Wales denied memorable win by late Gall goal

Wales captain Luke Hawker was left with mixed feelings after James Gall’s late penalty corner goal salvaged a point for England, denying Wales a famous win in their opening match of the EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp.

“It’s hard to say straight after the match how I feel. We’re really pleased to get some points on the board but it’s slightly disappointing considering the position we were in with five minutes to go. Perhaps we were a bit unlucky with some of the decisions at the end there, we’re really pleased, but I think we can be better.” said the Wales skipper.

Wales, ranked 25th in the world led 2-1 going into the final stages of the match thanks to a penalty corner goal from Gareth Furlong and a scrappy goal, credited to Rhodri Furlong with eight minutes to go.

Danny Kerry withdrew goalkeeper George Pinner with five minutes to play and England’s man advantage paid off when Gall slid in to divert Ashley Jackson’s pinpoint pass from a penalty corner with two minutes left to play.

“Wales are a very good side.” said England captain Adam Dixon, post-match.

“They’re well organised, have a good coach in Zak Jones and they put us under a lot of pressure right from the first whistle. We expected it. We knew it was going to be a tight game. We could have sharpened up in the final third and we’re a bit disappointed with some of our corner execution and our goal shooting but this is international hockey.”

As Dixon said, Wales started brightly and put England under pressure in the opening five minutes of the match. Gareth Furlong had the first clear chance of the game from a penalty corner but Sam Ward produced some fine work on the line to clear the danger.

It took England a while to get going in the first quarter; Ward tried to sneak one in at the near post but could only find the side netting whilst a fine driving run by Phil Roper was halted by a solid block from Welsh goalkeeper James Fortnam.

England dominated the second quarter and began to put the Welsh goal under pressure. Chris Griffiths’ penalty corner was run down by Stephen Kelly and Ieuan Tranter, on at quarter time in goal for Wales, made a fine save to keep out a Ward effort, also from a penalty corner.

Eventually, England’s pressure paid off and as is so often the case, it was Ward who broke the deadlock. His low drag flick deceived Tranter who got caught in two minds about using his glove or his feet to save the shot and in the end he couldn’t keep it out.

Wales started the second half in the same manner as the first. They won a penalty corner early on and this time Gareth Furlong’s low flick beat George Pinner to make it 1-1.

The Dragons were reduced to ten players shortly after. Jonny Gooch was given a yellow card but they dug in and kept England at bay for the duration of the suspension.

Danny Kerry’s team were finding Wales tough to break down. Ward shot wide from a penalty corner and Griffiths rapped a shot into Fortnam’s pads but there was no sign of a second goal for Danny Kerry’s side.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Wales took a shock lead. Jacob Draper’s cross was diverted in the circle by Rhodri Furlong and Henry Weir got in a terrible mess at the far post, knocking the ball into his own net with his feet.

It was looking like it would be a famous win for Wales, but Gall’s late intervention spared England’s blushes and ensured both sides took a point. Whilst England captain Dixon expressed his disappointment, his opposite number, Hawker was quietly pleased with his side:

“We want to show we belong here and can compete here. That’s our number one aim.” the Wales captain said.

“We can only take confidence from a result like today as we go into Spain tomorrow. If we play like that tomorrow who knows where we can be, come the middle of the week?”

England face hosts and World Champions, Belgium in their next match whilst Wales take on Spain. Both matches take place tomorrow and can be watched on the BBC Sport website.

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