Great Britain captain Adam Dixon could not hide his delight after his side’s 2-0 win over New Zealand secured a place in the first-ever FIH Pro League grand finals.
“We’re really happy. It’s a massive pay-off for the last six months. It’s been quite tiring and quite taxing so to be in there competing for medals rather than fifth or sixth place is really great for us. We’ll quickly put this game to bed and look forward to next weekend.”
The final match of Great Britain’s Pro League campaign was hosted at the home of Harlequins Rugby, the Twickenham Stoop, with a reported 11,000 tickets sold making it the highest hockey match attendance in the UK since the London Olympics.
Great Britain knew the equation was simple: Win their game and hope Belgium would do them a favour against Argentina and the finals place was theirs.
With Danny Kerry’s side up against bottom placed New Zealand they were favourites to get the job done but it was the Blacksticks who threatened first from a penalty before Shea McAleese’s shot flashed wide.
However it didn’t take long for Great Britain to break the deadlock. Chris Griffiths continued his fine run of goalscoring form with a backhand which deceived Richard Joyce in the New Zealand goal and found the back of the net. The Blacksticks went for a video referral but the goal was given.
With news filtering through that Belgium had held up their end of the bargain with a 4-1 win, it was now up to Great Britain to finish the job. Dixon says the result of the other game didn’t affect their approach to the match:
“We had a discussion about whether we should ignore the Belgium vs Argentina result but we decided to make everyone aware of what was going on. We knew Belgium were winning but to be honest it didn’t matter. It didn’t change our approach to the game but it was good to know that was taken care of. Belgium did us a favour and we’re really excited to turn it around and finish off the tournament in Amsterdam which is a great venue.”
Zach Wallace was unlucky not to extend the lead in the second quarter when his shot came back off the bar but at half time it looked comfortable for the home side.
The third quarter saw New Zealand putting on more pressure and stepping their press up the field. They successfully quietened the crowd down as they sought to spoil Great Britain’s party with an equaliser. Some heroic penalty corner defence from Brendan Creed kept New Zealand at bay and in the fourth quarter Danny Kerry’s side sealed the win.
Some splendid skill, a run and pass from Ashley Jackson set Griffiths free and his cross-shot was diverted in by Alan Forsyth to finish the job for GB.
“It’s all to play for now.” said Dixon afterwards. “Even though we weren’t as good as we wanted to be on the ball; we know we can play better. Comparing our progress from January to where we are now, if we can click and put that all together over the next two games of hockey, anything can happen.”
“Teams will be scared to play us. We want to be a team others don’t like to play against, whether that’s defensively being solid or putting on some good attacking play, if we can knit those together we have nothing to lose at the finals, we could cause an upset.”
Great Britain will face Australia on Friday in their semi-final whilst Belgium and the Netherlands face off in the other semi-final.