What a comeback!!
The final game of the season saw Henley ladies host local rivals Reading at Jubilee Park.
A warm and sunny spring morning, Henley were ready to finish the season with a win. From the whistle, Henley were determined to get ahead of Reading with periods of attacking play. However, Reading were quick to identify Henley’s patterns of play and began to intercept balls, causing all Henley players to quickly retreat and defend. Led by defenders Kath Draycott, Sophie Hoskins and Kat Green, careful tackles and strong communication were able to keep Reading at bay. Goalkeeper Hannah Lavis was in fine form, having to make a string of diving saves and venturing out from the goal to take on the Reading attackers. Henley’s well-rehearsed defensive short corner routine repeatedly kept the ball out of the net, including a fantastic save on the goal line by Jemma Barham which resulted in a broken finger! Thankfully the scoreboard remained blank.
Following an upbeat and passionate half time talk by coach Jenny Buckham-Hedges, Henley Ladies went back onto the pitch full of grit and determination. Unfortunately, Reading must have had a similar talking to and attacked with powerful quick runs, catching Henley off-guard and off-pace, and scoring two goals in quick succession. However, Henley are not a team to give up easily. Careful play by midfielders Meg Moran and Barham brought Henley back under control, transferring the ball across the pitch and taking care of possession. This game was far from over. Strong runs by forwards Louisa England, Emma Buckham-Hedges, Charlotte Cockerton and Billie Moore got the ball moving up the pitch and into Reading’s defensive line. With 7 minutes left of the game, Henley’s patience was rewarded with a short corner. A well-trusted routine found Louisa England’s stick sending the ball over Reading’s goalkeeper, scoring Henley’s first goal. 5 minutes to go. Henley full of confidence and belief kept attacking against Reading’s tiring defence, with man of the match, Billie Moore, showing incredible stick skills to win yet another short corner. The corner’s shot was rebounded by the Reading goalkeeper onto Moore’s stick, who carefully slotted the ball into the back of the goal, levelling the scoreboard two apiece. 3 minutes to go. As soon as play reset, a lapse in Reading’s concentration resulted in the ball being turned over to Henley’s advantage, who threw all their energy and gusto into moving the ball forwards into Reading’s D and winning yet another short corner! Another cleverly worked routine finished by Cockerton put Henley into the lead, with cheers of celebrations sounding out around Jubilee Park. The clock ran down leaving a shocked Reading in disbelief.
An incredible and well deserved win for the team, which moved Henley above Reading in the league table to 6th place. A fantastic end to a challenging season!