HENLEY lifted the Over 40s Masters HA Trophy on Sunday with a 4-3 victory over Stockton Vets at Nottingham.
Henley settled the better and in the opening 10 minutes pressed the Teessiders hard forcing a string of short corners. Henley failed to convert their early chances and began to force passes and turn the ball over regularly, allowing Stockton to gain a foothold in the game.
Stockton captain Gary Ferguson started to dictate matters in midfield with an impressive passing display as Henley’s back line of Clarke, Heggie, Gaze and King found themselves under pressure and chasing shadows for much of the first half.
For the most part Henley coped well, but were finally exposed on 11 minutes when a swift break left the defence outnumbered and Phil Grainge rounded Ian Heggie before slotting past the advancing Feasey.
The goal settled Stockton and with the error count increasing amongst the Henley ranks the Teessiders enjoyed a strong 15-minute spell and came close to extending their lead when a defensive error left goal scorer Grainge once again one-on-one with Feasey but he shot tamely wide.
After a flurry of substitutions and a decision to press higher and tighter across the board Henley equalised through Paul Chedzey on 23 minutes. A slick passing move set Chedzey free down the left flank allowing him to drive into the circle and slot home inside the near post. Henley took the lead two minutes before the interval when another break, this time via the right flank and Dan Herbert, saw the ball fed into the unmarked Ed Newbold inside the circle. The Henley player slickly slipped the ball under the keeper for an unlikely lead.
Henley tweaked their tactics and the start of the second half saw them produce some of the controlled passing hockey that had been the hallmark of their cup run and almost immediately reaped the rewards.
A neat passing move ended up with the ball with Painter almost on the baseline where he produced a flick into the roof of the net past a startled Stockton keeper.
For almost 10 minutes Henley totally dominated with Owen and Day getting more of the ball in the middle of the park and spreading the play down either flank for the speedy Dan Anderson and Dan Herbert to launch waves of attacks. However some heroic defending from the Teesiders limited the damage, and Henley were unable to press home the advantage.
Stockton refused to lie down and the skilful Ferguson once again stepped up the tempo for his side producing a couple of mazy runs and almost single-handedly pulled his side back into the game. Firstly driving into the circle and shooting powerfully into the bottom corner on 41 minutes, and then neatly deflecting a driven cross on 43 minutes, and the teams were once again on level terms.
By now both teams were playing open hockey and the game flowed excitingly from end to end and half chances came and went at both ends. Terry Pollard was given the man marking roll against the dangerous Ferguson as Henley desperately sought to nullify his impact. Henley regained the lead on 52 minutes when a short corner move resulted in a far post deflection being blocked by a defender’s foot on the line and a penalty stroke being awarded, which Tony Gaze duly converted.
The Teessiders pressed hard for the final 18 minutes throwing men forward. Henley looked to shore up the defence and defended stoically, Julian Herbert epitomising the effort with a couple of impressive full length challenges.
By now the game was intense and defending scrappy and both sides saw men sin-binned as cards became more frequent, which only served to open the game further. As Stockton flooded forward, Henley created opportunities of their own on the break with Painter and Chedzey using their startling pace and fitness to great effect. One such break saw Painter knock the ball round the keeper only to be upended by the flailing keeper’s stick and Henley were awarded a second stroke.
Unfortunately Gaze hit the post with this effort, and Henley were therefore destined to a frantic last eight minutes of defending as they looked to hold on to their slender lead.
Stockton piled on the pressure, forcing a couple of short corners late on, but Henley stood firm and held on for the win.
Henley Vets: R Feasey, J Clarke, S King, T Gaze, I Heggie, D Herbert, D Anderson, R Owen, D Day, E Newbold, D Painter, J Herbert, T Pollard, P Chedzey.