Sunday, 21 October 2018

Dogged defending seals vital win

WITH potentially up to four teams being relegated from Division 1, Henley’s match against

WITH potentially up to four teams being relegated from Division 1, Henley’s match against relegation rivals Oxford University was a proverbial six-pointer.

On the back of some decent performances, but few points to show for it, Henley started the match very well and dominated the early exchanges.

The midfield triangle of Hetherington, Joyce and Foster overpowered the Oxford midfield, which allowed Hibberd and Taylor space to attack on the wings.

On the 15-minute mark Henley’s dominance was rewarded with a well-taken goal from veteran striker Chris Green, who latched on to Joyce’s through ball from the centre spot. Ten minutes later Henley doubled their lead though captain Ed Foster. After a pinpoint cross from Ross Hibberd, Foster dispatched a powerful slap at the far post, giving the home side’s keeper no chance.

Henley kept their lead into the break and, despite chances for the forward line of Walter, Joseph and Ralph, they were unable to add a third goal in the second half.

With 10 minutes left on the clock, Oxford University pulled a goal back through a short corner flick, which slipped under goalkeeper Roy Cox’s right arm.

Following a series of yellow cards, Henley were on the back foot for the final minutes and it took some dogged defending by centre backs Rob Rowe and man of the match Robbie Mortimer, to ensure Henley came out with three vital points.

The win sees Henley overtake Oxford University in the league with five matches left to play in the season.

BILLED as a league-deciding game between the top two, the resulting draw possibly benefitted the teams involved the least and was the most eye-catching outcome for the chasing pack.

Two teams will be promoted from Division 2, and with top team Henley sitting three points ahead of Newbury, the gap to third spot has been cut to five points.

Henley had been on an extraordinary run of results, having not dropped a single point since the fourth game of the season back in late October, but the challenge was laid down early in this top of the table encounter.

Newbury started brightly, were lively and energetic, and created a lot through their midfield, particularly on the right where they seemed happiest to attempt to penetrate the Henley D.

In the opening exchanges, the Henley defence was the busier of the two but they remained resolute and the team were able to weather the storm.

Henley’s midfield and attacking lines then managed to hit their stride and put pressure on the Newbury backs. Young Fred Newbold fired a reverse stick shot that forced the Newbury keeper into a good save. Penalty corners came and went at both ends without opening the scoring and both goalkeepers were regularly pressed into service to ensure that honours were even at the break.

The second half was a tense affair. Attacks became less cautious, tackles became more robust and chances went begging.

Newbury had a goal chalked off following a technical infringement at a penalty corner and, with tiredness setting in, each team played for separate five-minute periods with 10 men after some unsophisticated tackling saw players given temporary suspensions.

Henley had a chance to snatch the points at the death through an Ali Slay penalty corner drag flick that soared agonisingly over the crossbar by just an inch or two.

Given Henley’s form, a draw for them felt like a disappointing outcome but in the cold light of day the team will compare their remaining four fixtures with those of their closest rivals and perhaps feel slightly more confident.

Henley 2nds: D Herbert (c), D Bowyer, J Clarke, I Roberts, A Slay, J Ruggiero, J Draycott, F Newbold, G Harmer, T Pollard, P Chedzey, L Peachey, S Hall.

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