England started off their defence of the EuroHockey Nations Championship with a 4-2 win over Ireland.
[img_assist|nid=2977|title=England Coach|desc=Jason Lee|link=node|align=left|width=200|height=190]The game was a close one with James Fair saving high to his right from a John Jermyn PC flick that would have levelled the game at 3-3 in the 67th minute. England then added a fourth when Iain Lewers found James Tindall on the attacking 25, in the right channel. A clever reverse-stick bunt found Rob Moore whose quickfire cross picked out a sliding Barry Middleton for a trademark defelected goal – his second of the game.
England were also forced to come from behind with Chris Cargo putting Ireland ahead after 15 minutes. It was only when Ireland had Paul Gleghorne yellow-carded that England edged back into the match with a hard, high Matt Daly strike (FG, 20mins) from the mid-right of the circle.
Lewers, playing against the country for which he clocked up more than eighty caps was as unflappable in the press conference as he was in defence – any emotional issues playing against his former side? “No,” he shrugged.
Five minutes into the second half skipper Middleton put England ahead with a shot on the turn. Ashley Jackson drilled a corner flick in the 49th minute to make it 3-1 – England’s only successful corner of the day – although David Harte had a fine match between the posts for the Green Machine.
Jermyn nailed the best penalty corner of the game to bring Ireland back to 3-2 at the 61m mark, setting up an exciting finish to a very close match.
Asked about the one-from-eight penalty corner conversion rate, England coach Jason Lee said it was “As predicted. We haven’t been scoring many corners this summer. It’s fascinating that we have still been competitve against some of the best teams in the world without really converting many. I thought Ashley played as you would expect for someone who hasn’t played for eight months – some very good, some very indifferent flicking. But I have confidence in Ashley and the other flickers and in time it will come good.”
The next England game is vs Netherlands on Monday at 7pm local (6pm UK). Ireland will now struggle to make the semi-finals with the Netherlads as well as England in the same pool.
Later on Sunday, England’s women chalked up their second win of the EuroHockey Nations Championship, defeating Germany 2-0. England’s goals came from two Crista Cullen corners – one direct flick, one hard hit from a goalkeeper rebound. Coach Danny Kerry praised his sides execution and attention to detail. “Today we played a very disciplined, very astute game,” he said.