HENLEY Town manager Mark Coles believes his side could finally kick-start their season after posting their finest performance yet in a 4-3 defeat to Lydney Town.
Liam Beasant came off the bench to equalise two minutes before the end of normal time to take the AM Print & Copy Challenge Cup tie to extra time.
In the end, they still exited at the first round of the competition but manager Mark Coles was delighted with the performance from the Lilywhites.
He said: “We kept fighting on and the team spirit was good, which I’ve never doubted. Confidence was low because of our performances and results but it’s now been raised.
“The chairman had a chat with me and we needed to improve the performances so we got a couple of players in and I spoke to the team before the game.
“We showed great commitment and passion. They were playing for their shirts, basically. It was fantastic to watch. In the end we lost but we were the happier team after extra time. There was a buzz in the changing room afterwards because of the way we played — it was 100 per cent better.” The Lilywhites went into the game licking their wounds after seven straight defeats in the Uhlsport Hellenic League Division 1 East, in which they had scored two goals and conceded 41.
It looked like a familiar afternoon was in store when Lydney went two goals ahead early on but youth team captain Sean Moore headed home a long throw from Dominic Wise after half an hour.
Beasant had been sidelined with a pulled hamstring but he came on 10 minutes from normal time to make it 2-2 and forced another 30 minutes of play.
Danny Blatchford, who returned to Henley from Hartley Wintney after former Lilywhites manager David Tuttle left, rifled home a free kick in extra time but Lydney scored goals either side to book a place in the next round.
Coles was pleased with how his side coped with their opponents’ tough physical presence.
He said: “They were absolutely massive and only had three players under six foot. They were really strong and physical but we stood up to them.
“When we went 2-0 down early on I was thinking, ‘oh no, not again’ but we were in the game for long periods.
“Now we’ve got to play the same team this Saturday against Chinnor and hopefully we can kick on from this performance.
“There’s no pressure on the players. We’ve lost too many games now to even consider promotion so it’s just about getting as many points as possible between now and end of the season.”
Coles picked out centre midfielder Isaac Opoku as man of the match but said Ashley Trice, a goalkeeping coach who ended up between the sticks after Perry Howard fell ill, was not far behind.
“Isaac went through and beyond the pain barrier for us,” said Coles. “He showed great determination and just kept going. We’ve needed someone like that.
“Ashley made a lot of saves in the top corner and bottom corner. He was just immense.
“I was hoping we could take it to penalties because he’s fantastic at saving them but we ran out of time in the end.”