[img_assist|nid=2713|title=Captain fantastic|desc=Barry Middleton celebrates his late equaliser for England|link=node|align=left|width=211|height=297]England drew their Rabo 4-Nations cup opener with Pakistan in an enjoyable game that lit up with three goals in the last six minutes.
Pakistan took the lead in the Wagener Stadium when the old stager himself Sohail Abbas showed he still has his prolific drag-flick touch. The 34-year-old buried Pakistan’s only corner of the match hard to Nick Brothers left in the England goal. That came after eight minutes and was practically all the action the Reading keeper saw of the ball until the dying minutes.
England’s equaliser came with six minutes to go when Richard Smith took advantage of a quick free hit (following Abbass’s yellow card for an awful swipe at a charging Richard Alexander) to finish with a reverse strike.
Pakistan’s lead was restored with under two minutes to play. A cross-field pass clipped England skipper Barry Middleton’s feet deep on the right side of the attacking line. A quick Pakistan free hit found Shakeel Abassi down the left, he broke straight for goal then took the ball round Brothers right side to fick home.
England’s reply came within seconds with Middleton delecting a smashed circle injection form Ben Hawes on the left.
Middleton said coach Jason Lee had been encouraging him to play a more attacking game. He also felt responsibe for a mistake that led to Pakistan taking the lead just seconds before his equaliser.
“I think playing in Germany for the two months I’ve become a typical German and played deeper. I felt there was a bit of a mistake by me before their goal so I had to make amends for the second goal they scored too,” said Middleton.
On Richard Smith’s move into the forward line, Jason Lee said England were fortunate to have three world class full backs in Richard Mantell, Ian Lewers and Richard Smith. “The shuffle comes down to Richard Smith to play in the forward line,” he said. That’s what had to be done sometimes in England, where there wasn’t always the depth of talent and players had to adapt to positiions.
Lee said he was unhappy not to win a game in which England looked “quite comfortable”. “We had enough action down there end to have more corners and to score more goals.
“We are here to win this tournament,” he said.
The opening evening’s games of the 4-Nations Cup were cancelled because of thunderstorms. The tournament will now be played as a straight round-robin with no finals. For the schedule see www.pushhockey.co.uk.