A slight twist on the old adage of “A game of two halves” was played out at the Community Centre yesterday, in front of a crowd of 89. An almost eventless 1st half, followed by an incident packed 2nd saw the home side win 2-0.

After facing Stowupland Falcons in last year’s Morrison Freight Final, where they were the only team that prevented us from scoring in the entirety of last season, we knew we had a tough battle on our hands. And so it proved, with less than a handful of exceptions, the opening half was two sides probing for weaknesses and trying to find a pathway through two well organised defences. Falcons, with their height, looking dangerous from set pieces, which saw Storey clear off the goal line following one of many corners, and Spurling tip away a free kick from Dye, whilst Henley saw shots from Watling and both Ablitt brothers comfortably saved. Van Oene saw a yellow for a “take one for the team” challenge mid half.

The second half was considerably spicier, a few challenges and fouls raising the temperature both on and off the pitch. Henley looked to have taken a lead after 60 minutes, a snapshot from range by Liam Ablitt, hit the foot of the post, the rebound stroked home by Cowan on the run, however the goal was denied by what must’ve been a tight flag for offside. Stowupland full back Hart, was fortunate not to be carded for bundling Liam Ablitt into a hoarding, directly in front of the Henley Ultras, something that would eventually lead to later yellows for both as the niggle festered.

The game turned in the space of little more than a minute, a Liam Ablitt corner, knocked down by Storey and bundled home from close range by Cowan after 68 minutes made it 1-0. Henley won the ball back from the restart and charged forward, Cole burst into the box and just as he was setting himself to shoot, had his legs swept away from him. Van Oene smashing home the subsequent penalty to make it 2-0 after 69 minutes.

The remainder of the game continued much in the vein of the 1st half, as the Falcons pushed hard to get back in the game, just as Henley pushed hard to increase their lead, but as before both defences held firm and neither keeper had to perform heroics as the game finished with a 2-0 home win.

An incredibly tight game, won by narrow margins, against a very good and extremely well organised Falcons side, who, as we suspected they would be, after our final clash last season, are a credit to the Senior Division. Although some aspects of his play drew anger from the assembled Ultras, Hart was the visitor’s MOTM, tough, quick and skilful, one of those players that you hate as an opponent, but you’d love on your side and there’s no higher praise than that.

For Henley it was all round man of action Cowan who won the Ultra’s MOTM vote, seemingly everywhere at once, both in attack and defence, he crowned his superb performance with a goal. Bell ran him close, as he gave another brilliant display in defence, him skipping out from the back, twisting through two pressurising attackers, brought the biggest cheer of the day and will live long in the memory.

All in all, whilst not the prettiest of victories, a win is a win and it’s the 3 points in the bag that count, especially as in our opening 7 games, we’ve now played the other 5 of the current top 6 clubs.
An early reminder that next Saturday’s Senior Cup game at Cornard Utd is now a 15.00 KO.