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Celebratory Match Serves Up a Treat

East Hendred Centenary Celebration Match (7th April, 2013)
East Hendred XI 5 Reading Ex Professionals 6
(Phil Annets, NBFL Media Relations Officer)


On a bright sunny Spring afternoon over 100 spectators turned up to watch an East Hendred XI made up of veterans, current players and youth players take on a Reading Ex Professionals team to celebrate the Centenary of East Hendred Football Club.

Despite the match being regarded as a friendly, both sides took the game seriously and produced a goal-fest for those attending. As early as the first minute the Reading side produced a fine move when Mark Rivers, a member of Reading FC community team, played in Neville Roach, a youth graduate at Elms Park who scored on his debut in a 2-0 home win over Oldham Athletic in 1997. Roach's shot was blocked at source by a Hendred defender.

Jon Francis, the Hendred keeper, then contrived to throw the ball behind for a corner, but redeemed himself moments later by blocking the close range shot of Darren Brett. On five minutes Mike Farrelly produced Hendred's first shot from range which went wide of the left hand post. Both sides had a couple of half chances each in the first 20 minutes, but it was East Hendred who broke the deadlock. Chris Beesley was rugged in winning the ball on the left and delivered a low cross into the area where Farrelly was able to score from close range. Reading almost equalised straight away when Roach delivered a cross from the right that rebounded out to Michael Gilkes just outside the area. Gilkes, a former Barbados international who made over 480 appearances for Reading, steadied himself before curling a left foot shot against the outside of the left hand upright.

On the half hour mark Chris Slevin played in Adam Wise whose first time shot from close range was superbly tipped over by Phil Brown, a former youth keeper at Reading who vied for the first team spot with Shaka Hislop. Ten minutes later Hendred doubled their lead when Beesley was once again determined the win the ball on the left before crossing low to Jason Fisher in the area who slid the ball under the body of Brown to make it 2-0. It looked good for Hendred, but Reading produced two killer blows in the last five minutes of the half to level the scores.

First, Martyn Williams, Reading's top scorer in the 1998/99 season and with over 150 appearances for the club, flicked the ball on to Kevin Watson in the area on the left. Watson, with 70 appearances for Reading and now a match commentator for Sky Sports, calmly slid the ball beyond the reach of Francis to half the deficit.. Moments later Gilkes and Roach interchanged passes and Gilkes just fired over the bar. Then on the stroke of half time Gilkes jinked down the left flank before laying the ball into the path of Williams who expertly side-footed it into the net.

The second half started brightly with both sides carving out early chances, but it was Reading who scored next on 50 minutes to take the lead for the first time. Williams turned on a sixpence in the middle of the Hendred half and played a sublime ball into the path of Roach running through the middle who fired it with aplomb before Francis could prepare himself for the shot. Roach then had an opportunity for his hat-trick, but fired over the bar from 10 yards out.

But it wasn't long before Reading extended their lead. On 55 minutes the ever impactful Gilkes crossed from the left to Roach who then laid the ball on to Andy Gray, a member of the 1993/94 Third Division Championship squad. Gray wasted no time in blasting the ball home from 12 yards out. Hendred could have been excused if they had admitted defeat at this point, but they became galvanized by this setback and set out to try to restore parity once again. Fisher played the ball across field to Vinnie Cooper who helped it on to Slevin whose rasping shot brought out a fine onehanded save from Brown. Then Fisher once again ran down the left before crossing to Adam Wise whose shot from 18 yards out was tipped over the bar brilliantly by Brown. Then in the 64th minute they broke through once again. Simon Burgoyne delivered a deep free kick which was headed on by Fisher into the path of Slevin who made no mistake it hitting it passed the onrushing Brown.

But almost immediately Reading restored their two goal lead. Lee Barkus, a local lad who played 17 times for Reading, played the ball into the feet of Roach in the box. Roach laid the ball back out to Williams who curled it right footed into the top right hand corner of the net. But Hendred were not taking this lying down and from a corner Phil Brown could only punch the ball out to Ian Durham who hit a 20 yard volley screaming just over the bar. Reading almost scored again on 78 minutes, though, when Brett played in Andy Gray, but his half volley was headed off the line by Durham. With five minutes remaining Hendred were back in the match. Adam Wise jinked down the right wing before slipping the ball to Fisher in the box who calm as you like slotted the ball beyond the reach of Phil Brown. And Hendred almost equalised a minute later when Fisher hit a terrific ball across the face of the goal, but it eluded everyone and was put behind safely for a corner. Then Martyn Williams carried the ball right to the Hendred goal line before crossing it to Andy Gray who bundled the ball over the line from close range to make it 6-4 to Reading.

Hendred still would not give in and with the clock running down, the referee Alex Lewis awarded a spot kick to the host side for a foul on Steve Cuddon in the box. Fisher stepped up to take the kick and claim his hat-trick and calmly placed the ball into the left hand side of the net for 6-5. Soon after Lewis blew the final whistle and Reading had held on to win what was a thoroughly entertaining match that was befitting such a landmark celebration.

12 April 2013

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