…well closer than last time anyway! East Algarve FC (EAFC) over 50s took on England over 50s at the Nora Stadium in Ferreiras on Friday 26th May, 2023.

A strong EAFC squad was assembled by manager Andy Smith, with a starting 11 of Billy (GK); Toby, Mo, Colm; Nuno, Ian, Karl, Mark C, Verner; Darren, Jean-Marc playing in a 5-3-2 formation from the off.

Early indicators were not great as England controlled possession, knocking the ball around easily. EAFC struggled to adapt to the pace of the game and were guilty of losing the ball by taking too long with it. It was no great surprise when England took the lead on 23 minutes with a far post header from their skipper John Price from a corner. The lack of marking was particularly galling and Price had an easy job.

EAFC did create a couple of half chances, but England were very much on top. Things changed slightly on 30 minutes when the unfortunate Nuno had to come off with a badly split lip (resulting in a trip to hospital for stitches). Barry replaced him with strict instructions to mark the England left back out of the game. This had an immediate effect, with England’s supply lines severely reduced.

Following a drinks break to counteract the hot weather a great double save by Billy stopped an own-goal from Karl and the subsequent follow-up from England. At this point Paolo replaced Jean-Marc up front, but played a bit deeper with the formation more of a 4-4-1-1. Near the end of the second half Darren had a good effort saved by the England keeper and the first half ended 0-1.

The second half started brightly for England, with a string of corners. After 7 mins Billy pulled off another great save following an England break down their left. On 14 mins the ref awarded England a penalty for a supposed foul by Toby (it looked a good challenge from the sidelines). Fortunately for EAFC the pen went flying over the bar!

EAFC then started to create some chances themselves; a great break down the left from Darren following an exquisite pass from Mo finally saw a tame cross from Verner not reaching the target in the box. However, EAFC were starting to tire badly and on 25 mins a scrappy second goal for England after EAFC failed to clear a low cross looked to seal the game.

EAFC rang the changes, with Mick C coming on for Colm, and Andy W replacing the injured Mark C. Fresh legs brough fresh impetus, and Darren had another half chance on 33 mins.

After 38 mins, Andy Smith replaced Paolo and he produced a stunning shot on 40 mins from outside the area that the England keeper only just reached to tip over the bar.

Jean-Marc replaced the impressive and hard-working Darren in the dying minutes and the game ended 0-2, with only Jon S and Charlie not getting game time due to the ref blowing without adding injury time.

A defeat, but not the battering we had last time. Yes, England were the much better side and deserved to win, but we showed that we are improving at the 11-a-side format. It’s just lack of matches and therefore a bit more fitness and speed that are needed. Once again the spirit of the side was brilliant, with no heads dropping and the determination to keep going to the bitter end.

The EAFC over 50s squad versus England. Back row (left to right): Charlie, Mick C, Verner, Barry, Andy S, Jon S, Paolo, Toby, Billy; front row: Colm, Mark C, Darren, Jean-Marc, Nuno, Andy W, Ian, Karl, Mo.