A large and good spirited crowd of 109 gathered to see out the last game of 2023, which saw Henley progress into the next round to face Kirton Athletic FC, by a large margin that doesn’t tell the full story of the game.

Sax came out of the blocks well, matching Henley across the pitch, albeit that the visitors had the majority of possession. The 1st chance fell to Henley on 6 minutes, some great skill from Cole creating the opportunity, but Liam Ablitt’s effort was cleared off the line. Sax were a constant threat and Henley needed Spurling to be at his best to make a good save after 20 minutes with the Sax striker through one on one.

Henley took the lead after 26 minutes, a fine ball from Cowan picked out White who fired in a low drive for 0-1. 5 minutes later it was 0-2, Cowan’s cross finished with a perfectly placed bullet header from Bruce from 8 yards. On 44 minutes Henley extended their lead, a through ball from Tejano, into the run of Cole, whose strike found the bottom corner for 0-3 at HT

Henley made changes after the break, Deb replacing Tejano, who’d picked up a minor knock earlier in the game. Saxmundham’s style of passing play continued to impress, but on 53 minutes it was Henley who scored again, Bruce slotting home a penalty after a handball for 0-4. Watling came off the bench and was joined by the return of Sheppard to the squad, even manager Bevis came on for a cameo appearance. To their credit Saxmundham continued to play the game in the correct manner and kept coming forward, but as they tired Henley were ruthless.

On 79 minutes Van Oene nonchalantly curled one in for 0-5.  Two minutes later Cole cut in from the left, beat his man and fired home for 0-6. On 83 minutes, Cowan’s ball found Van Oene free on the edge of the box, he made no mistake in making it 0-7. But there was still time for one more, and on 85 minutes Cole again cut in to unleash a low drive to bring the final score to 0-8.

A good performance from Henley against a determined and organised opposition, who for periods of the game matched us across the pitch. Ultimately, the differences between the sides were in the final ball, finishing and fitness levels. Our strike force drew much admiration, Cole picking up the Ultra’s MOTM, but Bruce and Van Oene also gave excellent displays, as did Cowan, who dominated in midfield. But Saxmundham deserve a lot of praise, they play a nice style of football, play as a team and are fully committed to their club, should they manage to achieve promotion, they’ll be a credit to Senior football. A word too for today’s officials, led by Mr Bradshaw, who had a fine game throughout.

The pitch and facilities at Saxmundham are first class, they’re well supported and the bar, before, during and post match was buzzing, they gave us a great welcome for which we thank them, with many Ultras staying long after the final whistle. All at Henley wish them luck for the remainder of the season.

Happy New Year All