England men settle for fourth at EuroHockey Champs

nick catlin eng v ned eurohockey champs 450

NETHERLANDS 3 (1)
Jeroen Hertzberger 9, 39, 42 (PC, PC, FG)   

ENGLAND 2 (2)
Richard Smith 34 (PC)
Iain Lewers 15 (PC)

England’s men have come away from the EuroHockey Championships with fourth place after losing 3-2 against the Netherlands in their bronze medal match. England went into the break with a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Iain Lewers and Richard Smith, but they couldn’t hang on to their advantage in the second half as the Dutch scored twice in three minutes to turn the game around and claim the victory and the bronze medal.

Speaking after the game head coach Bobby Crutchley said, "I’m obviously frustrated that we didn't get the medal because we went out there to win, but that frustration is mixed with a lot of pride in the way that we played and have performed this tournament. It was a 10 minute spell that lost us the game today, where our concentration dropped and we let them [Netherlands] turn the game around and we can't afford to do that against a side as good as the Dutch."

A proud England Captain, Barry Middleton added, "It felt really good today and I think that was probably our best performance of the tournament, which is great to do against such quality opposition. It was frustrating to have that 10 minute spell where we let them get on top and play the way they wanted to play. And from there it was always going to be tough to come back. It was pretty gutting not to get anything out of the game, I think we had enough of the play that we could have done that and at least taken it to a shoot-out. There's a lot of positive stuff that we can take from this tournament, but playing teams like the Netherlands we don't want to just be saying "we played well", we want to be winning."

Crutchley was reluctant to pick out individual players for their performances this tournament, but added, "This tournament has been about the team and allowing this young squad to grow as a unit, but I think it's fair to pick out Nick Catlin who has been fantastic. He's such an exciting player to watch and to see him making that next step to becoming a real world-class player who other teams are scared of is great. It's also good to have Iain Lewers back in defence after his time out with injury and what a quality player he is."

Looking ahead over the next few months, Crutchley added, "The guys will have a bit of a break now and then we'll come back in October and push hard over the winter to continue to improve this squad. Next year will be very exciting with the World League Final, the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. Like Barry said, we want to be winning these big games and getting results against the best sides on the world, and that's the big challenge that lies ahead."

The Netherlands opened the scoring in the ninth minute after winning their first penalty corner of the game. With their usual penalty corner expert, van der Weerden, not on the pitch it was left to Jeroen Hertzberger to line-up and he didn't disappoint the Dutch fans as he expertly drove the ball home past George Pinner in England's goal.

England pushed forward and were rewarded for their efforts in the 15th minute when England Captain Barry Middleton called for the video umpire after he'd spotted a Dutch foot in the circle. The resulting penalty corner was initially saved, but East Grinstead's Iain Lewers, almost on the back line, fired the ball into the top of the Netherlands' goal from the tightest of angles to pull the scores level at 1-1.

There has been little to separate these sides in their encounters this year and with just a minute to go before half-time it looked like they would head into the break on level terms, but England had other ideas. An excellent strike from Hampstead & Westminster's Richard Smith from a penalty corner was dragged low to the right of Jaap Stockmann in goal to give England a 2-1 lead at the end of the first-half.

As the second half got underway England's slender lead did not last long as a slight lapse in concentration cost them two goals in quick succession. In the 39th minute the Dutch won a penalty corner which Hertzberger, again, fired home to even the score at 2-2. This time the ball went under the outstretched leg of Pinner. It took just three more minutes for the Dutch to turn the game around and it was a Hertzberger hat-trick as he fired home with pin-point accuracy inside Pinner's left post.

England battled hard to get back into the game, but after conceding the two earlier goals the Netherlands took control of the play and enjoyed the majority of the possession. With only a couple of minutes left on the clock a ball came in to Adam Dixon, but he just couldn’t connect with the pass and the match finished 3-2.

Click here to read the full match report.

England will have a chance to get back into the medals in two years time with home support as the 2015 EuroHockey Championships come to London.

For more information about the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships please visit the official website www.trifinanceeurohockey2013.be