It had been 184 days since Henley Hockey Club won promotion from the MBBO regional league to South Premier Division 2 on the last day of the season, and the team’s first match in their new league was against Barnes Hockey Club, a team who came forth in this league last season.
After a very good pre-season and with some new faces joining the club, Henley were keen to get their first league game underway on a rainy and rather wet Barnes pitch. The first 10 minutes were an exhilarating exchange with Barnes having the better chances. Only some good reaction saves by keeper Roy Cox and stout defending from Tony Gaze, Ed Hughes-Burn and Tom Walter kept the score at 0-0.
As the 1st half progressed and Henley got used to the wet and slow pitch, chances started to appear. Some good tackling in midfield from Captain Ed Foster and Rhys Joyce, released Geoff Joseph in the D and only some last ditch defending and early season rustiness prevented Henley going one up.
Henley were playing more hockey in Barnes’ half following this and the breakthrough finally came in the 20th minute. With Henley playing a high line, their attacking prowess finally starting to show. A quick break enabled Luke Gupta on the right to find Ed Foster at the top of the D. Foster then slapped the ball to veteran Chris Green on the left post who deflected the ball first time past the diving Barnes keeper.
It had taken just 20 minutes for Henley to get their first Southern Premier League goal and more was to follow. Just before half time, good leading and hold up work by forward Jonny Tailor enabled Henley’s midfield to flow through and join the attack. After Joyce found Taylor in the corner with an expert aerial, Tailor returned the ball to new boy David Ralph who after beating a couple of defenders at the top of the D with consummate ease, found Jeremy Hughes-Burn at the back post to put the ball into the goal from a tight angle.
Henley started the second half as they finished the first and Barnes were struggling to break down the effective Henley press. Ten minutes into the half Henley won a short corner and a well worked training ground move resulted in debutant Luke Gupta slapping the ball home first time at the left post.
Henley were now thriving and were starting to press Barnes higher up the pitch. Further good hassling from Foster, Joyce and Joseph enable Joseph to pinch the ball off the Barnes right back and drive at goal, his shot going just wide of the left hand post. Ten minutes from the end, Henley grabbed a well-deserved fourth goal, with Joyce firing the ball into the Barnes D from just outside the 23 metre line. His ball found Joseph who deflected the ball past the keeper and into the path of Green at the near post who was able to convert into an empty net.
Henley kept things tight in the final 10 minutes and saw out the remainder of the match. A great team performance and a promising start to the season. The 4-0 opening weekend win means Henley currently sit at the top of the league after one match played.
Next fixture: Eastbourne (h) – Saturday 11th October.