Two goals from England’s David Condon were enough to give Bobby Crutchley’s side the three points as they stuttered their way to a somewhat flattering 5-2 win over Poland, in their opening Eurohockey Championships match in Belgium.
Condon struck two goals in a minute to re-establish the lead for England, but the Poles gave their higher ranked opponents a huge scare.
England threatened first and could have taken the lead in the first minute, the ball falling to Simon Mantell in the D, but the Reading man was unusually wayward with his finish.
Poland had a glorious chance to take the lead at the other end, the ball from the baseline popped up off a defender’s stick and fell kindly to Krystian Makowski at the back post, but his volleyed effort flew wide.
England broke the deadlock on 14 minutes. Henry Weir showed excellent 3D skills on the right hand side to get away from his marker, the Wimbledon defender sent in a precise cross which a sliding Adam Dixon diverted over goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak to make it 1-0.
Matuszak was called into action moments later Alastair Brogdon drove into the D and found Nick Catlin but the goalkeeper was out quickly to make an excellent block.
England lost a bit of control towards the end of the half and allowed Poland to threaten, but George Pinner was largely a spectator in the England goal. His opposite number Matuszak was kept busy, saving well from a Richard Smith penalty corner just before half time.
Poland came out for the second half with a renewed optimism, having only trailed by one at the break. Tomasz Wachowiak had a great chance when he was afforded time and space in the D to line up a shot but he blazed his effort high over the cross bar.
Poland forced a series of penalty corners as England struggled to clear the danger, it was from one of these that they drew level. Pinner saved the initial effort but the ball was recycled and found Tomasz Gorny who fired an excellent finish across the goalkeeper and into the far corner to make it 1-1.
Parity lasted just four minutes. Nick Catlin fed Dan Shingles who found Ali Brogdon, Brogdon just managed to keep the ball in and crossed to Condon who diverted home his first of the match. A minute later Condon had his second, getting the faintest of touches to a long pass into the D to deflect the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs for 3-1.
The England No.22 could have completed his hat-trick with a volley from close range that Matuszak bravely blocked with his body.
Poland refused to lie down and on 55 minutes Michal Nowakowski despatched a drag flick past Barry Middleton and George Pinner on the line.
England looked nervy and turned a lot of ball over, allowing Poland to put them under pressure. Iain Lewers defended very well, making some excellent tackles out wide in one on one situations.
Matuszak was still performing heroics at the other end, making a wonderful save to tip a Dixon penalty corner over the bar.
With seven minutes remaining, England’s nerves were eased with a fourth goal. Shingles mis-controlled the ball in the D, with the defence hesitating, Brogdon smashed a fierce shot inside the near post to make it 4-2. Three minutes later, England put a gloss on the scoreline with a fifth. Tom Carson showed exquisite technique to volley home the rebound from his own penalty corner.
Matuszak continued his defiant display with a flying save from a Smith penalty corner and then produced an even better save to turn a Shingles pile-driver over the top to keep the score as 5-2 at the final whistle.
England had taken the all-important three points to get their campaign off to a good start, but Bobby Crutchley will know they have much room for improvement. England’s next game is on Monday, against The Netherlands.