“I can’t really ask for much more from them” said Danny Kerry after his England team were held to a 1-1 draw for the second consecutive Hockey Women’s World Cup match. Alex Danson’s goal – her 115th in international hockey had looked set to give the hosts the win against the USA, but Erin Matson’s backhand strike in the third quarter levelled things up and each side left with a point.
It looked as though the fairy-tale script was going to play out: Captain Danson, on the occasion of her 200th England appearance scored a stunning goal to draw her level with Marjorie Pollard as England and Great Britain’s all-time leading women’s goal scorer. For the five minutes England led the home crowd seemed content with a 1-0 win and Danson as the match winner. Matson had other ideas, however and rifled a backhand shot past Maddie Hinch at the near post in the 39th minute to level things up.
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“I’d say we probably shaded it in terms of possession and circle entries as well as opportunities.” said Kerry.
“It really hinged on little moments. A little bit better craft and finishing off our attacking play and it might’ve been different. Some of our counter attacking play could’ve been finished better but I was pretty pleased with three quarters of our performance and I can’t really ask for much more than that.”
Fine margins make the difference at international level. The width of a post at one end denied Susannah Townsend a goal for England whilst at the other end what Kerry described as a “silly moment” led to the equaliser for the USA.
Despite the disappointment of not taking the three points, Kerry is pleased with the lessons his side are learning with every game.
“People learn most when the need for change is greatest. And it’s at its greatest when it matters. When you go to a World Cup if you don’t take your opportunity or you give the ball away and the opposition score, you learn. When you’re in training and the coach says “that’s not acceptable that’s not good enough” it doesn’t mean as much and it doesn’t perhaps teach them. The result might not be what we wanted but the lessons our players are learning are invaluable.”
The draw means that if Ireland beat India in tomorrow’s game, the Green Army will top the pool, sending the other two qualifiers into the playoff round before the quarter finals. On the face of it, that would be an extra game which Kerry would seemingly like to avoid. Not so.
“In some ways the extra game helps us because we get more match play rather than an extended four days’ rest. You can end up with a big gap between the last pool game and the quarter final and sometimes managing that is difficult. We have to come through without injuries but match play is better at keeping people at a level where they can compete.”
The England coach closed his post match interview with a glowing tribute to his captain and goalscorer, Alex Danson.
“She’s one of the world’s leading players but if you forget her hockey achievements, Alex Danson the person, what she tries to do, how she treats people and what she tries to give back to the sport is simply amazing. She is an outstanding human being and she deserves every success in life, whether that’s hockey or elsewhere.”
Kerry will be hoping that success in life starts with a win over Ireland in Sunday’s pool match.