RAF Cup Final 2023
Thursday 11th May saw the culmination of the RAF Football Challenge Cup, with both the Plate Final and the Cup Final being played at Oxford City FC’s RAW Charging Stadium.
The Plate Final had an unsociable kick-off time of 1030 but this did not deter Wyton and Odiham as they both looked to pick up some silverware. With the weather set fair the game kicked off, but only minutes in an innocuous collision between Wyton’s rapid winger Flt Lt Fred Akwe and the Odiham keeper AS1 Archie Cartwright led to a lengthy delay. Concussion protocols kicked in and Odiham were forced into an early substitution, AS1 Dom Turner coming on between the sticks.
The remainder of the first half proved a cagey affair, with chances limited and both sides cancelling each other out. In the second half Odiham started to dominate, with AS1 Armani Riley increasingly controlling the play and bossing the midfield. Midway through the second half the Odiham skipper Sgt Jordan Jones capitalised on Wyton failing to clear from their box and lashed home a volley into the net. The next 20 minutes saw Odiham further increase their dominance and they deservedly went 2-0 up when substitute AS1 Luke Wandless beat several Wyton defenders before cutting inside and finding the bottom corner to the keepers left. As Wyton were looking to regroup and get back into the game Sgt Andy Houston scored a great goal from range, combining power and placement into the top corner to give the keeper no chance. With the score at 3-0 Odiham were able to close the game down and ran put deserved winners of the RAF Challenge Plate. Man of the Match was deservedly awarded to AS1 Riley.
The Challenge Cup Final for the Keith Christie Trophy was contested between the reigning champions and much fancied Cosford against the dark horses of Boulmer who had been allowed to come out from underground for this special occasion. Boulmer had clearly done their homework, knowing that Cosford could be slow starters, but they were in dreamland in the 2nd minute when a long throw in into Cosford’s box was controlled and fed back to Cpl Ryan Hindle on the edge of the box. He expertly steered it into the net to give Boulmer the lead. The first half produced good chances for both teams, but neither were able to take their opportunities and one questionable offside decision prevented a golden opportunity for Boulmer to increase their lead. Cosford had more and more possession in the second half but the extremely well drilled Boulmer defence, marshalled by their skipper Cpl Max Fox, proved as secure as their Northumberland bunker. On the occasions the defence was breached Cosford found Boulmer’s AS1 Owain Thomas in inspired form in goal.
As Cosford continued to dominate and look for the equaliser it appeared the extended exposure to natural light starting to impact the Boulmer players, with several key players having to go off injured. Despite this they continued to hold firm and had chances to extend their lead. Cosford continued to press and in the 7 additional minutes were awarded a plethora of corners and free kicks in great positions, with the Cosford keeper coming forward to try and achieve hero status. They failed to capitalise though, and the final whistle went moments later, leaving RAF Boulmer champions and Cosford gallant runners up. Not since 2000 have Boulmer won the Challenge Cup and their squad and staff were understandably jubilant, they executed the coach’s plan to perfection and are crowned worthy Champions.
Both games were played in a great spirit and were a testament to the quality of football being played across the RAF as well as the camaraderie which clearly exists between players across all the teams and stations. Congratulations to the winners but also commiserations to the runners up, all should be extremely proud. Credit must also be given to the standard of referees and assistants on the day who all did a great job and contributed to a wonderful advert for RAF Football.