A CROWD of more than 200 turned up at Jubilee Park to witness Henley Men’s 1sts draw 2-2 with London 2012 Olympic bronze medallists GB Women in a friendly match on Tuesday evening.
The GB side brought along a big squad led by Alex Danson and used their numbers well, with a continual stream of rolling substitutions which allowed them to play a high energy game throughout.
In the opening period Henley matched the tempo and intensity and had the better of the early skirmishes.
Moving the ball with neat and accurate passing the home side controlled possession and field position early on. A combination of good goalkeeping from Maddie Hinch, committed defending and some wasteful finishing from the Henley side, meant that the hosts didn’t establish an advantage.
On 16 minutes Henley took the lead when an Ed Foster drag flick was saved and rebounded to Richard Woolfrey to smuggle in. The goal was scant reward for the early momentum as the visitors began to press higher up the pitch and look threatening on the break.
With the game opening up and with the men still having reasonably fresh legs, the match became an entertaining high tempo spectacle.
Henley stretched their lead on 27 minutes when a sharp break found Geoff Joseph in the circle with just the keeper to beat. Joseph’s attempt was blocked but the ball fell to Johnny Taylor who had the simplest of tap-ins.
The GB side tweaked their tactics at half-time, playing a much higher press, looking to cut out the supply to the midfield. The tactic proved effective as the visitors forced more turnover, particularly as the home side tired and looked more threatening in the final third forcing increasing numbers of short corners and open play chances.
It was from a corner on 42 minutes that GB got back into the match, with a slick move resulting in a simple far post deflection. Seven minutes later another short corner attempt was well saved by Roy Cox in goal, only for the ball to fall to a GB attacker to fire past him with a lofted drive for the equaliser. At this stage Henley were starting to look a little ragged as GB rotated their 18 strong squad with relentless regularity.
As tiredness set in the home side started to lack the sharpness that had been the hallmark of their first half display and started to lose the midfield battle.
Despite that Henley showed resilience as a defensive unit, with Dan Herbert, Tony Gaze, Benji Hetherington and particularly Ed Hughes-Burne putting in good displays as the pressure intensified.
GB had several open play chances but substitute keeper Ryan Foggoa pulled off several good stops to deny the visitors.
At the other end the home side still created chances on the break but lacked the clinical finishing to seal the game.
Henley had the last opportunity winning a short corner in the last minute but Johnny Taylor just failed to get on the end of the deflection.
Henley: R Cox, T Gaze, D Herbert, R Mortimer, Ed Hughes-Burne, J Taylor, R Hibbard, B Hetherington, E Foster J Measures, R Woolfrey, G Joseph, C Green, R Foggoa.
GB Women: M Hinch, K Richardson-Walsh, H Webb, Z Shipperley, S Quek, G Ansley, G Balsdon, L Unsworth, S Gilbert, S Townsend, A Ball, N White, N Watton, S Bray, H Macleod, A Danson, L Owsley, S Elliott.