Ashley Jackson gritted his teeth to play through the pain as his late penalty corner sealed a second win of the competition for Bobby Crutchley’s England. Jackson struck just four minutes from full time to make the game safe, adding to Mark Gleghorne’s second goal of the tournament, scored in the fourth minute.
England scored from their first meaningful attack when Barry Middleton was allowed time and space outside the D on the right to pick out Gleghorne. The East Grinstead man showed terrific awareness and scooped a reverse stick finish over the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
After nine minutes Malaysia had a gilt-edged opportunity to draw level. A cross from the right found its way through to Hafifi Hanafi who could only find the side netting before getting a boot from George Pinner in the face in the process, meaning he left the field on a stretcher. With 19 minutes on the clock Malaysia forced their first penalty corner. Razie Rahim dummied the strike, teeing up Fitri Saari but his shot was brilliantly blocked by Michael Hoare.
Tom Carson had a great chance to make it 2-0. Simon Mantell got to the baseline and picked out his Reading teammate but Carson could not get the elevation on his shot to beat Kumar Subramiam. The Malaysian goalkeeper was called upon again in the dying moments of the half as a neat exchange of passes between Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton let in the England captain but his shot was well saved ensuring the lead was only one at the break.
England continued to create the better chances in the second half. Middleton’s diving deflection after good approach play from Jackson, went agonizingly wide of the far post with the goalkeeper beaten.
With seven minutes left, there was a moment of high drama. Malaysia forced a penalty corner and Rahim went for goal. Pinner pulled off an important save to preserve the lead. At the other end, Jackson stepped up and despite nursing a shoulder strain that has plagued him throughout the competition, the East Grinstead star beat Subramiam with a wonderful drag flick into the roof of the net to seal the points.
George Pinner, England’s goalkeeper said afterwards: “We were very solid defensively and gave them very little. We created some good chances but couldn’t quite get the finishing touches. It’s always nervy at 1-0 but as soon as I saw Ashley step up I was confident he’d get it done.”
Bobby Crutchley, England’s coach said: “I was really pleased with the performance. I thought we were strong and defended as well as we have done so far. We controlled the game for large periods and although they had a lot of possession we created the better chances. It was typical of us keeping it a bit closer than I would have liked. If we could have taken a few more of the chances we created it would have been a bit more comfortable but generally it was a good performance and another step up.”