Eurohockey Championships, Men’s Bronze Medal Match: England 2-3 Netherlands.

A hat-trick for Jeroen Hertzberger gave The Netherlands a bronze medal, securing a hard-fought 3-2 win over Bobby Crutchley’s England side.

The Rotterdam forward struck two penalty corners and a third from open play with Iain Lewers and Richard Smith striking for England who have to content themselves with fourth place.

The game that neither side wanted to be playing in started out as a fairly cagey affair as England tried to stifle the Dutch and ensure they kept their considerable firepower at bay.

England forced the first penalty corner of the match but Harry Martin’s deflection was cleared by the defence. In the ninth minute, the Dutch won a penalty corner of their own. Jeroen Hertzberger beat George Pinner through the goalkeeper’s legs with a powerful, but straight flick.

Jelle Galema almost made it 2-0 with an upright reverse stick shot from the top of the D but Pinner kicked the ball to safety.

England were growing in confidence and starting to cause the Dutch defence some problems. Nick Catlin in particular was a constant danger with his pace and willingness to run beyond the forwards and into threatening areas.

On 15 minutes, England drew level from an unlikely source. Richard Smith’s penalty corner was charged down by the runner but the ball was recycled to Iain Lewers on the baseline. He waited, seemingly weighing up his options and then let rip a fierce flick that went into the roof of the net over Jaap Stockmann’s shoulder for a fantastic goal.
The Dutch were reeling and England started to dominate, Martin’s shot from the right of the D was saved by Stockmann as Bobby Crutchley’s side pushed for a second goal.

On 34 minutes, England got their noses in front. Smith scored with a precise, low penalty corner that beat Stockmann to the goalkeeper’s right, just inside the post.

Seve Van Ass’ side started the second half at a great pace, searching for an equalising goal. Four minutes into the second half Hertzberger scored his second of the match, again beating Pinner with a low drag flick that the goalkeeper may feel he could have saved.

Three minutes later, the Dutch No.11 completed his hat-trick. Robbert Kemperman’s pass found Billy Bakker in the D, his shot was blocked by Lewers, but Bakker rolled the ball back to Hertzberger who found the bottom corner, just out of Pinner’s reach.

It was now the turn of the Dutch to put England under pressure. Kemperman burst through three tackles, the ball broke to him inside the D but he fired his shot wide of the near post. Rogier Hofman also had a great chance to score a fourth but he blazed his shot over the bar from the left of the D. Hofman was involved again, teeing up Seve Van Ass but Pinner was out quickly to block the chance.

Hertzberger wasted another penalty corner, flicking wide of the target but time was running out for England to rescue this game. As a last throw of the dice, they substituted Pinner, going to a kicking back in the hope that an extra outfield player would give them one more chance. That chance came immediately as Simon Mantell worked his way through on the baseline on the right. He crossed to Adam Dixon who had the goal at his mercy but the Beeston man snatched at the chance and the ball hit his foot.

The Dutch men matched the efforts of their women who collected a bronze medal yesterday, but yet again, Seve Van Ass’s side miss out on the gold medal in a major competition.

For England, they had put a decent showing in this match, but as they did in the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup, they came up just short against the Oranje. Bobby Crutchley will hope that his younger players have learnt some valuable lessons from this competition as they build towards the next tournament.

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