Henley 2nd XI 2 Sonning 3rd XI 0
Henley 2s climbed one more place in the league to second this week with another solid performance against local rivals Sonning.
On the back of an impressive start to the season that has already seen them keep 3 successive clean sheets, the 2s welcomed Sonning’s 3rd XI to Jubilee Park with confidence in the team running high. This was evident in the early stages of the match as the home side dominated possession. The back four were transferring the ball around nicely, orchestrated in the middle by Rowan Austin and Jeremy Clarke with the fullbacks, Roberts and Wiseman, looking to work the ball up the flanks to launch early attacks. Wiseman’s long aerial balls in particular were a constant cause of discomfort for the visitors.
In the middle of the park, it was bit more of a scrap as Sonning looked to make a battle of it. Whilst never looking likely to open Henley up with free-flowing passing moves they did have a few canny players, particularly down the centre. Most of the progress they did make came from advancing down the middle and drawing fouls to drive on from again. On the whole though, Henley’s midfield trio of Draycott, Boumphrey, skipper Alex Price and boosted by the fresh legs of Andy Mansfield kept their discipline, organisation and work rate high to dominate the midfield area and free up the defence to act as the base for solid possession.
Up top, Henley shuffled their pack slightly. With Chris Maidlow promoted to the 1s this week, Jeremy Hughes-Burne moved out to the left hand side of the attack and Terry Pollard tried his hand as centre forward whilst Guy Harmer continued his tireless work on the right of the attack. James Wood also adopted a higher role rolling on with the forwards to keep things fresh up front and making sure the Sonning defence were not afforded a moments rest.
For all that it was a comfortable first half though, Henley failed to make much of it with most of their threat around the D and not enough inside it. Their best opportunities came from short corners but this too was stuttering in the first half. They had to wait till quite late in the game to claim the points and in fact it was the visitors who came close to opening the scoring mid-way through the second half. A niggly period of play saw Sonning reduced briefly to 9 players as Yellow cards were issued for first deliberately encroaching on a free hit and subsequently for too much chatter from the side-lines for the umpires liking. Oddly, this seemed to have a more negative effect on Henley’s game than Sonning’s and their levels dropped for a spell. Not long after being restored to 11-a-side, a well placed through ball snuck between Austin and Roberts and left a midfielder bearing down on goal. Dave Bowyer though, making his first league appearance for the 2s this season, came out strongly and blocked the shot superbly. After a quiet first half, he kept his concentration well to make a couple more big saves in the second and bossed his D when Henley were having a little wobble, keeping the sheets clean for a 4th week in a row.
With about 10 minutes remaining, Henley finally got the breakthrough. The short corner routine had been getting steadily closer and closer in the second half, but it was a broken down move that eventually led to the opening goal. Roberts’ flick was comfortably saved but only pushed out as far as Pollard on the left who swept back across the D for Price to run on to and steer in to the right side of the net. Finally, with barely a minute left on the clock Harmer received the ball just inside the top of the D and turned in sharply on the defender to win another short corner which Oscar Wiseman blasted in the bottom left corner to settle it at 2-0.
Henley will be hoping to continue their good run next week when they travel to Abingdon.