Sunday, 22 July 2018

Besant’s brace helps Lilywhites win cup

HENLEY TOWN U18s won their fourth county cup in six years after beating Banbury United 4-2 on Sunday.

HENLEY TOWN U18s won their fourth county cup in six years after beating Banbury United 4-2 on Sunday.

The Lilywhites had to come from behind to lift the Oxfordshire FA Joe Roughton U18s Youth Cup at Ardley United’s ground.

Stand-in keeper Craig Hunter saved a penalty as a Liam Besant brace and goals from Andrew Phirri and Colin Phillips brought the cup home.

Henley went into the game with only 12 fit players but were quickest out the blocks.

After four minutes, Besant beat his marker on the edge of the box before crossing for right winger Dermot Johnson, who hit the side netting. Captain Sean Moore helped Henley control the midfield and he shot narrowly wide after 11 minutes.

Four minutes later Banbury broke from a Henley corner and their forward beat Hunter from 35 yards.

The Lilywhites changed their shape from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 to help them gain more possession.

With 26 minutes gone, Moore won the ball in midfield and played it to Charlie Sumner, who picked out Besant with a defence-splitting pass. Besant ran on and slotted it home to equalise. Henley added a second soon after when Phillips was fouled. Moore crossed in the resultant free kick and Phirri headed into the roof of the net.

Town looked in control but missed the opportunity to put some daylight between the sides when Phirri’s penalty was saved after Besant had been fouled. On 38 minutes, they were made to pay when the Banbury forward latched on to a long ball and again looped the ball over Hunter. It looked like the tide had turned when Banbury were awarded a penalty just three minutes after half-time but Hunter made a top save down to his bottom right corner to keep the score at 2-2. This inspired Henley and they went on to dominate for the next 15 minutes. Andrew Sinclair won the ball in the centre of the pitch and gave it to Phillips. His pass found Besant, who hit an unstoppable shot from 25 yards out into the bottom corner to restore his side’s lead.

Henley’s possession football was rewarded with a fourth goal when Charlie Baines found Sumner and his cross picked out Phillips at the far post to smash the ball home.

Manager Craig Sumner said he was “tremendously proud” of the achievement and believed the penalty save by Hunter, usually a right back, was the turning point.

“We’ve had a very difficult season where we’ve struggled to get a team most weeks but in the cup we’ve managed to get our strongest team out most of the time,” he said. The manager praised the “fantastic” performance of Moore, who is one of three players alongside Sumner and Phillips to have won the cup four times after success at U13, U15 and U16 level.

Sumner said: “We have confidence when we go into the county cup because we normally end up as winners.

“Those three players have never lost a cup final and that experience helps the others because some of the players are only 16.

“It’s a fantastic way for them to go out at youth level and I hope the club now looks at them and keeps them involved in the club because they’ve got a bright future.”

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