Lilywhites clinch first win of season in final match
AS Henley Town’s final match of the season crept into injury time on Saturday, it looked like they would end
AS Henley Town’s final match of the season crept into injury time on Saturday, it looked like they would end a torrid campaign without a solitary victory.
But in the 92nd minute Tom Sheppard struck a winner that would see him buried beneath his teammates within seconds.
The Lilywhites had finally registered a victory after 28 games in the Uhlsport Hellenic League Division 1 East as they defeated Thatcham Town Reserves 1-0 at the Triangle ground.
Manager Roy Hanley, who revealed afterwards it was his final game in charge, said it was a “relief” to get a win he felt his players deserved.
He said they had kept plugging away despite sitting bottom of the table all season, 18 points below their nearest challenger and with a minus 84 goal difference.
Hanley said: “There’s not a better way to end what’s been a very tough season than by getting a last minute winner.
“It was a very good feeling and they deserve it. I was proud of them for they have kept going when the easiest thing they could have done was throw in the towel and give up.
“They showed character to keep on working and they got their rewards. No one wants to have a zero-win season and the fact we actually achieved it on the last day of the season was tremendous.”
Henley went into the game with a depleted side that included outfield player Dominic Ash in goal but they managed to keep their first clean sheet of the season.
After an uneventful first half, the game became more open in the second period but neither side could break the deadlock.
The Lilywhites’ season appeared to be petering out in a goalless draw until a right wing cross from Craig Sinclair was flicked on by Chris Appleby to Sheppard on the edge of the box.
The centre midfieler, who was brought on with 15 minutes remaining, slammed the ball into the roof of the net and bedlam ensued. Hanley said: “Tom’s a very laid back individual and took the goal in his stride but the boys bundled him.
“It was the biggest roar the crowd have had all season. We don’t have big crowds but for the few who keep coming down, it was great for them.” The manager said he was pleased with the performance and praised man-of-the-match Sam Rolfe, who stepped into left back on the day. He said: “We’ve played him in a lot of different positions and he’s always got on with it without complaining.
“He was up against some very fast players and despite being 5ft-something, he won headers against blokes taller than him, while driving forward and making things happen.”
After the game Hanley reinforced his belief that hard work would eventually pay dividends.
“The irony being they got their reward with pretty much the last kick of the season,” he said. “When I was offered the permanent role in December, I knew it would be a tough job but I never thought it would take so long to get that first win.”