A short trip south (of the river)
Old guard hold out for a draw.
Henley travelled the short distance to Sonning Lane to face very local rivals some 3 places higher than them in the league. With 2 key ‘younger’ (i.e. less than 40!) players absent Henley were fielding a team with a somewhat daunting average age of 42 hoping that experience would count against what was clearly a much younger and somewhat sprightly opposition comprising as it did of 5 players under 18.
The first quarter was difficult for Henley with Reading controlling the game and the only respite affording the visitors being the odd foray into the opposition half, which were quickly closed down by the Reading defence. However, persistence paid and following the winning of a long corner the ball was distributed around the opposition D and feed through to James Moore who expertly beat 2 opposition players and calmly slotted home. The remainder of the half was played out with Henley now having much more of the play as Reading seemed somewhat surprised to find themselves a goal down.
The second half started much as the first did with Reading again in the ascendance, fine defending from Ed Newbold and Simon Ward supported ably in mid-field by the composure and distribution of Richard Nicholson kept the storm at bay. Slowly Henley managed to come back into the game and following perhaps the best move the game the ball was worked from Richard Nicholson out to the left where Andy Green’s cross was expertly met by a reverse stick flick from Ewan Watkins into the roof of the Reading goal. If Reading were stunned by the first goal they were totally overwhelmed by the second. Try as they might Henley couldn’t build on the advantage and slowly but surely the younger legs Reading began to tell.
Henley dropped deeper and deeper into their own half and the last quarter become like a scene form Assault on Precinct 13 with 10 men behind the ball and all hands to the pump. Somewhat controversially Ed Newbold received a green card and the pressure grew exponentially. From a short corner a shot seemingly going wide of the post struck Simon Ward on the foot and despite vociferous and demonstrative objection by certain Henley players a Penalty Flick was awarded, try as he might keeper Mike Cordrey was unable to keep the ball out.
From the restart with Ed Newbold back in the middle of defence Henley seemed stronger and even made a break or two themselves, however with the clock ticking down Reading were awarded a relentless series of short corners from which they eventually scored to make it 2-2. With seconds left another short was awarded, the whistle blown for full time and somehow what looked like the inevitability of a winning goal loomed. However, with 1 last lung burning surge of defiance James Moore got to the striker before he could shoot and cleared the ball out of the D to the relief of the visitors
Overall a draw was probably the right result but Henley could so easily have secured all 3 points, at the end of the day the younger legs were just too much for the tiring limbs of the HHC 4th XI.