Brilliant Bear bags brace to beat Bedfordshire's Buzzard...
...so earns himself a hashtag, #beststrikerinthefamily
Following the previous week’s hard earned and unlikely draw against league leaders Wallingford 2s, Henley 3rd team made the long trip to take on Leighton Buzzard 1sts.
This was a must-win game for both sides. If Leighton Buzzard were to win all their remaining fixtures, they could overhaul Henley in the division. Henley needed to win all three remaining fixtures to secure second position and keep the possibility of back-to-back promotions alive.
What emerged was a tense but thrilling match, in which the advantage passed between the teams many times.
The difference between the sides was Mike Woolfrey, who put in an extraordinary man-of-the-match performance at centre forward. Sidelined through injury in recent weeks and a doubt for this game, the veteran Woolfrey pushed himself through the pain barrier and used all his experience and guile in an unfamiliar position to inspire victory by either scoring or setting up all 5 of Henley’s goals.
But in the bitter cold and driving snow of Bedfordshire, Henley initially struggled to gain possession against an assured Leighton Buzzard side who looked extremely dangerous in their attacking play, the visitors fortunate not to go a goal down in the opening minutes.
With Jack Draycott marshalling the midfield, Henley regained some confidence by retaining possession and starting to break down the home side’s attacking moves.
The opening goal was a gift that came against the run of play, after an excellent move from Alex Price found Woolfrey, whose shots found the goalkeeper’s pads several times before he calmly slotted a rebound. A second goal followed soon after with Woolfrey making a sharp pass to enable the unmarked Timothy Herbert to finish neatly.
Though 2-0 down, Leighton Buzzard were undaunted and continued to press forward, snatching a goal back following a fast break.
Leading 2-1 at the interval, Henley drew breath and continued to pass fluidly, but Leighton Buzzard levelled the score at 2-2 following a defensive error which left goalkeeper Mike Cordrey stranded.
Henley’s lead was restored following superb skill from Herbert to win a penalty corner. Woolfrey calmly found the net with his second goal following a trademark one-two move with Ian Roberts.
Leighton Buzzard once again snatched a goal back to level the scores at 3-3, and for some minutes both teams struggled to break the deadlock and gain the ascendancy.
With just 10 minutes remaining, an inspired move from the dangerous John-Joe Cottam led to another penalty corner, which Woolfrey slipped to Roberts who dispatched with a rasping strike.
Soon after, the fired-up Cottam helped to create the winning goal. Out of position and taking a free hit on the Henley area, Cottam ignored the captain’s instructions and saw the opportunity to drive forward powerfully, finding Woolfrey with an incisive pass.
Woolfrey drew and held off the opposing defenders, and coolly played the ball into space for Herbert to run onto at pace. Herbert advanced into the Leighton Buzzard area and placed the ball exquisitely past the advancing goalkeeper to take the score to 5-3.
To the home side’s frustration, Henley played out the final minutes patiently before conceding a penalty corner at the final whistle. Leighton Buzzard finished neatly to take the score to 5-4, though it made no difference to the final result – which marked an outstanding and courageous performance from Henley.
Just two games remain in the season, and this week Henley travel to Aylesbury 2nds for another crucial game against a tough opposition.