Henley Town begin their league programme for the season in Division 1 (East) of the Uhlsport Hellenic League on Saturday when they travel to Penn and Tylers Green for a 3 p.m. kick-off.
For the second year running, an unexpected change of manager in the close season has made the club’s task more difficult. Although the circumstances surrounding the departure of John Laugharne and a number of players were regrettable, it is perhaps worth recalling that new manager Jock Mowat, when acting as caretaker, had more successes on a proportionate basis last season than either his predecessor, Gerry McGinty, or his successor, Robbie Crouch.
Pre-season results, consisting mainly of defeats by wide margins against sides from a lower level, have been discouraging, but there was a crumb of comfort for the Town when they won the annual match against Hambleden for the Stewards Cup for the seventh time running, though only after a penalty shoot-out at the Dene. Henley completely dominated the first half and might have led by more than 4-1 at half-time but for an inspired display by the Hambleden ‘keeper. The second half was a different story, with two late penalties levelling the scores for the home side.
Of those who made most appearances last season, Chris Hood, Chris Byrne, Tommy Elmore and Karol Derewenko are amongst those who have signed again. The player most missed will be Callum Carlisle, who featured in Ascot United’s 6-0 away win over Ringwood in the F.A. Cup last Saturday.
Michael Rundle, an experienced goalkeeper, made a good impression in the friendly games, but two other ‘keepers will be challenging him for the right to wear the jersey. Ed Gadd, who can play in several positions, showed great potential when he played for Henley Reserves as a 17-year-old a few years ago, and it will be interesting to see whether he has fulfilled his promise.
It is good to see that a number of new local players have signed Hellenic League forms, but, bearing in mind the large number of cups the team will be involved in in addition to its 26 league matches, more players still appear to be needed.
The Red Kites return to Division One football after a single season in the higher grade. After previous relegations, they have not always found life easy in the lower division, any more than did Wokingham and Emmbrook last season. Of the 14 teams lining up this season in Division 1 (East) only seven, including the Town, were there two years ago. Henley’s opponents range from some, such as Penn, whom they have met many times, to two, Virginia Water and Thame Rangers, who are brand new antagonists.
Above all, Henley could have done with an easy start to their league fixtures to give them more time to get their act together, but they could hardly have been handed a more difficult first few games, especially Saturday’s opening fixture. Penn have won Division 1 (East) in both the previous two seasons but have been denied promotion because of inadequate facilities, most notably the lack of floodlights. They will be keen to prove again that on the field itself they are up to Premier Division standards.
Since they first clashed, in 1973-74, they have met Henley 59 times, the Town having a narrow lead in victories obtained. Two years ago, when the Red Kites finished third, they still found the champions formidable opponents, losing 5-1 away and 3-1 at home.
One formerly familiar face at the Invesco Perpetual Triangle, Danny Blatchford, has moved to French School Meadow this season.
Henley Town FC Lottery
The winning number for 4th August 2017 is No. 27 – Chris Abbott £50.00 From Old Windsor
If you or a Friend would like to join the ‘Friends of Henley Town FC Bonus Ball Lottery and help raise money for the club you can pick up an entry form from the Clubhouse, contact Tony Kingston the promoter on 07712139592. The winner will be published every week in the Henley Standard, the Henley Herald, and on www.henleytownfc.co.uk