England beat Ireland in 100th encounter

NOW: Pensions Nations Cup Eng V Ire 450

England and Ireland lined up at Reading Hockey Club for the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup in front of a sell-out crowd. This was the 100th meeting between the two sides and it was Bobby Crutchley’s men who came out on top as two goals from Ashley Jackson and one for Harry Martin gave England a 3-0 victory.

ENGLAND 3 (2)
Ashley Jackson 29, 70 (PC, PC)
Harry Martin 31 (PC)  

IRELAND 0 (0)

Speaking after the game England captain Barry Middleton said, “We got the result tonight which was the important thing and I thought we played well in parts, but it was also clear that we haven’t played in many competitive matches since the World League Final in January. This game is the start of our build up to the World Cup and I’m pleased with how we performed, especially in the second half where we dominated play.”

Adding his thoughts about playing in front of a home crowd Middleton added, “This is what we want to get more of, nights like this with great support. We're trying to go to tournaments win matches and get the results. We’re working hard to get more people interested in hockey and hopefully next time we play we can get even more people down to watch. We've got the [Investec] London Cup in July and we should get a few thousand in the new legacy stadium on Olympic Park, and that's the sort of thing we want for our sport.”

The game started with some cagey play from both sides as they fought for control in midfield. Ireland’s Jonathan Bell caused some early trouble which allowed the visitors to force a penalty corner inside five minutes. After being side-lined with an injury for seven weeks Beeston’s George Pinner reassured everyone of his prowess in goal as he swiftly dealt with the resulting Irish flick.

 A reverse stick strike from Reading’s Simon Mantell in the 21st minute rifled just wide of the goal and as England held onto possession they were awarded a penalty corner moments later. England fans watched on as the familiar sight of Ashley Jackson appeared at the top of the circle and the number seven did not disappoint. As the ball came out, he rounded the first defender and fired the ball high in to the top right corner past David Fitzgerald in Ireland’s goal, giving England a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute.

It wasn’t long before England were back on the score-sheet. Another penalty corner in the 31st minute allowed Beeston’s Harry Martin to make his mark on the game; picking up an initially saved ball, there was very little Fitzgerald could do as he watched Martin’s shot fly past him. With the score at 2-0 the players headed in for the half-time break.

The second half was a somewhat one-sided affair as England dominated possession, however John Jackson’s Irish side were resolute in defence and kept the home-side at bay until the final minute.

With 30 seconds on the clock, England Captain Barry Middleton made one last break for goal, running from the half way to force an error and win a penalty corner. Much to the delight of the crowd, Jackson stepped up and scored his second of the game, with another flick to the top right corner. Jackson’s brace gave England the victory and Middleton celebrated with his team as they lifted the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup.

Speaking after the game goal scorer Harry Martin said, “I think we started off a bit rusty, it's our first game back for a while as a team, but we’re definitely pleased to get the result. We wanted to play our game rather than worry about what Ireland were doing, we knew they were going to be physical and they gave us a good battle. We tried a few different things tactically in the second half and I think that worked well for us, mixing up the formation slightly and using the opportunity to try a few new things.”

Martin added his thoughts on having a player like Ashley Jackson in the England side, “Ashley is so key for us, he's a world-class player and he's exciting to play with and to watch. As a team we all play off it and it's a real pleasure and privilege to play alongside him.”