Unbeaten in their last 2 games, AFC Henley U12 Hotspurs confidence was high as they travelled to Finchampstead Flyers for a tie for the U12 Cup.
The Hotspurs started brightly with strikers Jake Williams and Will O’Hagan testing the Finchampstead defence with some probing runs and passes. However, it was the home side who took an early lead when a confused goalmouth scramble lead to a penalty that the Flyers clinically put away. Henley responded well and increased the pressure, with Tom Francis having a brace of shots on goal forcing good saves from the Flyers keeper. Freddie Piasecki & Jack Scanlon dominated the midfield with Jack making a number of mazey runs through the home defence, in a performance that would see him awarded Man of the Match.
The pressure soon paid off with a beautifully struck free-kick from Stanley Massie, a good 10 yards outside the penalty box, that beat the home keeper going into the top of the net. There was a typically rock-solid display from Harry Wildgoose and Lucas Hendley in defence for Henley, with both making some well timed tackles that helped keep the score 1-1 at half time.
The second half started at a frantic pace with both sides looking to take the lead. Good build up and passing from Will O’Hagan in midfield saw Freddie Formon and Max Cranstoun both have chances but they were unable find the back of the net. Against the run of play a counter attack from the home side saw them take the lead with a cleanly taken individual run and strike by the Flyers forward. Ben Palmer the Henley goal-keeper then made an outstanding save diving low to his right to deny the home side the chance to extend their lead further. With time running out for Henley a cross from Taro Finch from the right wing found Jake Williams in the Flyers penalty area who slotted in the equaliser with nice control and a clinical finish.
With the score 2-2 at full time the game needed to be decided by penalties, best out of 5 then sudden death if the scores were still even. Winning the toss Captain Ben Palmer elected for the vistors to shoot first. Henley and Finchampstead both missed their first penalties, Freddie Piasecki then slotted home his shot into the bottom left-hand corner. With pressure mounting Ben Palmer pulled off an outstanding save diving to his right to deny the Flyers penalty taker. Taro Finch and Max Cranstoun both stepped up and scored with well taken shots which were matched by the home side in their turn. With the shoot-out score at 3-2, Henley needed to score the last of their 5 penalties to secure a place in the next round of the cup. If he was feeling the pressure, Stanley Massie didn’t show it, as he nervelessly fired his shot into the back of the net, giving Henley a well fought victory.