The U15 AFC Henley Hurricanes went on a European tour of Denmark, playing three games over the Easter weekend and returned home undefeated.
The tour would not have been able to go ahead without the essential donations from The Henley Lions and The Henley Educational Trust, the sponsorship of Total Negotiation Ltd, a local Henley company specialising in corporate strategy led by Mark Cranstoun, and the help and support of the parents of the players.
SHOULD THE HURRICANES HAVE WON? PROBABLY…
The first game the Hurricanes played was on the Friday evening against the U16 team of Vaerlose BK.
You might have expected the visitors to be particularly sluggish following their very early start from Heathrow that morning but nothing could have been further from the truth!
After 39 seconds Joe Winpenny played Christian Rowbotham in down the right channel. Rowbotham slipped the ball into the path of Harvey Herbert who did not have to break stride as he chipped the ball first time from around 10 yards out, lifting it over the onrushing keeper and into the net to send the away contingent in the crowd into a frenzy.
This early setback sparked the hosts into life and centre backs Luca Thomson and James Penkethman had to be at their very best to stop the marauding Vaerlose front line. However, just before half time the Hurricanes hit the self-destruct button as the defence tried to over play on the edge of their own box and Vaerlose needed no second invitation to hit the equaliser as the teams went into the break even at 1-1.
Oliver Saunders was anchoring the midfield and protecting the back line from the pillaging Vaerlose forwards whilst setting the tone in attack.
Midway through the second half though the hosts took the lead and it was former player Nicolai Bruun-Andersen who came back to haunt his old team.
A good cross field pass found its way into the Hurricanes’ penalty area and Bruun-Andersen was quickest to react as he ran across the defence to expertly guide the ball home.
2-1 down and with their backs against the wall the Hurricanes had to dig deep and goal keeper Freddie Sayer had to pull off a Gordon Banks-esque save to keep his team in the game. A free kick 25 yards out was driven goal-wards and was dipping just beneath the bar before Sayer’s out stretched finger tips managed to divert the ball onto the bar and away to safety.
This galvanised the visitors into action and man of the match Alfie Agar was key in getting the Hurricanes back in the game with his hunger for a tackle and eye for a pass.
Tom Atkinson forced a corner down the right and Rowbotham took it quickly. He found the head of Herbert who flicked it onto the far post where Joe Turner was lurking. Turner let the ball bounce before deftly heading the ball into the corner of the net to bring the scores level.
The game was up for grabs now and it was Rowbotham who really should have won the match for the tourists. Sam Archibald’s lovely through ball saw Rowbotham race away down the inside right channel and score before the referee flagged controversially for offside.
Such was the injustice that Rowbotham felt that he found himself with a yellow card and sinbinned for 10 minutes.
The Hurricanes now had to dig in and Max Cranstoun was key in keeping the Danes at bay as his no nonsense tackling was enough to see the game out as it ended 2-2.
“ALAS, POOR SKJOLD…”
The undefeated Hurricanes awoke on Saturday morning to the Queen of Denmark’s birthday. However, the Hurricanes were to provide no royal celebration as they could only put on a Shakespearian tragedy for the locals the likes of which Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, was used to providing.
The opponents were Skjold Bikerod, a slick passing team from the suburbs of Copenhagen. In the opening twenty minutes of the game it was all Skjold as they passed the ball around imperiously as the Hurricanes couldn’t get near the opposition.
It took a majestic strike form Agar to break the deadlock that was totally against the run of play. Rowbotham slipped the ball to Agar 25 yards from goal and a fine first time effort flew into the top corner of the net to give the visitors the lead.
This seemed to settle the Hurricanes down and they soon began to find their stride as they went 2-0 up shortly afterwards. Rowbotham broke from midfield and split the Skjold back line with a perfectly weighted through ball to Herbert. Herbert needed no second invitation to guide the ball past the keeper to double the visitors’ advantage.
The Hurricanes were now on the charge and a perfectly flighted corner by Atkinson found the head of Thomson on the edge of the 6 yard box and he thumped his header home to make it 3 0.
Skjold weren’t done with though and they scored a good goal just before the break to make it 4-1 at the interval.
The second half was a much quieter affair but it did contain a goal of rare quality from the Hurricanes. In a move that started at the back there were nine (NINE) consecutive passes before the ball found the back of the Skjold net.
It started with the sublime back four as Archibald started the move turning inside to give the ball to man of the match Saunders, then Penkethman and Winpenny, to Agar and Cranstoun and then to Bruun-Andersen who had pulled on the red and black of his old team again. It was Bruun-Andersen who found the key pass though unlocking the Skjold defence with an inch perfect ball through to Turner. Turner then played in Rowbotham down the right and Rowbotham beat 2 players before delivering a cross to the far post where Turner was on hand to calmly place the ball into the net to notch a goal Brazil would have been proud of.
Despite being 4 goals to the good the visitors still felt it necessary to try and implode as both Winpenny and Penkethman felt it necessary to display the Bull dog spirit as they found themselves in the sin bin following a yellow card a piece. The ever reliable Sayer was called into action on a couple of occasions subsequently but his sound handling and astute positioning as sweeper keeper meant that the visitors’ defence was not breached and the Hurricanes comfortably saw out the remainder of the game as they ran out 5-1 winners.
After the game the boys were rewarded with a trip around Tivoli theme park which was thoroughly enjoyed by both boys and parents alike.
The Hurricanes awoke to glorious sunshine on the Sunday morning of their European adventure although there were some sleepy heads in the party after their late night adventures in the theme park.
Their opponents were Hareskov IF who were again a compact, well organised team from Copenhagen.
The Hurricanes were slow out of the blocks and almost conceded in the first minute as a through ball was not cut out and the team were relieved to hear the off side whistle go.
In all honesty it was a laboured first half performance as it seemed the lack of sleep and playing a third game in three days was finally catching up on the team.
Hareskov were passing the ball around sweetly and the centre back pairing of Cranstoun and Penkethman had to be alert to cut out the dangerous through balls.
However half way through the first half the Hurricanes broke through against the run of play. Atkinson played in Turner who broke from midfield and went on a surging run into the heart of the Hareskov defence. Having drawn three defenders he slipped the ball to Rowbotham on his left and Rowbotham made no mistake from 10 yards out as he fired the tourists into the lead.
Defenders Winpenny and Thomson were called into action as the Hurricanes failed to build on their lead and they had to be at their best to make sure the visitors went into half time 1 0 up.
After a wake-up call from the managers during the break the Hurricanes started the second half in much brighter fashion.
Agar was starting to run the show in midfield as he pulled the strings that allowed the Hurricanes to play to their own tune.
Sayer launched the ball down field and in a move that the crazy gang of Wimbledon would have been proud of the ball was allowed to bounce once before Herbert controlled it on his chest and fired past the keeper in a devastatingly simple attack.
The Hurricanes were now looking to put the cherry on top of their Denmark tour and it was left to Turner to finish the job.
Herbert turned provider as he fed Turner in the inside left channel and Turner capped a marvellous tour by finishing superbly as the tourists ran out 3 0 winners to finish their European adventure undefeated.
Tour awards were given out after the match with Sam Archibald and Oliver Saunders given players of the tour, Nicolai Bruun-Andersen top International player whilst Harvey Herbert and Joe Turner were joint top goal scorers.
Managers Turner and Atkinson were said to be delighted by the way tour had gone and if Carlsberg had organised football tours then it wouldn’t have gone any better. They added that they were very proud of the way the boys had conducted themselves both on and off the pitch. They also wanted to reiterate their thanks to the Henley Lions, HET and Total Negotiation Ltd and also for the support of the parents.