Achilles boss keen to see how Henley deal with pressure at top of the table

Achilles just missed out on the Senior Division title last season.

Achilles just missed out on the Senior Division title last season. - Credit: James Ager

Achilles manager Luke Hillyard is intrigued to see how league leaders Henley Athletic cope with the pressure, as the season heads towards an exciting climax.

The Mighty A’s missed out on last season’s Senior Division title to Crane Sports, being pipped at the post by Iain Radnor’s men, in what was Hillyard’s first season in charge of the club.

This time round, the Bob Coleman Cup holders, who are still seeking silverware on three fronts, are second in the Senior Division table, five points behind Henley, but with a game in hand.

For Henley, in their first season at Senior Division level, the campaign could not be going much better. However, with Achilles, and Cranes just behind them, waiting for them to slip up, Hillyard knows that the league is not cut and dried.

“There is a long way to go and we learnt a lot last season, just missing out to Cranes,” said Hillyard.

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“Maybe Henley will slip-up, maybe they won’t, but it’s their first time in that position.

“Cranes had that experience last season, Rads (Randor) had more experience than I did as a manager, and that took them over the line.

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“Henley have a good side though, with the likes of Chris Williamd and Arran Shephard in their team, so we know what they can do.”

On Cranes’ challenge, Hillyard added: “They are still in contention (for the title) which is good as for the last couple of years there have only been two teams in the running.

“Cranes play Henley on the final day too, while we play Haughley, so hopefully it will go down to the wire.”

Achilles host Leiston St Margarets on Saturday, while Henley host in-form East Bergholt and Cranes entertain Ipswich Athletic.

“We need a win on Saturday,” explained Hillyard, who is pleased with his side’s recent performance levels.

“The lads are playing very well at the moment. Winning 7-1 at Bramford was a big result for us as they are fourth and I think had they beaten us and won their two games in hand, they would have gone above us.

Henley’s opponents on Saturday are managed by the experienced David Goodchild, who knows what pressure at the top of the table is all about.

He said: “I know the position that Sean Brown and Chris Rogers (Henley management team) find themselves in.

“This time last year we topped the SIL table and looked very likely to carry off our first senior title since 2005.

“We however crumpled under the pressure, inexplicably taking just one point from five games in April, handed the initiative to Cranes, who went on to retain the title.

“We ended up a creditable third but it didn’t feel like an achievement after heading the table for so long.

“Henley have a number of quality players with SIL and Thurlow Nunn experience so it is no surprise to see them in the title shake up.

“They will know that although we are some seven places below them, we will be no pushover.

“At Gandish Road they came away with all the points, but for most of the game it was evenly-poised at 1-1 and with better finishing we could have won the game.

“They play lovely football, as I like to think do we, so it should be an entertaining game.”

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