England sign off with London Cup victory

ngland rounded of their London Cup campaign with a victory over Belgium at the University of Westminster Sports Ground in Chiswick.

England 5 (0) - 2 (2) Belgium
Iain Lewers 38 (PC)           Renaud Pangrazio 4 (F)
James Tindall 39, 61 (PC, F)           Tom Boon 32 (PC)
Barry Middleton 42 (F)            
Mark Pearn 47 (F)            

The final day of The London Cup in Chiswick saw a sell out crowd watch England take on Belgium in the battle. The hosts were hoping to reverse Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat in the group stage and to build upon Friday’s excellent performance against New Zealand.

A frustrating first half saw England create chances but two Belgian goals from Renaud Pangrazio and Tom Boon left the English support fearing the worst.  However, a resurgent second half performance saw England net five times without reply.  Loughborough Students’ Iain Lewers swept home his first goal for England before James Tindall twice, Barry Middleton and Mark Pearn all netted to give England a 5-2 win.

Richard Smith shoots from a penalty corner against Belgium as his opponent wears a face mask at The London Cup, Chiswick

England started strongly and good running from Tindall forced a longer corner in the first attack of the game, but the ball was cleared long for Thomas Briels to juggle the ball along the baseline.  A clash of sticks led to a strong appeal from the Belgian forwards but play was waved on and England were able to clear.

A lax moment in the English midfield allowed Belgium to capitalise when Alexander De Paeuw pounced upon a loose pass and played the ball in for Renaud Pangrazio to deflect over James Fair and give Belgium the lead.

Belgium were looking the stronger of the two sides, but against the run of play Reading’s Jonty Clarke forged two opportunities in quick succession. Having shot from the first he then fed Surbiton’s James Tindall who dropped his shoulder and struck a firm shot that narrowly missed to the left.

Tindall’s clubmate Richard Alexander then displayed the energy and passion that makes him such a fans favourite, winning a strong 50/ 50 before bursting past several challenges and crossing for Richard Smith who was just unable to angle his deflection goalwards.

In what was proving to be a real example of end to end hockey, Thomas Briels again found himself in a shooting position on the baseline and this time crashed in a cross-come-shot but the ball evaded everyone.

England then won the first of their eight penalty corners after Tindall was fouled inside the circle, but Richard Mantell’s flick to the bottom right was lacking in power and easily saved.

Rob Moore in action for England against Belgium at The London Cup, ChiswickBelgium set up quickly and a long ball saw them create their own goal scoring opportunity.  Tom Boon should arguably have done better as he smashed the ball over James Fair’s crossbar.

A further England penalty corner went begging as Smith was unable to convert and Belgium responded moments later earning their own set piece.  Belgium’s set piece expert Tom Boon made no mistake and flicked the ball with venom, low to Fair’s stick side to make the score 2- 0.

The scoreline did not reflect the amount of possession which England were enjoying, but they could not find the finishing touches in front of goal.

The final play of the first half saw Mantell opt to dummy the drag flick and play the ball back towards the injector spot, but Wimbledon’s Rob Moore saw his slapped effort sail high over the bar.

Jason Lee’s half time team talk must have worked as England came out of the blocks flying; Jonty Clarke crashed a ball into the circle which bobbled up and earned England their fourth penalty corner of the game.  Mantell again opted for the slip to the injector and this time Ian Lewers was on hand to score his first goal for England and give the home side a route back into the game.

James Tindall in action for England against Belgium at The London Cup, Chiswick

No sooner had England halved the deficit than they were level.  The England penalty corner machine had finally come good one minute later Tindall scored his first of the tournament, flicking from the left of the circle.

Incredibly, England then took the lead with their third goal in the space of five minutes.  A quick move through the midfield ended with Glenn Kirkham squaring the ball to captain Barry Middleton, who slid in to make it 3-2.

With the crowd behind them England kicked on and silky skills from Beeston’s Ali Wilson saw the ball played across to Mark Pearn (below) who was able to drill the ball home unmarked for his 50th goal for England.

Mark Pearn celebrates scoring his 50th goal for England at The London Cup, Chiswick

The ever impressive Tindall was forced to spend a spell on the sidelines for a rash challenge but came back on to tip in a Jonty Clarke cross high past the Belgian goalkeeper David Van Rysselberghe to secure the points.  Tindall was later voted man of the match for his two goal haul.

After the match, England Head Coach Jason Lee stressed that despite finishing third, in his eyes England were the strongest side over the course of the tournament.  “Obviously we haven’t played to our full potential, but the Olympics is so close now that it feels just over horizon.  In all seriousness we really could win the Europeans back to back and that would be a phenomenal achievement; one that we could build upon and go on to be a genuine gold medal chance.”

See results, reports and tables from the tournament here.