A large crowd of 136 gathered to see Henley crowned as SIL Senior Champions with a pulsating 5-2 victory over Ipswich Vale Exiles.

Henley were happy to have a full squad available at last, to face Ipswich Exiles in a quick return fixture, after defeating them 0-4 away only four days previously. Vale themselves, had rung the changes with a few starting who hadn’t on the Saturday and were much the stronger for it.

Vale started the better and wasted 2 or 3 good chances to take an early lead as they applied the pressure straight from the whistle. However Henley soon found their flow, Singh doing well to save from George Ablitt as he went through after 20 minutes. But five minutes later Ablitt was again played in one on one by Gav Van Oene and he made no mistake, slotting home to give Henley a 1-0 lead. On 37 minutes it was 2-0, Bruce cycling the ball back into the box after a corner and Storey looping in a header over Singh.

Although Vale continued to look dangerous, especially from set pieces, it was Henley who came closest in the early stages of the second half, both Ablitt brothers coming close and Mark Van Oene heading just wide. On 69 minutes Vale pulled a goal back, a fine through ball bisecting the home defence and a neat finish from Howard making it 2-1. This reignited Vale and they piled the pressure on, on 74 minutes their efforts were rewarded a header from Kempson crossing the line, despite Thrower’s despairing attempt at a clearance, to make it 2-2.

Henley heads didn’t drop though and only two minutes later they regained the lead, Gavin Van Oene playing Thrower in, he skipped past his man, drew the keeper, before laying the ball across for Bull to finish into the empty net for 3-2. Our Bully has had a torrid season, blighted by injury, so it was wonderful to see him being the man to get such an important goal. Henley were flying now and once again within two minutes it was 4-2, as, who else, but talisman Bruce found the net on his 200th appearance for the club, to give Henley a two goal buffer at 4-2. To their credit, Vale kept pushing, Henley defending well to keep them out. But in the 90th minute Watling put the game to bed, rounding the keeper to slot home after being put through by Bull to make the final score 5-2, with our 100th league goal of the season.

Wild celebrations, on and off the pitch, followed the final whistle, as SIL Chairman Keith Norton presented the SIL Senior trophy, applauded by the assembled crowd and very sportingly by the Vale players and staff.

To win such a prestigious trophy, with two games still remaining, speaks volumes not only about the quality of this side, but about their character, drive and commitment. Time and again this season, they’ve been up against it, time and again, they’ve shown what their made of. This was our 5th game in 15 days, we’ve won all 5, taking 15 points, scoring 22 and conceding 3. We were pushed all the way by some top quality sides, indeed only two weeks ago, there were still five sides in with a chance of finishing top and we are full of respect for them.

These lads are a real team, in every sense of the word, they’d run through walls for each other and their club, supported not only by a terrific management and coaching team, but also by a tireless committee too. Uppa Hens!