England U18 Boys at St Albans

England's Aaron Hibell against Belgium at St Albans Hockey Club, 5th July 2014 U18 Photo by Ady Kerry

England U18 Boys travelled to St Albans with the U16s to play a series of training matches against the visiting Belgians.

Match 1

England 4 (3)
Roberts 18 (FG)
Tom Poustie 23 (FG)
Nick Page 32 (FG)
Harry Skinner 48 (FG)

Belgium 4 (2)
4 (FG)
21 (PC)
38 (FG)
41 (PC)

England started with a high energy that resulted in a penalty stroke being award in the first minute that Tom Poustie unfortunately failed convert. The game pace was high but an error in the England defence led to Belgium opening the scoring after only 4 minutes. England produced a quality response in the 18th minute with Roberts scoring following a counter attack, this in his debut game for the England's U18 Boys. Belgium regained the lead on 21 minutes from a penalty corner that George Oyebode saved 3 times before the ball was finally put in the net. England produced a swift response with Poustie scoring following a counter attack. England took the lead just before half-time when Nick Page finished a flowing move from midfield, putting the scores at 3-2 to England going into the break.

Following the restart England lost the lead with two goals scored from open play and a penalty corner in the opening six minutes. However, they continued create chances hitting the woodwork twice from deflected penalty corners. Scores were levelled in 48th minute when Harry Skinner converted the second penalty stroke awarded after great work by young Peter Scott. Oyebode was called into action on a number of occasions producing a string of excellent saves that earned him man of the match helping to ensure the scores remained level at 4-4 . Tom Sorsby, tireless in mid-field, also produced a strong performance.

The second test of three is played on Sunday and should again be a close match. England U18 Boys' Head Coach said after the game: "It was a much improved performance against a talented Belgium side following the two winning test matches against Scotland last weekend. The team played with a better tempo and structure throughout, creating good goal-scoring chances from open play and penalty corner opportunities. Defensive qualities improved markedly, although there is still room for improvement. Individual performances showed greater focus and application ensuring progression of the adopted team processes."

Match 2

England 2 (0)
Jack Clee 43 (FG)
Harry Skinner 68 (PC)

Belgium 1 (0)
46 (PC)

After yesterday's free scoring game this was a much closer encounter but saw England edging to victory in the 68th minute when Harry Skinner converted a well taken penalty corner.

Determined attacking play from both sides was countered by resistant defences. Belgium had an early chance from a penalty corner awarded after only 6 minutes but they failed to convert. Each side had further chance to open the scoring from penalty corners but neither could break the dead lock leaving the half time score at 0-0.

A change in tactics by England saw chances early on in the second half resulting in Captain Jack Clee scoring a scrambled goal to give the home side the lead. However this was short lived as Belgium were awarded a penalty corner that was converted, taken low to Elliot Bullman's left on 46 minutes. Chances fell to both sides as the winning goal was sought. On two occasions Bullman made very good saves to deny Belgium. Pressure in the last few minutes by England brought the reward of a penalty corner that was converted to seal the victory.

England U18 Boys' Head Coach said after the game: "The team showed further progress in this tightly contested game particularly in their defensive play where controlled aggression was seen restricting Belgium chances when compared with the first game. Overall a hard won game from which a number of positives were taken in terms of the teams & individual performances."

The third and final test will be played at 11:00 on Monday where England will be determined to consolidate their success.