Men's 055s - Home Nations Report - Belfast 2018

England O55’s travelled to Lisnagarvey in Northern Ireland for the Home Internationals with dual goals, to retain their trophy and prepare for this month’s World Cup in Terrassa.
First up on the Friday were Scotland, the England team with clear coaching and management objectives started strongly and it was no surprise when they opened the scoring from a penalty corner, a slick castle interchange leading to an unstoppable Mike Pell drive. Into the second quarter and more England pressure resulted in Gary Mahon using clever disguise to fool the keeper and double the lead. The evergreen Jimmy Laslett causing chaos down the England left added a third before Scotland briefly rallied. A snap shot caught out Rob Brown to narrow the gap swiftly followed by a penalty flick which brought an extraordinary save from Brown. The game was made safe with a lovely finish from Stephen Askins lifting the ball past a defender rounding the keeper and smashing into an unguarded net. The final score of 4-1 didn’t flatter England but was a good start against always obdurate opponents.
Saturday brought an early clash with the hosts Ireland who had drawn with Wales the previous day. The Irish are always competitive especially on home soil but they struggled right from the start to deal with England’s movement and ball speed. At the back the four B’s Bower, Blocker, Bailey and “Baby face” Congerton gave nothing away and moved the Irish attackers and midfield around so much that they soon tired and allowed the midfield to take control, Ian Macllwaine on debut worked tirelessly and Andrew Law mixing short passes and astute aerials to stretch the Irish defence. Steve Nichols, also on debut, was strong all weekend both in defense and pressing forward from the right wingback position.  Four goals in each half including a hatrick from vice-captain Richard Purchase was a fair reflection of England’s superiority. Especially pleasing on the eye were four tap-ins the result of excellent off the ball movement from the forward line of Knott, Cobbald, Batchelor and Chaudhry. On the rare occasion the Irish threatened the always outstanding Howie Ford was around to prevent any damage to his goal. The only negative was a hamstring injury to Askins that prevented him taking any further part in the tournament.
Sunday’s opponents were the Welsh – still in with a mathematical chance of winning the tournament. England as they had done all weekend experimented with different formations, different “presses” and a variety of tactics all of which provided valuable experience ahead of the World Cup, credit goes to the captain David Knott and “management” for the organisation and clarity of instructions. The game followed a similar pattern to the Irish game and quickly fell into a routine of England possession and creation of lots of chances. Andy Batchelor grabbed a hatrick, Purchase and Pell scored three from corners with a combination of direct strikes and clever moves and the final score of 8-0 was again no more than was deserved.
Three wins, 20 goals, only one conceded, eight different goal scorers, seven goals from corners – the stats speak for themselves, excellent preparation for the challenges to come.