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Great Britain’s great escape as late equaliser denies South Africa

[img_assist|nid=4784|title=Double take|desc=Ashley Jackson’s two goals salvage a draw against South Africa – hockeyimages.co.uk|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=146]Great Britain snatched a 68th minute equaliser to save a point against South Africa in a dramatic round two pool game of the men’s London 2012 Olympic hockey tournament on Wednesday.

South Africa had come from behind with two strikes in five minutes before GB’s Ashley Jackson squared it up with a goal that went to video referral. 

Richard Smith slammed the ball hard into the circle and it took a deflection into the South Africa net. Umpire Roel van Eert referred the decision himself asking if there was any reason not to give a goal. The video was indecisive – although there was clearly a SA foot involved as well as possibly Jackson and even James Tindall and Harry Martin’s sticks – and the goal was awarded, Jackson’s second.

Immediately after the game, South Africa coach Gregg Clarke accepted the decision. 

“I can’t tell off the video screen out there, it is a bit fuzzy. The umpire apparently has a lot more screens in front of him up in his tower so I’m backing that he made the right decision, but I think it is a little bit inconclusive. I’m not sure.”

The closing drama was set up by an excellent drag-flick corner by South Africa’s captain Austin Smith (60mins) and a stunning running hit from the top of the circle into the right corner by Jonathan Robinson four minutes later.

That final ten minutes aside GB had played well with some good skill and strong passing moves keeping the Riverbank Arena crowd happy. The 1-0 lead came from a 14th minute Ashley Jackson top-left-hand-corner drag flick corner awarded after Jackson’s own shot was cleared high by keeper Erasmus Pietersee. But late on, GB lost the handle on the game and were fortunate to take a point.

GB coach Jason Lee said: “I think it was a point gained as opposed to three lost. It still keeps us in the hunt for sure.

“I thought we didn’t cope with South Africa’s outletting very well and ran more than we needed to in the first half. We started to run out our legs and, as a consequence, we started to struggle, which made it tough for us keep control. Although I think we had some good fighting spirit towards the end, we nearly won it in fact, a point is much better than none at all.” 

GB’s first half lead could have been much bigger but Pietersee made a fine save from a Jackson flick to almost the same spot as his first corner (27mins). GB skipper Barry Middleton also lobbed a flick shot just wide of the left post after he was found high and un-marked by a Rob Moore through pass (5mins).

Pietersee completed a good game for him battering out another Jackson corner after the clock had run out.

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