Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Team unable to turn possession into goals

HENLEY took some confidence into their South Premier League Division 1 game following last week’s positive

HENLEY took some confidence into their South Premier League Division 1 game following last week’s positive result and wanted to get off to a good start.

They made several good chances early on but could not get the short corners firing and the OC goalkeeper produced some good saves to keep the score level.

Midway through the half, some good build-up play on the right side from Hibberd and Heaver led to the former firing a ball across the D for Green to convert into the roof of the net to continue his impressive recent form.

The momentum appeared to be entirely with Henley, and Joyce and Foster were in complete control in the middle of the park. OC didn’t give Cox a lot to do in goal although they pulled a goal back after a speculative aerial out of defence was allowed to bounce in the Henley D which the attacker did well to flick into the net.

From that point on the game became end-to-end, and the best chance for Henley fell to Walter. After carrying the ball over half the pitch and past several defenders with a jinking run, he looked to set up Green for the finish. But Green opted to square a difficult, bouncing ball back to Walter who did well to even get a stick on it with the ball rolling wide of the goal.

Henley then fell behind as OC again managed to fire a long pass into the D and a clever flick took the ball past Cox to give OC a 2-1 lead against the run of play.

The second half began with the OC striker missing a sitter only to recover shortly after for yet another tap-in from a long ball into the Henley D.

Henley continued to push forward and saw lots of possession but just couldn’t covert until late in the game, when Green was in the right place to flick a loose ball into the roof of the net with a few minutes remaining.

Despite putting heavy pressure on the OC defence, Henley struggled to create any clear opportunities and the full-time whistle came too soon.

EARLY starts away from home have not always been kind to Henley sides, so nerves were rattling a little going into the game against local rivals Marlow who have run some good teams close this year.

And with four games still to go in the Middx, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Division 2, three points to either side would be invaluable.

Henley provided all the energy and drive in the opening exchanges and produced a quick goal for Geoff Joseph after Guy Harmer had exploited some confused Marlow defending. That initial pressure persisted for a long period of the first half but a combination of resolute goalkeeping by Marlow and clumsy finishing by the Henley forwards sought only to make it clear that an extra hour in bed might have made all the difference.

As if to prove a point to his forwards, Ali Slay smashed home a shot to double Henley’s lead, surging forward from right half after some good link play in midfield.

But this dominance led to the Henley defence becoming exposed to breakaway attacks and looking particularly vulnerable to the overhead ball, which produced a couple of chances for the hosts.

Henley continued to press forward after the restart and once again the early pressure was converted into a goal by Joseph for his second of the game. Jody Measures found him with a neat aerial through ball with just the keeper to beat.

The pattern from the first half was repeated though, and countless chances to take this game away from Marlow were either saved or seemed to go anywhere other than goalwards. This seemed to knock the confidence of the visitors and give the home team a small flicker of hope to cling to.

That flicker became a glimmer after some anxious defending by Henley gave Marlow a clear opportunity which they took.

Then the momentum seemed to swing in their favour and they benefitted from confusion after a well taken penalty corner to sweep the ball in the Henley net.

A nervy last eight minutes followed during which Marlow pushed for the draw but Henley stayed the course and saw the game out for another three points and another step closer to the title and promotion to Division 1.

Henley 2nds: D Herbert, J Clarke, I Roberts, A Slay, J Ruggiero, S Hall, G Joseph, R Woolfrey, J Measures, G Harmer, F Newbold, J Draycott, D Bowyer.

FROM the first whistle Henley started strongly with the ball being moved around well and scoring opportunities were being created.

Then a long ball forward into Ewan Watkins was held up by the forward and slipped to Neil Emmett who continued his fine goal-scoring record to open the account for the visitors.

A few minutes later, another long ball was again picked up by Watkins who this time slipped it into Rupert Wiseman’s path. Wiseman wasn’t able to convert but Emmett was there yet again to pick up the rebound to double Henley’s lead.

Having located a weakness in the Thame defence, the attackers continued to exploit it.

Watkins picked the ball up on the edge of the D and squared to Wiseman but this time the goalkeeper made a fine save to keep Thame in the game. Then, against the run of play, Thame pulled a goal back with a great run and finish from their standout player.

It would then appear that Henley’s earlier missed chances may come back to haunt them as Thame then equalised and were searching for a winner.

However, Henley kept on pushing and, having won a short corner moments before half-time, a slip to Phil Biggs resulted in his third goal in two games for the side, giving Henley a well deserved 3-2 lead at the break.

But Henley’s hopes of turning this leading position into a key win were shattered after the restart. Thame stepped up their game and, with superior fitness, were proving to be the stronger team.

Their equaliser came from a sweeping move delivering the ball to the back post which was converted by one of the three Thame strikers that were lying in wait to smash the ball home.

Henley continued to press on and with time running out thought they had a penalty flick when a Thame player appeared to stick out his foot to block a goal-scoring opportunity but the referee awarded a short corner instead.

Then, in the cruellest of fashions, with just minutes left on the clock, Henley were denied the three points as a Biggs had a goal chalked off as the whistle was blown for a short corner just moments before the ball crossed the line.

Then, with light fading and conditions getting increasingly dangerous, the game was finished and the Henley players began the trip down the M40 feeling as though a real opportunity had been missed.

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