Goals from David Goodfield and Sam Ward handed England a vital 2-1 win over Ireland and sent them into the semi-finals of the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships. Afterwards goalkeeper George Pinner revealed the extra motivation that had caused his team to get over the line:
“Bobby [Crutchley] promised to take us out for steak tonight if we won, so if he keeps doing that we might keep winning.” said the delighted goalkeeper in the wake of his team’s triumph.
Steak dinners and joking aside, Coach Crutchley was understandably thrilled with his team:
“It may not have been the most stylish performance but in many ways, that was our best so far because of what was on it. We dominated the first quarter, went a goal down and came out for the second half and put them under the pump. It was a very impressive performance and you know me, I don’t say that very often.”
England trailed to a well-worked penalty corner where Conor Harte picked out Matthew Nelson who finished expertly to give the Green Machine the lead. England created the better of the chances but found Davey Harte in the Ireland goal in typically imperious form.
England trailed heading into the third quarter but Pinner refused to panic, telling The Top of the D:
“We weren’t worried because we had all the possession. You can get a bit nervous because you aren’t scoring but that second half you saw when this team switches it on, it’s something special. Once we clicked the excitement built and that’s when you know things will happen.”
Things began to happen in the third quarter as David Goodfield squeezed a powerful strike through Davey Harte and just over the line to make it 1-1. Harte denied Sam Ward from a penalty corner and then England’s No13 whistled a snap-shot past the far post, but you sensed the goal was coming.
Shane O’Donoghue was then sent to the sin bin for a 10-minute yellow card and England took full advantage of the extra man. They’d already gone close with a well worked penalty corner which Henry Weir couldn’t convert but on 44 minutes England got their noses in front. Ian Sloan broke into the circle and his cross was slotted home by Ward from close range.
IRL 1 – 2 ENG Ward’s goal pushes England into the lead #EHC2017 pic.twitter.com/HVxzmv90oe
— EuroHockey (@eurohockeyorg) August 23, 2017
The final quarter was fraught as Ireland pushed on to get an equaliser and England tried to hold onto or even enhance their lead. With the minutes ticking down Ireland won a penalty corner. O’Donoghue ripped a flick towards the top corner but Pinner got a big glove on it to divert it over the bar. The goalkeeper joked afterwards that it “made a nice change” to save one from the Ireland drag flicker but it was a very important stop from The Great Wall of Ipswich.
Ireland went to a kicking back but England held firm to take their place in the semi-finals.
England will now most likely face Belgium in those semi-finals. Confirmation to follow.