Situated on the South-Eastern side of the town, Henley's Triangle Ground is something of a gem, which the local club has played at since 1974. Access, via Mill Lane, takes you past the ground before you get to the reasonably-sized, Mill Lane Car Park. As the pitch sits in something of a hollow, Mill Lane passes just above it and for evening games this means you get tempting glimpses of the bright green oasis through the darkness of the surrounding trees.
The entrance to the ground is just off the car park and brings you into the corner of the stadium. To the right, behind the car park end goal, there is a covered standing structure. Along the Mill Lane side of the pitch there is also a covered seating stand as well as the clubhouse and players & officials facilities. There is a white plastic fencing around the perimeter of the pitch, with the dugouts on the opposite side to the main stand.
If you've not been, pay The Triangle a visit. It's well worth it.
Tuesday evening's game was an Oxfordshire Senior Cup First Round match-up. Home side Henley Town, now playing their trade in the Thames Valley Premier League have spent the majority of their past in the Hellenic and Chiltern Leagues. However, after dropping out of the Hellenic structure in 2018, they restarted in Thames Valley Division Three, achieving three promotions in five seasons. The red Kites, as they are known, have in fact won the Senior Cup on no fewer than five occasions, the first time in 1904 and the latest just after WWII, in 1947. Their opponents, from the outskirts of Oxford, can't claim that level of achievement in the competition and were not even formed when Henley last won the trophy, having been founded in 1967. They can, however, boast a name given to them because of the popular TV show of the time, The Saint, and can lay claim to very famous former players, Gary Parker and Martin Keown.
There's no league history between the sides as far as I could see. They may well have met in this competition or other local cups.
This season neither are setting their respective leagues alight as yet. Marson sit tenth of fourteen in the Oxfordshire Senior League. They've won twice in the league so far, both of which were at home. Top scorer is Sam Pledger with five goals in four appearances.
Henley are slightly better off, eighth of fourteen. They've won their last two league games but these were the first three-pointers since August. Charlie Douglas leads the way in the scoring stakes with seven in six games.
A very lively first 10 minutes of the game saw the visitors make the more assured start, with the majority of play being in the Henley half, although there were no real clear cut chances created until the 11th minute. In what was to become a theme of the game, Liam Burt broke down the left flank, took on his marker and flashed a great ball across the face of Perry Howard's goal. This time no-one managed to get on the end of it, but it was a warning to the hosts. Burt's pace was going to be a problem for them throughout the game.
We were approaching the halfway point in the first period before Henley began to get a foothold into the game. Although, like their visitors, they couldn't muster a chance clear enough to worry Haydon Harris in the Marston goal.
With 24 minutes on the clock, Burt switched his angle of attack into a more central position. he drove towards the home penalty area before slipping a good ball through for Jibreel Meddah who was about to pull the trigger when a superb covering tackle from Alex Walmsley dispossessed him. Excellent defending from the Kite's centre-half.
A minute later, Burt was at it again, back on the left side he sent in another tempting cross that Meddah managed to get something on this time. Somehow the striker couldn't quite generate enough pace to beat Howard, who made a good save with his legs. A huge let off for Town.
As Marston continued to press for a goal a cross from the right flank towards the back post was met by Burt, but his header went just wide of the mark. Henley did muster some resistance. With eight minutes remaining before the break, captain Luke Mulvaney tried his luck form the edge of the box but put the strike over the bar. A few minutes later the same player, leading by example, managed to get a low effort on target only to see the ball go straight into the body of Harris.
HT Henley Town 0 Marston Saints 0. Saints definitely on top in terms of possession and chances created. They really should have taken a one or even two goal lead into the break. The question was, would they live to regret it?
So many times a goal will give the scoring team a boost and visibly deflate their opponents. This goal, however, seemed to have the opposite effect. Henley picked up noticeably after going a goal down. I don't think Marston's levels dropped but they were pushed back more by a home team determined to get back on level terms. Bertie Gingell put a free-kick just wide of the goal on 65 minutes, as Henley looked more dangerous than in the previous hour or so. However, despite seeing way more of the ball now, the home side could not find a way to punish the Saints defence and they still had to be very wary of heir visitor's pace, especially on the left flank.
With eight minutes to go Burt once again flew down the left flank and put a lovely low cross into the danger area where substitute George Anthony was a fraction of an inch from making it two. A few minutes later Burt again put the home defence into panic mode breaking form the halfway line this time and getting in a shot that the defence did well to smother.
With a couple to go and Henley throwing everything at Saints Markland Tidswell struck a good free-kcik from the edge of the box which Saints stopper Harris did well to get his body behind.
The Marston keeper was about to play a big part in the remainder of the game. With a minute of normal time remaining he produced an excellent flying save to tip a goal bound effort around the post. Then, from the resulting corner, Harris came up with an even better display of agility to tip a close range effort over.
There minutes of added time was signalled. Time in which The Red Kites continued to push Marston back, but all to no avail.
FT Henley Town 0 Marston Saints 1. Saints progress to the next round after a hard-earned victory. A good peformance form the visitors who probably should have put the game to bed before the late onslaught from their hosts. I don't normally pick out individuals but, it has to be said that Saints 11 made all the difference thsi eveving. A constant threat to Henley, countless balls flashed across the box, pace, trickery and he scored the only goal.
Henley Town: Howard, Palmer, Field, York, Walmsley, L.Mulvaney(c), Moorcroft, Gingell, Douglas, Thompson, Patel. Subs: Classen, Tidswell, Csajka, Chaplin, Keys
Marston Saints: Harris, Fawke, Bruton, Gilbert, Awadh, Muddle, Mohamed, Pledger, J.Richardson, Burt. Subs: Anthony, Hatt, Brewster
Ground Number: 383