If there were any neutrals present amongst the 96 who baked in the sun to watch this game, which judging by the vociferous nature of the support for both teams, would seem to be unlikely, they were treated to a real feast of football. Two top sides, who despite the heat, left everything on the pitch, exchanging goals like heavyweights trading punches, Henley finding the knockout blow with only 10 minutes remaining.

Both sides had some early opportunities, well dealt with by the respective defences. But it was Henley who struck first after 18 minutes, a fine ball forward from Storey finding Bruce, his ball across goal was met by Watling, who neatly flicked home his, by now customary, goal at Halesworth for 0-1.

Halesworth were right back in it 5 minutes later, Spurling diving low to his right to push a Summerfield free-kick around the post. From the subsequent corner, Payne headed the ball to Garrard who crashed in a terrific volley in off the underside of the bar to make it 1-1, also maintaining his tradition of scoring worldies against Henley.

With Halesworth inspired by this comeback, Henley had their backs to the wall as the home side pushed forward, leading to an entertaining, albeit controversial 5 minutes! Halesworth won a freekick after 27 minutes, Backhouse whipping the ball in from distance, which went straight in without touching anybody. However the club official’s flag was raised and after discussions with the referee the goal was disallowed, the Halesworth player in front of Henley keeper Spurling, was both offside when the kick was taken and adjudged to have made an effort to play the ball. 2 minutes later the flag once again caused frustration for Halesworth, Goldspink and Summerfield breaking through two on one against Bell, but Goldspink delayed his pass too long to Summerfield who had made his run too early, seeing his curling shot rightly disallowed. To add to Halesworth’s frustration, Liam Ablitt took full advantage of a miscommunication at the back, bravely putting himself between defender and keeper to nick the ball and roll it into the unguarded net for 1-2 after 30 minutes. Despite further efforts at HT the score remained 1-2.

Spurling was again called into action early in the 2nd half, making a great save to deny the ever dangerous Summerfield before Henley struck again on 50 minutes. Cowan, winning the ball and bringing it out of defence, he found Bradlaugh in the centre circle, whose slide rule pass perfectly bisected the Halesworth defence, sending Liam Ablitt through one on one with keeper Wickham, he flicked it past, rounding the now grounded keeper and rolled home for 1-3. Spurling yet again had to be quick off his line to beat Goldspink to the ball and yet again had to save from Summerfield, But the Halesworth pressure told and on 60 minutes they pulled a goal back, a Backhouse freekick bundled home from close range by Summerfield after a collision between the Henley defence and keeper to make it 2-3.

This inspired Halesworth’s best period of the game as they poured forward looking for the equaliser, Goldspink’s fierce drive rattling the crossbar after 69 minutes, another effort from the same player pushed wide by Spurling with yet another top save. But it was to be third time lucky for Goldspink, who’s fantastic 25 yard curling drive, finally beat Spurling after 74 minutes to make it 3-3.

With both sides probing for the winner, Henley were gifted a man advantage after 78 minutes, Summerfield sinbinned for his comments to the referee. Henley took full advantage when on 80 minutes the Ablitt brothers combined, Liam showing his skills to pick out his brother George, sending him through to fire home for 3-4.

Despite the intense heat, both sides kept pushing to the final whistle, giving their all for their respective clubs, but it was the visitors that ran out 3-4 winners in a game which, perhaps would have more deservedly ended with honours even.

The Ultra’s vote for MOTM went to Liam Ablitt, who gave the home defence a torrid time throughout the 90 minutes, but Cowan ran him close, celebrating his 150th club appearance with an all action, fully committed performance. Another strong showing from this team, who consistently seem to be able to find another gear when it’s needed. Lots of credit to Halesworth too, it’s always a battle between these two evenly matched sides, rarely separated by more than a single goal, and always producing a terrific spectacle. I expect next Saturday’s quick rematch in the Senior Cup, will bring more of the same.