AFC Hoxne win Suffolk FA Junior Cup with 2-0 win over Henley Athletic
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
First–half goals from Bobby Varela and Liam Smith were enough for AFC Hoxne to win the Suffolk FA Junior Cup at Portman Road last night, as they ran out 2-0 winners over Henley Athletic.
The north Suffolk side came out the blocks quickly as Varela slotted home the first to give his side an early lead, following a period of pressure, before Smith found the net after 25 minutes to secure the trophy for his side.
Henley pushed for a route back into the contest in the second half but, try as they might, they weren’t able to find the net, with Stuart Rodger’s cross which hit the bar the closest they came to scoring.
There was a sense of familiarity between the two SIL Division One sides, given they had already faced each other four times this season, with Henley winning on three occasions.
That was enough for them to finish a place above their opponents in third, two-points behind runners-up Coplestonians in second who narrowly pipped them to the promotion to the Senior Division, ahead of an eager-awaited cup final at the home of Ipswich Town.
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With the majority of the near 1,000-strong crowd behind them, Henley took their time to settle into the contest and had to deal with some early pressure, with Hoxne’s Kiefer Bultitude having an early effort deflected up into the hands of keeper Aaron Beal.
The pressure kept coming, with Beal having to turn another effort round the post, before catching the following corner, with the keeper again called upon to rush out and claim the ball at the feet of Robert Peake.
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Still the goalkeeper was tested, beating away Varela’s shot, but eventually the pressure told. Peake drove down the left flank before pulling the ball back to Varela, who tucked the ball home neatly to give Hoxne the lead.
Henley looked to respond quickly as Rodger threaded a neat through-ball to Alex Blakely, but the forward could only poke his shot wide under intense pressure.
But they were soon two down as, just a minute after being booked, Aron Boorman played a long ball forward which Smith latched onto to beat a wrong-footed Beal.
At 2-0 up after 35 minutes, Hoxne then withdrew both goalscorers, before Bultitude had to be helped off before the interval with what appeared to be an ankle problem, and was replaced by Dan Betts.
Rodger’s cross hit the Hoxne bar as Henley pushed for a route back into the game, with Jamie Sandilands also testing keeper Max Lock, but they couldn’t find the net before the interval.
Henley were back on the Portman Road pitch a few minutes ahead of their opponents at the start of the second half, and were on the front foot early on as substitute Lamonte Cooper tested Hoxne down their right hand side.
Striker Clark Bruce, who was Henley’s focal point whenever they looked to attack, then curled a free-kick over the top from range, but Hoxne were soon testing their defence again with regular balls into the box.
Substitute Cooper was beginning to have more of an impact, with his trickery down the right an outlet for Henley, but still they weren’t able to overly test Lock in the Hoxne goal.
Rodger got out well to block Alex Blakley’s shot, as Hoxne goalscorer Smith returned to the game, and it wasn’t long before he was involved once again as he stormed into the Henley box before his cross was headed clear by defender Mark Storey.
Varela was also brought back into the game, and he soon teed up Smith who had a shot blocked as it looked destined to find the net.
Bruce couldn’t test Lock as he bundled his way into the book as the rolling substitutions kept coming as a number of players appeared to be struggling with cramp.
Byron Tejano had a header bundled away following a well-worked corner, with Hoxne by now sitting back, happy to defend the two-goal lead they built in the first half.
They were still dangerous on the break, though, with the Henley defence kept on their toes by Blakely and Varela.
Henley striker Clark was booked for his angry reaction after seeing a free-kick given against him, as he and his side began to show their frustrations, but they still kept pushing for the goal their overall display probably deserved.
Hoxne continued to pick their moments to attack, with Grant Gibson having to turn Varela’s cross behind for a corner, which produced a near-post effort for Lee Tricker, which the substitute just turned wide of the post.
Smith then had the chance to kill the game off once and for all for Hoxne, but could only send his diving header wide, before a clash of heads saw play stopped for a number of minutes as the full-time whistle rapidly approached.
Once play resumed, Varela flashed a shot wide in the closing stages, as Hoxne comfortably saw out the remaining time to claim the trophy at the end of a long, hard season.