England got off to a winning start in their Commonwealth Games Campaign but were made to work hard by a stubborn display from Wales. Goals in each half from Alex Danson and Nicola White were enough to give Danny Kerry’s team the win but their familiar struggle with converting penalty corners reared its head once again as they bagged just one penalty corner goal from ten attempts.
Having swept the Welsh to one side with an 8-0 win in the recent Investec London Cup many would have predicted a comfortable win again here. Although Amanda Partington’s side rarely threatened in attack, they produced a disciplined and dogged defensive performance to frustrate their rivals, limiting them to just two goals.
England suffered an early blow as they lost midfield dynamo Georgie Twigg after the Surbiton player was struck with the ball and unable to continue.
On 13 minutes Wales had the first clear chance at goal. Emma Batten and Leah Wilkinson combined neatly down the left with the latter engineering enough space for a cross which Batten diverted goalwards, forcing Maddie Hinch to kick clear.
Ria Male, who had an inspired tournament in the London Cup, continued her good form, producing an excellent low save to keep out a penalty corner from Kate Richardson-Walsh. Canterbury’s Susannah Townsend was unlucky in the 17th minute as her deflection from Ellie Watton’s diagonal pass came back off the post with Male beaten.
It had looked like Wales would hang on until the break with the scores level but with six minutes to play; Wilkinson’s attempted quick free-hit was intercepted by Danson just inside the D. The No15 made no mistake and ripped an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net giving the goalkeeper no chance.
England continued to dominate the game after the break but Wales stood firm. Male did well to make a sprawling block from a Giselle Ansley penalty corner and Lily Owsley was just wide from another corner routine but still England could not find a second goal. With seven minutes left however they had it. From a penalty corner Richardson-Walsh played a precise pass to the right-hand post where White pounced to guide the ball home to secure the win.
Whilst not the 8-0 hiding England had dished out in London, skipper Kate Richardson Walsh was happy enough to get the points on the board, saying:
“With tournament hockey nobody remembers what the score line was in the end, they just remember how many points you had on the table so I’m really happy to get the win.
“Coming on the back of a disappointing World Cup, we just want to build some momentum and we know how important winning your first game is. Second-half we did play some better stuff and if we can build on that I think we can be right in it.”
England’s next game is against Malaysia on Sunday.