Henley ‘leave’ it too late as Oxford clinch victory
Away defeat for amber and blues
A sunny, autumnal afternoon in Oxford set the scene for a lively encounter between Henley and league new comers Oxford University. Following an inch-perfect parallel park by the Henley Interim manager, Ian Heggie, the manager and his team entered the Oxford University stadium brimming with confidence. With the player-coach, Rhys Joyce, overseas trying to persuade former Henley and Oxford University midfield maestro, Ross Hibberd, to return to the club, the interim manager saw an opportunity to convince the Henley HC board of what he could bring to the table and push closer to securing that permanent contract - only time will tell.
The new innovative, leaf-based astro turf at Oxford University got another run out in the Southern Premier League. It has been rumoured that this new technology will be further tested out at the World Hockey League in the coming months. With a full stadium of support, it was Oxford University who started the livelier of the two sides, and it was clear that Ian Heggie would need to bring his tactical A-game.
Oxford University were rewarded for their early pressure with a swift move down the left wing making it 1-0 with little time on the umpire’s watch. The interim manager of Henley was now scratching his head as another wave of pressure came from the home side, with Henley goal keeper, Roy Cox, pulling off a fine string of saves to keep the score line in reaching distance. On came in-form striker, Jeoffy Goseff, as Heggie began to work his managerial magic. The ever energetic, Alex Land, linked up well with the front line and leaves flew up into the air as he weaved through the Oxford University defence. The ball was suddenly in the stratosphere following a rebound off the Oxford University keeper, but not for long as an Alex-Land-slam brought the ball back down to earth and into the goal taking the home side by surprise and levelling the score. Shortly after Henley were leading 1-2 with the greatest of all time, Chris Green, slotting in calmly from a few yards. The away fan was in full voice – “he’s one of our own” as Chris Green jogged back to the half way line with a trade-mark single finger raised. Oxford University continued to press, and levelled the score with sublime finish from the top of the D and then took lead twice with two not so sublime shots on goal. The half ended 4-2 to the home side.
Ian Heggie rallied the troops in the goal mouth and decided the shake things up with a tactical change. The interim manager then showed an act of unprofessionalism with what can what only be described as rude daubings graffitied all over his tactics board. The Henley players rolled their eyes and as they were not surprised, but could help feel this wasn’t the time or the place for such horseplay. This behaviour was reported to the board shortly after the game, as it wasn’t considered highly inappropriate and quite frankly not very Henley. What punishment Ian Heggie is to receive is yet to be revealed, but one can only imagine it will not help his cause in securing that elusive permeant contract. Despite this mishap, Ian Heggie motivated his team and the second half got off to a similar lively start to the first, with Oxford University continuing to press high. A few crunching tackles came in from both sides, but it was Henley who would receive the first yellow card of the game. With both sides evenly matched at this point a penalty flick was awarded to the away side as a goal was denied with foul play. With the pressure building, the midfield linch-pin, Hetherington, let off an absolute rocket from the penalty spot, proving too hot to handle for the impressive Oxford Uni goalkeeper. Play was stopped for a moment whilst the backboard of the goal was replaced. With Henley back in reaching distance, they pushed for the equalizer applying pressure from the front, with Goseff nipping away at the Oxford University heal.
The game stepped up a gear in the final 15 minutes, with tackles flying in from both sides. However, it was Henley to receive the first yellow card of the game. The umpires then decided to play a game Uno dishing out some more yellow cards, with one umpire particularly keen to get rid of all his cards. With the Henley bench looking more yellow by the minute, Ian Heggie’s face turning redder, and the umpire crying ‘Uno’ as he was down to his last playing card, Oxford dealt their final hand with a brace of goals leaving the final score 6-3.
Whilst the interim manager showed some excellent tactical flexibility, the board will be looking for an improved, and more professional performance from the interim manager in the upcoming weeks. Henley welcome London Edwardians to Jubilee Park this Saturday, where they will be looking to maintain their 100% home record.