Monday, 17 December 2018

Henley make the national finals

HENLEY Ladies approached Sunday’s trophy semi-final against North Notts with a mixture of trepidation and excitement knowing that to get

HENLEY Ladies approached Sunday’s trophy semi-final against North Notts with a mixture of trepidation and excitement knowing that to get to the final of a national competition would be the defining moment of their season.

In bitterly cold conditions Henley took to the pitch amidst rumours that their opposition had bussed down an army of supporters to try and heap pressure on the home side. As it turned out it was Henley who had the largest support and the team were buoyed by the atmosphere and soon put the opposition under pressure.

Tough tackling and fine cover play from the defence, energetic movement and passing from the midfield, and lovely baseline running from the forwards meant that Henley dominated the first part of the match.

Ten minutes in a fine piece of interplay with Georgie Metcalf allowed Cleo Lyn to drive into the D and win Henley’s first short corner of the match. Captain Rachel Herbert struck the shot sweetly and the despairing defence could only touch it into the net.

Spurred on by the goal and the noise from the crowd Henley upped the tempo and five minutes later an exquisite pass from midfielder Lou England put Jen Buckham through on goal. She took the ball round the outrushing keeper and put it in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

This seemed to shake the opposition into action and the last 10 minutes of the half saw them start to build some pressure on the Henley defence, but the girls held firm and went into half-time two goals to the good.

The second half saw North Notts pile on the pressure and it was only seven minutes in when they managed to score off a well-won short corner. Luckily for Henley the goal was disallowed and in return Henley went straight up the other end to win a corner themselves. A left slip to Kat Green saw her play a beautifully disguised ball to the far post where Lou England was waiting to deflect it home — 3-0.

The game became a fairly fractious affair after that with a number of the opposition being spoken to for their behaviour. They managed to grab a first goal midway through the half and then with seven minutes to go they grabbed another. Henley managed to keep their heads despite Kath Evans coming on the receiving end of some nasty off-the-ball hits, but the crowd went very silent when with the last play of the game North Notts were awarded a short corner. Luckily it came to nothing and as Jen Buckham cleared the ball from the D the umpire blew the final whistle and Henley celebrated. An amazing game and a well-deserved victory. Henley now play at the finals weekend on April 27 in Beeston.

THE Hawks play away at Chinnor this Saturday seeking to consolidate their second position in the league as they continue their drive for promotion, kick-off 3pm.

They were thwarted in their ambition to do this in the home league game last Saturday as the game at Dry Leas was called off because of a waterlogged pitch. As their rivals for the step-up, Redruth lost away at Dings so they now have an eight-point cushion with a game in hand as they travel to Chinnor.

The Hawks have dominated their Oxfordshire rivals at National League level when they have clashed over the last five years winning the home game last November 32-8 and in matches in National 2 Division over the previous five years, with the then newly promoted Chinnor unable to hold their league position being promoted twice and then immediately relegated.

It is a different story this season for they have won most of their home games having lost only two to Hartpury, third in the league, 22-8 and Dings 21-17, and are thus in seventh position. On the flip side they slipped up badly when losing 36-24 away to Barking who are firmly detached at the bottom of the league, already doomed to relegation. This blip is against the background of having built a very successful second team who have the finger on the Hawks Bulls having secured the double in league matches and victory in the Oxfordshire Cup. The Hawks are treating each game until the end of the season as a ‘cup final’ and the keen rivalry between the leading clubs in Oxfordshire will no doubt live up to this reputation. The Hawks will be selecting from the squad that prepared for the Worthing game last week. It is almost certain that the return of the Hawks talisman Matt Payne will now take place after weeks on the sidelines.

Henley Hawks squad — Backs: Tom Allen, Xavier Andre, Richard Briggs, Luke Carter, Jonah Holmes, Martin Nutt, Liam O’Neill, Will Robinson. Forwards: Dave Clements. Liam Dwyer, Jim Hadfield, Dai Maddocks, Dave Manning, Josh McNally, Hugo Milford Scott, Nathan Morris, Matt Payne, Alex Penny, Will Woodward, James Winterbottom, Robbie Stapley.

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