The WFA have entered into a partnership agreement with Leisure Leagues – and as a result had a wonderful opportunity to play in the stadium build on the beach in Rethymno, for the Socca World Cup. The Over 60s played as the stadium was filling up for the 3rdv4th playoff, featuring Greece, so finished playing in front of a capacity 3000 crown under floodlights.
England’s second successive away fixture ended in stalemate as they drew 0-0 with Greece. Numerous chances were created by the visitors but time and time again they were denied by some excellent goalkeeping and some erratic finishing. Both debutant Andy Scrace and Midfielder Paul Kirby were denied from close range and Trevor Hanson had two of his trademark pile drivers both saved and flash just past the upright.
At half time England were well on top as Rob Keating was virtually redundant in goal as the impressive Hanson controlled any threat from the Greek forwards. Pete Henry was starting to pull strings in midfield and had a glorious chance that fell to him with a rebound off the keeper but unfortunately he ballooned over the bar his opportunity to open his England account. Greece’s keeper then had a rush of blood as he played the ball out of the area giving away a penalty. Leeds Titans Nick Morris stepped up but blazed his spot kick over the bar.
England continued to press but Greece’s defence held firm to ensure a 0-0 score line in an International exhibition game as the WFA celebrate their new partnership with the impressive Leisure Leagues.
The game was played in a fine sporting spirit with excellent refereeing, despite the pressure of a fervent and partisan crowd.
After the game Manager Paul Murtagh commented:
“It was disappointing to see us miss so many chances but I was overall pleased with how we played. I thought we looked nervy, despite our dominance, in the first half with a more assured second half performance. The only thing missing was a goal but the new lads would have gleaned valuable experience from the opportunity and further add to the strength in depth of the squad. Overall I think it was a successful venture, further spreading the word of Walking Football across the world and hopefully inspiring others to give it a go, wherever they may be”.
Over 60s – Greece 0 v England 1
This was a very hard fought victory in what was an exhibition game to promote Walking Football internationally. Played at the superb Socca World Cup Stadium in Rethymno, Crete in front of a full house of 3200. The match was also streamed live.
The Greek players were technically gifted and surprisingly well organised given they are relatively newcomers to the sport.
England lost their skipper, Spencer Pratten in the first minute. A re-occurrence of a torn calf muscle forcing him out of the game to be replaced by Peter Henry, making his Over 60 debut. And within 5 minutes striker Graham Collier pulled his hamstring and he too was out for the remainder of the game being replaced by another debutee, John Cooper. It was therefore a disjointed first half performance. Greece packed their defence and looked to play on the break. Tony Jones marshalled a very tricky ‘back to goal’ centre forward superbly. John Hammonds in goal turned Greece’s first effort on goal onto the post and soon after had to make another fine save turning a fierce save around the post. England grew into the game and their ball retention improved. Another debutee, John McGinnell started to probe and create chances. James Trant had a good effort saved before Cooper hit the post from a narrow angle. Henry had a few efforts blocked as England finished the first half on top.
In the second half, England changed their shape, with Trevor Hanson given the role of marking the lone striker and Tony Jones moved to a defensive midfield role to allow England to push forward more. This change in tactics worked with England now dominating possession. A lovely through ball from McGinnell found Cooper, who finished well through the legs of the oncoming keeper. Trant had several efforts blocked. Jones had two efforts superbly saved by the keeper and both Cooper and Jones were unable to convert one-on-one chances. Both sides were starting to tire on the large pitch and in the heat. Greece pushed forward and Ross was becoming busy in Goal. His poor clearance gave Greece a clear chance but he atoned for his error with a superb save, quickly followed by triple save, one in particular, low to his left was stunning. Henry replaced Trant and England steadied the ship a little and kept the ball for long periods until the final whistle signalled a narrow victory.
“Well played Greece who surprised us. Fantastic organisation by the ISF and Leisure Leagues. A magnificent occasion for all in front of a large and enthusiastic Greek crowd, who warmly applauded the players at the end.
A great effort by an inexperienced England team, ravaged by injuries. Strong performances from Hammonds, Everton and McGinnell, but MOM was Tony Jones for an assured defensive display in the first half and a great central midfield display in the second.”
England Team Manager, Over 60s