A crowd of 97 watched a thrilling contest at Gandish Road, the visitors battling hard to earn a draw, against a very strong home side, despite playing with 10 men for 85 minutes.

Henley started brightly, putting the pressure on Bergholt, but Lynch was called into early action when a quick free kick caught the Henley defence out and McGrath was through one on one, Lynch making a great stop to deny him. Things took an abrupt turn from the subsequent corner, when after only 5 minutes, the ball was swung into the area, initially cleared, the returning cross cum shot was tipped over the bar by Henley defender Reid, in what can only have been a reflex action. This gave referee Tebbit the easiest decision to make he’ll have all season and he correctly brandished the red card and awarded the penalty. Henley keeper Lynch had suffered a facial cut as he went for the ball and needed treatment before play could continue, whether the wait affected him, I don’t know, but Heathcote’s penalty wasn’t well hit and Lynch dived to his right to push it away to safety.

Henley reorganised, bringing striker Cowan back into defence and worked their socks off all over the pitch, but had to rely on keeper Lynch again on 20 minutes as he batted away a fierce 30-yard freekick, 5 minutes later another magnificent stop denied McGrath as Bergholt pressed home their man advantage. Bergholt kept piling on the pressure, but Henley defended stoutly, when Heathcote did bundle home at the back post after 40 minutes, he was rightly flagged offside. But after 44 minutes Bergholt got the goal their play and pressure deserved; a mishit clearance cleverly lifted over Lynch by the impressive McGrath to give the home side a 1-0 lead. A minute later Bergholt nearly doubled their lead, but Jay’s drive crashed off the crossbar to leave the score 1-0 at HT.

Henley looked very determined as they returned to the pitch after the break and were immediately much more in the game, Thrower cannoning a 25 yard strike off the bar 5 minutes into the 2nd half. Despite being a man short, Henley were playing some lovely football and equalised in the 55thminute, George Ablitt, twisting and turning his way past two defenders, hitting the byline and firing in a low cross, which was smashed home past Colver, by Cowan from close range for 1-1. Bergholt kept attacking but were denied by committed and brave defending by all 10 Henley players, the management using all five subs, as tired legs started to show. Even switching to three at the back as they considered nicking an unlikely win, this was never closer then in the 75th minute when George Ablitt hit the crossbar from a ridiculously tight angle. Bruce had the ball in the net on 82 minutes, but was adjudged to have fouled Bibby in winning the ball and it was disallowed. Bergholt piled forward in the closing minutes, but the Henley defence stood strong and held on for a well deserved point.

Today was a real demonstration of the strength of the Henley squad, with all 16 players used and the 3 unused all playing their part in a terrific battle against the best side we’ve faced this season. Bergholt looked impressive in every position and play some lovely football, but McGrath is a clear stand out, he looked dangerous every time the ball was at his feet and was clearly Bergholt’s MOTM. The Henley Ultra’s MOTM award was given to the squad as a whole, their desire, will and sheer refusal to yield saw them applauded off the pitch by the travelling faithful. Bergholt will feel they should’ve made more of their chances, especially in the 1st half, but Henley’s 2nd half performance was more than worthy of the point.

The game itself was a terrific advert for SIL Senior football, two fully committed teams, playing good football without a bad challenge of note in the 90 minutes, well managed throughout by referee Tebbit and his team.