Battered, bruised, broken but crucially, not beaten. England secured a bronze medal in a physical encounter with Germany at the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam. Goals from Barry Middleton, Ian Sloan, Mark Gleghorne and Phil Roper steered Bobby Crutchley’s side to a first medal at this competition in six years with a 4-2 win.
“That was a hell of a match. There wasn’t a lot of control and in a way, we didn’t play very well but we showed a lot of guts and we helped each other out.” said a delighted Crutchley afterwards. “George Pinner played well and all the lads dug in. To break away like that and score the goal that clinched it was great to see. We used our hearts more than our heads, but we got it done.”
Pinner produced a string of superb saves in the first quarter to keep England on terms, twice denying Mats Grambusch and clearing well with Christopher Ruhr closing in.
At the other end both Sam Ward and David Goodfield went close but it was all square after the first quarter.
England fell behind in the second quarter thanks to a well worked penalty corner allowing Mats Grambusch to slide in and deflect home. England levelled through a beautifully worked penalty corner where Adam Dixon set up Barry Middleton to expertly finish to make it 1-1. England than forged ahead. Mikey Hoare picked out Sloan who tucked it away with minimum of fuss.
“I’ve tried to improve on getting forwards more and trying to create and score more goals.” Said Sloan afterwards. “One of the things we’ve worked on is getting shots away before the keeper gets set that’s what I tried to do today and it came off.”
The game was end to end with Liam Sanford, who was outstanding in defence for the Three Lions calmly clearing off his own line before Phil Roper was denied by Tobias Walter.
England lost Hoare to injury, then Sanford for a spell and then Lukas Windfeder levelled the scores going into the final quarter.
“We really put ourselves on the line. That final nine minutes seemed to go on forever. We really dug deep and worked together. We put ourselves in the way, we got hit when we needed to, we tackled when we needed to and we really dug in.” said Sloan afterwards.
In the fourth quarter England got themselves back in front. A superb run and cross by David Ames seemed to have evaded everyone but Gleghorne dived full length to get to the ball and slap it home.
— EuroHockey (@eurohockeyorg) August 27, 2017
Barry Middleton limped off as England continued to fight tooth and nail to get over the line. Sanford came up with some inspired defending and then Pinner pulled off two excellent saves as the pressure mounted. Germany went to a kicking back with five minutes left. Middleton, rejuvenated from his rest on the side-line, charged out of defence and slid the ball to Roper who did the rest, slotting it into an empty net to clinch the game and send the travelling English fans wild.
“We’ve had a lot of 4th place finishes and it’s not easy coming higher than that in a tournament like this.” Said Crutchley. “To get a medal is really pleasing. We’ve had a good year so far but we want to continue to learn and to step up. The standard of competition is rising all the time so if we can keep improving, which we’ll need to as everyone else does, we’ll do well.”
Sloan echoed those sentiments, telling The Top of the D: “We’re delighted to get the bronze but we’re determined to use this as a way of getting some momentum. We matched the Dutch in the semi-finals and now we’ve beaten the Germans, so the last two games have been positive. We need to make sure we get that job done in the semi-finals in future and that we kick on from here.”
First things first, though there is an evening of celebration ahead as England’s men and women both look back on a job well done against both German sides, who go home empty handed for the first time in this tournament’s history.
Where were the Germans? Frankly, who cares? As someone famously once said.