A stunning second half display from Bobby Crutchley’s England gave them their second win from two matches in the Commonwealth Games. The sides were level at one goal apiece at the break but a second half blitz saw off the challenge of Malaysia.
Ashley Jackson treated the crowd to a penalty corner masterclass, scoring four times, whilst Adam Dixon, Phil Roper, Ali Brogdon and Mark Gleghorne completed the scoring as England ran riot after the interval.
Crutchley’s team took the lead after four minutes with their first clear chance at goal. Jackson ripped a trademark penalty corner into the roof of the net beyond Muhammad Hafizuddin Othman in the Malaysian goal. That settled England down and they dominated possession in the early going, moving the ball around the back well waiting for an opening to present itself.
With ten minutes on the clock Jackson won another penalty corner. This time he couldn’t beat the goalkeeper who got both gloves up to beat away the No7’s drag flick. Phil Roper was unlucky not to add to the tally when his industry and determination created an opening but his flicked effort was saved well by Othman. Barry Middleton began to assert himself on the game and it was from his pass that Simon Mantell went close, firing a shot at goal on the turn which the goalkeeper did well to get a foot on to keep out. The same player was then denied from a tight angle by a good glove save from Othman.
With eleven minutes left in the half, the tide turned. Malaysia forced three consecutive penalty corners and from the third Muhammed Shahril Saabh deceived George Pinner to find the net and make it 1-1.
The goal seemed to shake England and the remainder of the half had Malaysia posing much more of a threat. The game became frantic and the ball was turned over multiple times by both sides, as the heavens opened and the rain came down, both coaches welcomed the break to regroup and refocus their teams.
England hit the post immediately after the restart through David Condon but after 43 minutes they snatched the lead, again through Jackson. The No7’s low flick went through the ‘keeper’s legs to make it 2-1.
The game became quite a physical affair as tempers flared and Malaysia tried to upset England’s rhythm but Barry Middleton’s side remained undeterred and made it 3-1. Condon’s mis-hit shot fell to Roper who moved the ball away from the defender for Dixon to collect on the run and calmly slot the ball into the corner with a splendid finish.
Pinner, who had been largely a spectator in the second half had to be at his best to see off a deflected penalty corner but the giant goalkeeper used all of his frame to keep the ball out. At the other end Jackson fired another penalty corner into the roof of the net to complete his hat-trick leaving the goalkeeper rooted to the spot. Othman made a stunning save to turn Simon Mantell’s drag flick over the crossbar but with nine minutes to play there was nothing the goalkeeper could do as Jackson helped himself to his fourth and England’s fifth. With six minutes remaining Gleghorne added his name to the score sheet, pouncing on a defensive mix-up to stab home from close range and then Roper notched the seventh, snapping up the rebound after the ball had come back off the woodwork.
With the time ticking down there was time for England to score again. Roper did well to get away along the baseline and cut the ball back, although Dixon could not turn the ball home Brogdon was on hand and made no mistake to round off the second half rout.
England’s next match is the crucial Pool B clash with New Zealand. The Blacksticks have also won both their opening games, the winner will take a big step towards securing a semi-final place.