Ralph pays homage to the two Ellies.

England 4 (1)
Laura Unsworth 5 (FG)
Ellie Watton 37 (PC)
Sophie Bray 43 (FG)
Alex Danson 55 (PC)

Ireland 1 (0)
Elena Tice 42 (PC)

Coach David Ralph was delighted with his side’s opening game of the Rabo EuroHockey Championships as England began their title defence with a 4-1 win over Ireland.

The 45-year-old Scotsman, standing in for Danny Kerry watched on as Laura Unsworth, Ellie Watton, Sophie Bray and Alex Danson all found the net for England in a convincing win.  

“The first game is always tricky and Ireland are a tough opponent and we’re pleased not just with the result but our overall performance was good too.” Ralph told The Top of the D. “We created good opportunities and scored four goals. It’s a pleasing start.”

England showed good attacking intent from the first whistle and were in front within five minutes. Susannah Townsend fed Laura Unsworth inside the circle and her slapped cross-shot found the back of the net via the Irish goalkeeper for her seventh international goal.

04 England - Ireland

Ireland’s first attacking response came from a penalty corner but Roisin Upton found Maddie Hinch equal to the task, the goalkeeper snaking out a right foot to divert the ball over the bar.

Ellie Watton was busy and energetic at the front of England’s press and won David Ralph’s charges some good turnover ball as England pressed for another.

Ireland came into the game more in the second quarter and Kathryn Mullan couldn’t quite turn in Deirdre Duke’s cross and it remained 1-0 at half time.

England found the second goal with 37 minutes on the clock. A beautifully worked penalty corner doubled their money as Ellie Rayer’s pinpoint pass was touched in by Ellie Watton.

Ralph paid tribute to the two Ellies, post-match saying:

“I’m delighted for both. Ellie Watton is a terrific member of our squad. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate situation for Nic White to miss out but we’re really happy to have Ellie with us playing well out there and I’m really pleased she got on the scoresheet too.”

“Ellie Rayer has really developed since she joined the programme and has been a real bright spark for us. These are her just rewards and I’m really pleased to see her doing well.”

Ireland pulled one back from an Elena Tice penalty corner in the 42nd minute but England re-asserted their dominance and restored their two-goal advantage a minute later. A bouncing ball found its way into the circle where Sophie Bray made no mistake with a lovely first-time finish.

Bray and Lily Owsley caused the Irish defence plenty of problems in the final quarter with the No19 drawing a fine save from O’Flanagan with an outrageous upright backhand.

Danson put the gloss in the score with five minutes to go, pouncing on a rebound from Zoe Shipperley’s penalty corner to lift in her 104th international goal and England were off and running in the tournament.

Ellie Rayer spoke to The Top of the D post-match saying:

“It’s an incredible start and good to get a result. We’ve done our jobs today so we can’t be too disappointed. I’m absolutely buzzing to get going and looking to build on it now for the rest of the tournament.”

The rest of the tournament comes quickly for Rayer and her teammates as they take on Germany tomorrow afternoon.

To find out Giselle Ansley’s thoughts post-match click here.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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1 Response to Ralph pays homage to the two Ellies.

  1. Was that KRW asking the questions? I hope you’re not letting her boss you around.


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