sides went 100% into tackles. In the 48th minute, the Navy keeper again spilled the ball and Russ Edwards was unlucky to see his effort hit the side netting. Both teams were trying hard and no quarter was being given. Just before the hour mark, Tim Steel replaced Edwards and almost immediately, a corner to the RAF. The cross was headed against the post by Scott Taylor and the ball cleared for another corner but alas, that came to nought. Steve Pugh replaced Mick Clark after 61 minutes and then Thomas headed wide after a cross from the right. Andy Martin made way for Del Stewart after 68 minutes and a minute later, following some great build up play Seddon shot over. The RAF looked most likely to score but the Navy were resolute in defence and after another shot went over the bar in the 76th minute, it looked like this game was destined to end all square but a rare attack from the Navy brought a good save from Stones. An RAF free kick in the 78th minute saw the ball safely in the Navy keepers hands but after his punt upfield, the ball came straight back and found its way to Seddon. He ran into and across the box past numerous attempts at a tackle and buried it...3-2 RAF!! In the 85th minute the Navy had a chance but ballooned it over and in the final minute of play, another break away by the Navy saw the striker bearing down on goal. Stones, rushing from his goal, managed to save the shot with his legs and Jon Shanks cleared it before the final whistle went and the game was over. Rollercoaster of a game but we won...that’s what was asked for before hand and that was what was given. Not as polished a performance as against the Army 2 weeks ago but a result all the same. We would be celebrating a win tonight!!

Thanks must go to everyone who turned up for the game, some just coming to support, some coming back to the fold after many years in civvy street not realising that the Vets had a team and to some of the RAF ladies who, prior to their own IS fixture, popped over to give the lads their support.

Starting XI: 1.Andy Laurie 2.Gary Meadows, 3.Andy Martin 4.Scott Taylor 5.Bob Green 6.Mick Clark 7.Russ Edwards 8.Paul McCormick 9. Neil Thomas 10.Gaz Seddon 11.Danny Bartley

Rest of the RAF Squad: Matt Beattie, Geordie Salkeld, Andy McCullough, Jim Sheehan, Andy Gibson, Gus Payne, Geoff Hancocks, Kenny Hemlin, David Barker, Del Stewart, Rich Evans, Mark Rooney, Paul Stones, Mark Bryan, Mark Brown, Tony Reeves, Steve Pugh, Lee Croucher, Jon Shanks, Phil Harris, Andy Martin, Sully O’Sullivan (referee), Freddy Fredrickson, Rudy Pierre, Tim Steel, Darrell Kerr

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