A crowd of 56 saw a dominant Henley, surrender a two-goal lead, late in the game, to gift Sporting an unexpected point, with a final score of 2-2.

Injuries and absences forced Henley into an unusual starting line-up, but one that played some of the best football we’ve seen so far this season. Dominating from the 1st whistle Henley took the game to their strong opponents, home keeper Waterfield making two terrific stops early in the game to deny Field and Bruce. The breakthrough came after 24 minutes, when Tejano was, somewhat harshly, adjudged to have been brought down in the box, despite Sporting’s protestations and no appeals from Henley, the penalty was awarded and Bruce made no mistake, smashing the ball home for 0-1.

Henley were flying now, their passing game in full flow and once again after 30 minutes Waterfield was the Sporting hero, pulling off yet another great save to keep out Field’s vicious drive. But despite Henley’s dominance, Dixon not having the make a save all half, the score remained 0-1 at HT.

Henley started the 2nd period, as they ended the 1st, and added to their lead in the 48th minute. A truly fine goal, with Ablitt winning back possession close to halfway, beating two players and picking out Bruce on the edge of the box, Bruce held the ball up superbly under pressure, before rolling it into Ablitt’s path, having continued his run, he stroked the ball into the bottom corner for a deserved 0-2 lead.

Immediately after, at the other end, Sporting had their 1st real effort of the match, Bell the Henley hero, throwing himself in to block what would’ve been a certain goal from six yards out. On 57 minutes Bruce saw his effort crash back off the crossbar, minutes later another shot from him flew just over, Field also seeing a header scrape past the upright. Shortly after Henley were frustrated to be denied what looked like a fairly clearcut penalty, as Ablitt was pulled down close to the touchline.

On 77 minutes the penalty count was evened up, gifting Sporting a route back into the game, the ball hitting White’s arm, and even though it was by his side, and with no appeals from Sporting, the spot-kick was awarded and despatched firmly by Lebbon for 1-2. Henley were further impeded by a frustrated Ablitt being sinbinned for his protestations. Within minutes Sporting thought they’d equalised, but the goal was disallowed for an offside flag.

Despite being a man down and under pressure, Henley still looked comfortable and were doing the majority of the attacking, although young Bennett on the left for Sporting posed a constant threat. This all changed in the 88th minute, when, what initially appeared to be a standard, safe, pass back to Henley keeper Dixon, was intercepted by, an unseen by all, Sporting attacker who was kneeling to tie his laces behind Dixon, some seem to think he may’ve returned from off the pitch, but I, like everyone else, didn’t see him until he won the ball, the video will undoubtably show what happened. After a bit of a scramble he found a pass and Pettitt finished for a score of 2-2.

A stunned Henley didn’t give up though and with Ablitt back on the pitch pushed hard for the winner, alas it was not to be, as again they were cruelly denied the most obvious of penalties in time added on, Ablitt’s trickery, yet again too much for a defender, seeing him felled in the six-yard box. But appeals, were waved away and the game finished 2-2.

A difficult result to take, especially after such an excellent performance, with all of the squad playing their part, White, playing out of his usual position, unanimously winning the Ultra’s MOTM vote, Bradlaugh commanding and Ablitt dangerous throughout. Sporting will be more than happy with the unexpected point, they are a class club showing determination throughout the 90 minutes and were as gracious as ever post match. All at Henley wish them well for the rest of the season.

Having benefited from some “soft” spot-kicks awards ourselves recently, neutral observers may view this as a case of evening up. But despite the late penalty denied, one so blatant that even the ardent home support, Sporting players and management were astonished to not see it given, it must be remembered that it was still ultimately an unforced Henley error that saw us drop the points on the day.

With Assistant Referees available, I’m confident that decisions would’ve been different, something other teams have also suffered with already this season, but we must remember that it’s the overflowing expression of frustration, directed towards referees, that is at least, partly responsible for the lack of officials in the first place. Football is a game of emotions, on and off the field of play and we are all, jointly responsible for keeping those emotions in check, if we don’t want the situation to worsen further.