Only a week after Henley’s 3-4 league victory at Halesworth, these two great rivals were thrown together in the opening round of the Suffolk Senior Cup. The 97 spectators, once again treated to a pulsating display of football, Henley again triumphing, this time on penalties after a hard fought 2-2 draw.

Both sides looked fully up for the contest from the 1st whistle, probing for opportunities and defending resolutely. In only the 2nd minute, the game was held up, with Halesworth’s Newson receiving a head injury during a challenge from a Henley corner, visibly groggy, sadly he had to be substituted.

Battle recommenced and it was the visitors who took 1st blood after 19 minutes, Halesworth awarded a softish penalty, with Bell adjudged to have impeded Goldspink in the box, which Summerfield dispatched with his usual aplomb, low to Spurling’s right for 0-1. However their lead didn’t remain intact for long, Henley equalising after 25 minutes. Driver’s low shot from distance was palmed away by keeper Wickham, but Tejano was first to react, burying the ball into the roof of the net for 1-1. On 30 minutes a fine effort from Cowan, whipped narrowly past the post and just before the break Wickham made a superb athletic stop to deny a stinging volley from Hammond, leaving the score 1-1 at the break.

The referee had made the, good, choice of speaking to players, rather than booking them in the first period, but the repeated fouls became too much for him and in the 2nd half his cards came out. 0n 53 minutes, Summerfield did well to get on the end of a long ball, tricked his way through and finished well to give the visitors a 1-2 lead. During the build up, there was a foul and some “handbags” in the Halesworth half, which the referee dealt with, after the goal went in. The inevitable legacy of two rivals playing each other twice in a week, was leading to some niggles, which again the referee dealt with well, calling both Captain’s together and laying down the law very effectively, nipping the problem in the bud. Henley felt rather hard done by after 60 minutes, George Ablitt weaving his way through two challenges before being brought down in the box, but despite Henley protests the referee waved away their appeal for, what looked from the sidelines at least, a fairly certain pen.

As Henley threw everything forward, it gave Halesworth chances at the back, Spurling being called upon to make a magnificent flying save to tip over a fierce volley from Reed. Henley kept pushing, Van Oene, Bruce and Bull all having efforts wide or saved, Wickham getting fingertips on Liam Ablitt’s low drive to turn it onto the post and to safety. On 75 minutes Summerfield should’ve sealed the win for the visitors, but he over complicated things and his shot from close range was well saved by Spurling. Henley though, refused to give in and were finally rewarded when after 88 minutes “Lucky” Liam Ablitt spotted Wickham off his line and lobbed him from 20 yards to make it 2-2 and send the assembled Ultras wild. Both sides pushed for a winner in time added on, but it ended at 2-2 and the game went to penalties.

Summerfield went 1st for Halesworth, putting it in the same place as his penalty during the game, but this time Spurling guessed right and saved well. Van Oene smashed home to make it 1-0, Goldspink scored his to bring it to 1-1, Cowan scores to make it 2-1 after 2 penalties each. Spurling again the hero to save Halesworth’s 3rd from Payne, Hammond, coolness personified picked his spot to make it 3-1. Smith sent Spurling the wrong way to bring it to 3-2, but to no avail as Liam Ablitt rifled home to win the shootout 4-2 and send Henley through to the next round.

As is always the case when these two sides meet, this was a game played at 100 mph, with no quarter, either given or expected, always competitive until the very last kick. Make no mistake, Halesworth are a terrific side, skilful, hard working with a great team ethic. But, yet again today, Henley showed their grit, commitment and teamwork, and despite a heroic display of goalkeeping from Spurling, Liam Ablitt’s guile and superb equaliser, it was MOTM Cowan who epitomised that Henley spirit, he covered every blade of grass, fought for every header and tackle and charged forward at every opportunity, simply outstanding.