England secure 7th with Belgium win

Chris Griffiths celebrates his goal vs Bel at CT2014

England faced Belgium for the second time this week and after a 1-1 draw in the pool stages Head Coach Bobby Crutchley’s side were able to come away with a hard fought 3-2 victory against their European foes. Belgium’s Florent van Aubel scored twice for his country, but two goals for East Grinstead’s David Condon in the first and second quarter and one for his club teammate Chris Griffiths on the stroke of half-time made it 3-2 and secured England the seventh place finish.

After winning his 100th cap yesterday against Argentina, Alastair Brogdon was unable to play in the game due to suffering from sickness. Belgium were also missing two players, Simon Gougnard and Loïck Luypaert, through injury.

David Condon 14, 19 (PC, FG)
Chris Griffiths 30 (FG)

Florent van Aubel 10, 39 (FG, FG)

Belgium had a flurry of chances in the opening 15 minutes. Florent van Aubel got Belgium off the mark with a reverse stick effort in the 10th minute. George Pinner in England’s goal had smothered an initial shot, but his swept out ball fell kindly for van Aubel whose shot found its way through Henry Weir and Pinner to give Belgium the lead. The world number four side continued to hassle England in defence, but they failed to capitalise on their chances and it was England who brought themselves back into contention just before the break. Tom Carson successfully referred a Belgium back stick and the Reading player stepped up to take the resulting penalty corner; his effort was saved well by Vincent Vanasch, but East Grinstead’s David Condon slapped home the equaliser via a deflection off Van Aubel’s stick.

England took full advantage of their chances in the second quarter. Condon added to his tally in the 19th minute when he fired home a great finish on the turn to take the scoreline to 2-1. After providing the ball for the second goal, Condon’s East Grinstead teammate Chris Griffiths found the target for England’s third seconds before half time. Nick Catlin fired a pass into the circle and after two Belgium defenders were unable to deal with the danger, Griffiths latched onto the loose ball to carve his shot past Vanasch and give his side a two goal cushion.

Despite the score line, Belgium continued to dominate possession going into the third quarter and some exceptional individual skill from Van Aubel saw him beat two defenders and lift the ball over Pinner to make it 3-2 and remind England how close the encounter was. A yellow card for Tanguy Cosyns in the 43rd minute did stem the flow of attacks from Belgium but England lacked the same fluidity they’d found in the second period.

It was England’s lead to defend as the teams came out for the final quarter and Belgium continued to threaten with every attack, however some determined and clinical defending from Crutchley’s side who remained calm under pressure allowed them to see the game out and seal the victory and seventh place.

England man of the match, Wimbledon’s Henry Weir

On being man of the match and the overall team performance today: “It was fantastic that I could do a few things to help the team out today, but it was all about the team performance. Last game of the tournament, a man down and we had to dig deep to get the result.”

On getting motivated for seventh vs eighth: “It’s really tough, especially with the good start to the tournament that we had, but I think we all got together and realised that getting this experience now and putting everything into this game will help us to go away from here and learn a lot.”

On lessons learnt and not delivering in the vital matches: “We know we can play good hockey and we’ve had some fantastic results against the teams who are now in the top four, but we need to produce our best game when it really matters and that’s in the knock-out stages.”

England Head Coach Bobby Crutchley

On the performance:“Although we didn’t play our best hockey today I’m very pleased with the win. It was a difficult game with both teams missing players at the end of a long and tough tournament. We coped well with the physical demands out there today and I think the victory was a justifiable reward for the overall performances during the last week of competition.”

That’s it for international hockey in 2014; England will head home for a break from pitch training before focus switches to Great Britain in the New Year. Many of the England squad will return to their clubs for the indoor season, which culminates in the Hockey 5s Indoor Finals at SSE Arena, Wembley on Sunday 25th January.

Four of the teams at this tournament, England, Belgium, Germany and Netherlands will be in London next Summer from 21-30 August at the 2015 EuroHockey Nations Championships on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Tickets for the event are available from www.eurohockey2015.co.uk