Henley quell Phoenix's fire
Last second equaliser spares visitors' blushes
On Saturday, Henley welcomed league leaders Phoenix & Ranelagh to Jubilee Park. Having scored 21 goals in the first 3 games in the season, the task ahead of the Henley players was obvious - limit the impact of the opposition's danger men and play to their own strengths.
The opening encounters were disjointed whilst both teams felt their way into the game, however as the things settled down it became apparent that an exciting game was to unfold. Henley's recent refresh of the midfield pairing of Measures and Pratt, which had started to come good the previous week, became dominant, both creating opportunities on their two flanks and thwarting the Phoenix players from making any incisions deep enough in Henley territory to have any effect. The Henley forwards were disciplined in ensuring the structure of the team play remained solid and this bore fruit as they created havoc within the Phoenix defence, and produced a number of penalty corners, but despite a few near misses ultimately these were not converted.
Despite the pressure, first blood went to Phoenix when they broke down their right, and with the Henley defence this time struggling to get back in sufficient numbers it left the D area exposed where a hapless Harmer to managed to boot a Phoenix cross past a prone Bowyer in the Henley goal. This seemed to spark Phoenix into life and they enjoyed a strong period of play up until half time.
The consensus during the break was that Henley just needed to increase the intensity, cut out some basic errors and persist with the game plan. With this in mind, Henley restarted very positively with the defensive line of Slay, Baker and Peachey providing a solid foundation for the team to attack. Skipper Herbert on the right linked well with his midfield and provided good outlets up the line for the wide forwards. His strong charge into the opposition D carved out the opening for Woolfrey to slot home to make it 1-1. The home side's tails were up as they sensed a wounded Phoenix being vulnerable to further pressure. New signing John Doyle had been difficult to contain all game but more so in the second half, winning a number of penalty corners. A slightly impromptu but very well worked routine found Measures 5 metres out with the goal at his mercy and he duly fired the hosts a goal in front.
With 10 mins to go the task was to close the game out, and this Henley did reasonably well until some clumsy defending gifted Phoenix a penalty corner seconds before the final whistle. From the initial shot on goal the ball spilled wide to the far post to a waiting attacker to tap over the line.
Despite the deflating feeling of that equaliser, a lot of positives can be taken from the game, many to do with the team set-up and structure which gave Henley firm basis for their attacking periods of play. This week Newbury will likely prove tricky opposition for Henley looking to consolidate a top 3 league position.
Team: D. Bowyer (GK), L. Peachey, J. Baker, A. Slay, D. Herbert (c), T. Pratt, J. Measures, G. Harmer, J. Doyle, J. Hughes-Burne, R. Woolfrey.