Paul Deacon, the correspondent of Ransomes Sports FC, made a comment on Twitter this week about this fixture “Should be a barnstormer”, which although true, probably didn’t do the match justice. The 71 spectators saw the top 2 in the division go toe to toe for the best part of 100 minutes, a display of commitment, endeavour and sheer bloody-mindedness from all involved, with only a team goal of the highest quality separating the two sides.

Injuries to Storey and Shore saw Smythe and Bull step into the starting 11 for Henley, who were also pleased to welcome back Dale Hammond and last season’s top scorer Connor Field to the bench after long absences.

Both teams went at it from the opening whistle, but Henley’s midfield started to take control of the game, however it was an uncharacteristic error from Spurling after 18 minutes that presented Trimley with the 1st clear opportunity of the game, but the chance was blazed high and wide with the goal at their mercy.  Four minutes later and Henley were piling on the pressure, Trimley forced to clear their goal line twice in quick succession in a goalmouth scramble. Shortly after a low drive from Bruce forced Punter into a save low at his near post.

The pressure finally told after 30 minutes, when Ablitt’s corner was firmly headed home at the near post by Cole to make it 0-1. There had been some heavy challenges flying around, but on 40 minutes the Trimley number 5 was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card when he left stud marks down Ablitt’s back. Yet another foul presented Henley with a freekick on the edge of the box which Van Oene flashed just past the post as the score remained 0-1 at HT.

The 2nd half started in a niggly fashion, a flurry of yellow cards culminated with Van Oene being sinbinned, and although Trimley piled forward, they failed to take advantage of the numerical advantage. On the hour mark Henley came close to extending their lead, an absolute rocket of a freekick from Bruce, from fully 35 yards, smashed off the underside of the bar, Hammond hit the rebound on the volley, pulling a terrific flying save from Punter. On 65 minutes Henley gave away a silly corner and Trimley pulled off something special, with one straight off the training ground, the shot arrowing in from the edge of the area, miraculously Spurling managed to get a hand to it, but could do nothing to prevent Harvey firing in the rebound from close range for 1-1.

This produced Trimley’s best part of the game, reinvigorated by their equaliser, they streamed forward confining Henley into their defensive third, however they struggled to hit the target. But the Henley defence held firm, Smythe rolling back the years alongside Bell with Bull impressing at left back and Cole playing out of position after injuries to White and Hammond at right back. Again Henley’s sheer will saw them through and they were rewarded with a great team goal after 77 minutes. Cole won the ball at right back and brought it forward, passing infield to Cowan, his pinpoint pass bisected the Trimley defence to pick out Bruce’s well timed run in from the left, Bruce shaped to shoot, drawing Punter into protecting his near post, before rolling the ball across the face of goal where it was put into the net by Watling sliding in at the back post for 1-2.

Trimley were throwing everything at Henley now and on 80 minutes Cowan bravely blocked on the goal line, further efforts again going wide. As the clock hit 90 minutes Henley were denied a penalty as Field was floored whilst trying to hold the ball up. Tempers flared in time added on, Van Oene seeing a red card for an off the ball incident and Spurling being clattered as he put his body on the line to preserve Henley’s lead.

But despite Trimley’s best efforts, they couldn’t take advantage of the extra man and force a way through Henley’s defence, who saw the game out for a hard fought and important victory.

Trimley will feel, probably correctly, that their 2nd half performance was worthy of a point, in truth neither side could’ve complained at a point apiece, Harvey was their standout player, he looked dangerous every time he got the ball.

Praise too for referee Paul Kitson and his assistants, who did a great job officiating such an attritional encounter, which he seemed to enjoy as much as any player or spectator.

For Henley, the Ultra’s MOTM went, once again to Jamie Cowan who delivered yet another imperious performance in midfield, Tejano drew plenty of praise too as did Bull and Smythe, who put their bodies on the line time and again for the club. But, all 16 who played did their part today, in what was a big win against a fine Trimley side. Look out for the highlights video later in the week!