SIL ROUND UP
A late goal from Liam Ablitt secured all three points for leaders Henley as they beat visitors Wickham Market 3-2. Mark Storey and Stephen Cole netted the Hens other goals while Lewis Dyer and Ian Gosling were on the mark for Wickham.
Ransomes move up to third following a 2-2 home draw against Debenham. Matt Oxbrow and Lamon Haynes-Sparkes scored for Ransomes though they had Richard Dunne sent off.
Old Newton returned to winning ways with a 3-1 win at local rivals Stowupland Falcons while Leiston St Margarets rescued a point late on in a 1-1 draw with Haughley.
Tattingstone and Sporting 87 also drew 1-1 with Ash Blow on the mark for Tatt and Josh Thomas netting for Sporting. The game between East Bergholt and Halesworth was postponed due to the wet conditions at Gandish Road.
Thurston went 13 points clear at the top of Division One following their 5-0 home win over Grundisburgh. Andrew Wood and Brandon Salisbury both scored twice for the Bluesocks with their other goal coming from Ryan Jolly.
Saxmundham failed to move into second spot as they were held 1-1 by visitors Woolverstone.
In the other Division One fixture Bacton won 4-1 at Capel Plough despite having Lachie Utley sent off. Harley Jordan-Smith scored twice for Ryan Owens’ side with their other goals coming from Luke Keeble and Rory Christian.
In Division Two leaders Sporting 87 Reserves went down 5-1 at Coplestonians Reserves but remain top. Jonny Linard netted a brace for a Cops side who now move up to second.
Ipswich Wanderers Under 23s won 5-3 at Great Blakenham in the other Division Two game played. The fixture between Stonham Aspal and Wenhaston was postponed.
Ransomes Sports 2 Debenham LC 2
Stephens-Fouracre fired home his second goal in consecutive matches against Ransomes to rescue a point, with three of the five minutes of second half stoppage time to run. It left the hosts feeling flat and will doubtless dampen their Christmas spirit. It could have been more damaging as Ricky Dunne was sent off (87 mins) for the hosts when he was shown a second yellow card, and they were reduced to 9 men following the Hornets equaliser as Neil Calver was sin binned – it made for a nervous finish.
Despite seeing little of the ball in the opening stages, Ransomes started brightly as Ben Gutteridge nearly converted a flick on but his angled strike narrowly missed the far post.
On 13 minutes Ransomes took the lead. A menacing through ball lured Debenham keeper Read off his line but Matt Oxbrow had timed his advance to perfection and got to the ball ahead of the onrushing Read. An easy decision for the referee then, and up stepped Lamon Haynes-Sparkes to emphatically score his first goal for the club from the resulting penalty.
Ransomes may have been a goal to the good but the scoreline did not reflect the pattern of the game with Debenham guilty of spurning chances as they forced the hosts into a deep retreat.
It was to be former Ransomes man Brett Crisp who eventually provided the visitors with an equaliser right on the stroke of half time. It was an exquisite finish as the ball dropped his way following another Debenham corner and he cleverly found the top corner from the edge of the box.
It was no more than Debenham deserved and this encouraged them to turn up the volume following the break. Graham brought a good save from Charlie Langham before Ransomes had a goal rightly ruled out following a foul in the build up.
The game was still in the balance and shaping up nicely as Ransomes striker Matt Oxbrow’s head sunk into his hands as he missed badly but the same player, a minute later, did much better with an arrowed effort that found the bottom far corner after Ben Gutteridge had slipped him a pass inside the box. Ransomes had regained the lead
Debenham’s riposte was fitful. They began beating at the door of a retrenched Ransomes side who seemed intent on keeping the visitors at arms length. Ransomes were confined to their defensive third as Debenham threw hopeful balls into the box or shot from distance but the hosts looked comfortable as few of these crosses or shots were of decent quality. The visitors had control but no penetration.
With the clock ticking down, Ransomes appeared to have the contest won when they let it slip. Debenham were running out of ideas, perhaps as a result of Ransomes’ committed defending but Ricky Dunne’s second yellow card on 87 minutes made it easier for the Hornets who had been turning the screw.
Following another free-kick gained, Debenham launched the ball yet again into the Ransomes penalty area and this time the ball fell kindly for Stephens-Fouracre to rifle home a 92nd minute equaliser. It was deserved, it felt inevitable, but a little unexpected as it was so late in the game.
The closing minutes of stoppage time were then made that little more uncomfortable for Ransomes as they ended the game with 9 men when Neil Calver was sin-binned,but the hosts nervously held out.
Until those closing minutes, Ransomes were briefly breeding the thought that they would engineer a repeat of their win in the reverse fixture back at the Hornets Nest but it was to be an afternoon of when honours were shared.
Suffolk SIL Division: Henley Athletic FC 3-2 Wickham Mkt FC
Sometimes, you just have to be honest and say “how the hell did we win that?” probably our worst performance of the season, albeit missing a few players, but nicking the win with pretty much the last kick of the game, against a Wickham Market side whose excellent showing belied their league position.
A crowd of 79, many sporting the new Henley Hats, braved the cold and wind to cheer their sides on. But for the first 15 minutes it was only the visiting supporters who had anything to cheer, as an organised and determined Wickham, aided by the wind, pinned Henley back and forced error after error, but failed to find a finish to capitalise on their initial dominance. Henley did find a way back into the game and should have taken the lead but Watling blazed high from close range, before Bruce hit the base of the post with a freekick after 15 minutes. Shortly after Liam Ablitt saw his shot well saved by Bolsover. Encouraged by their resilience, Wickham took the lead after 30 minutes, their initial effort coming back off the post, but Dyer was on hand to blast home the rebound from close range for 0-1.
Henley had a positive spell for the remainder of the half, but couldn’t find a finish, George and Liam Ablitt and Bruce all failing to hit the target, when they would normally take these chances. Leaving Henley 0-1 at the break, when they could easily have been 3-1 up.
Henley looked little better after the break, as Wickham battled for everything and applied the pressure. But from 60 minutes on, things suddenly changed, George Ablitt sinbinned for his comments to Mr Skaja saw the Hens reduced to 10 men. But on 62 minutes Storey rose highest to head home the equaliser from a Bruce corner for 1-1. Within 30 seconds it was 2-1, Liam Ablitt winning the ball on halfway, breaking forward before picking out the run of Cole, who fired home.
On 75 minutes, Bruce saw his shot saved, but Wickham went straight up the other end to equalise, Gosling finding the net at the back post following a freekick for 2-2, nothing more than the Wickham performance deserved. Henley were grateful for keeper Spurling, tipping over a freekick and making a good one on one stop, Wickham also hit the post. But, as so many times before, this Henley side doesn’t quit, their perseverance finally rewarded in the 93rdminute, Liam Ablitt sending in a vicious in-swinging corner which an under pressure Bolsover couldn’t keep out, which saw Henley stealing the victory 3-2 with barely time for the game to restart.
A very poor showing from an admittedly understrength Henley, but their character and grit thankfully compensated for this uncharacteristic blip. Few players came out of the game with much credit, the Ultra’s MOTM vote almost unanimously going to Gussy White who ran himself into the ground for the club. But, there is a well worn adage in football, that winning when playing poorly is a sign of a strong side, I’ll take that.
Damo and his Wickham boys will be gutted to lose in such a manner, they were excellent and any unknowing observer would’ve seen little or no difference in quality between the sides on the day. They gave their all for their manager for the entirety of the match and played some good, passing football throughout, all at Henley wish them well for the rest of the season.
A word or two of credit for today’s referee Mr Skaja, who managed the game well throughout, communicated excellently and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his afternoon.