England onslaught blocked by Canadian rockies

CANADA 1 (1)
Iain Smythe 13 (F)  
Simon Mantell 50 (F)  

Canada survived a second half onslaught from England to hold the European Champions to a 1-1 draw in their second match at the Commonwealth Games. 

The world’s number ten side defended excellently and had goalkeeper Antoni Kindler to thank for a string of top class saves as they kept a rampaging England at bay for most of the match.

From an early deflection, Canada took the lead and although Simon Mantell struck his third of the tournament and England spent the entire second half probing the Canadian circle incessantly, England could not find a way past the impressive Antoni Kindler in goal.

England captain Barry Middleton came close to opening the scoring inside two minutes when he connected on his reverse under pressure but could only hook the ball over the top.  Immediately following the chance, Canada broke upfield to win the game’s first penalty corner, which James Fair got down well to keep out.

And it was the tenth ranked Canadians who opened the scoring through a deflection by Iain Smythe inside ten minutes.  England’s defenders were not happy with the decision to award the goal, believing the ball to have come off Smythe’s foot but replays showed he touched it with his stick in front of the near post from Sukhwinder Singh’s lashed cross from the right.

The goal was met with an enormous cheer from the growing Indian crowd, who were arriving early for India’s match against Australia and were noisily supporting the Canadians.

England responded, throwing numbers forward, with Rob Moore coming closest with a diving shot that the goalkeeper Antoni Kindler came out to.  Three minutes before the break World Young Player of the Year Ashley Jackson so very nearly equalised for England with a penalty corner flick that looked destined for the top right corner until Adam Froese got the slightest of touches to it above his head to send it over the top.

England began the second half like a team on a mission.  Surbiton’s James Tindall forced Canadian goalkeeper Kindler into a smart save before Jackson whizzed another penalty corner just past the post.  Middleton forced the goalkeeper into another save and Kindler dealt well with a third Jackson corner.

The pressure looked to have told in the 49th minute when Jackson played a free hit to Richard Alexander on the edge of the Canadian circle.  The Surbiton player slapped the ball first time to Simon Mantell on the baseline and the Reading forward collected the pass and fired a controlled reverse stick shot into the net for a deserved English equaliser.

England continued to camp out in the Canadians’ half with chances falling to Reading’s Richard Mantell and Surbiton pair James Tindall and Richard Alexander in the space of ten minutes but with a packed defence Canada survived.

Exerting immense pressure, England were awarded several penalty corners as the giant digital clock on the scoreboard counted towards zero but once again Jackson found himself thwarted by the reflexes of Kindler in the Canada goal. 

With no way past, England had to settle for a share of the spoils as the now healthy crowd erupted in a cheer of support for Canada, whose players celebrated and applauded the support. 

After the match, despite dropping points, England Head Coach Jason Lee was pleased with how his side had played against a team previously identified as being a threat. 

“The match was not as frustrating as you might imagine,” he said.  “It was forecast to be a tough game.  When I saw the schedule I said that this game and the South African game would be our toughest games here.  Canada played very, very well and defended very well.  I was pleased with a lot of our play today and particularly with a number of our youngest players, still in their first few months of international hockey, who stepped up in the latter stages of the game.

“When we played Canada as Great Britain at the Beijing Olympics they were disappointed to draw with us, now you can see what it means to them.  It shows how far we’ve come in the past two years.”

Talking about the conditions, which although cooler than Wednesday, were still hot and humid, captain Barry Middleton said, “We found it quite hard.  It was tough but that’s one of the things that we work on as a squad.” 

On England’s chances, Middleton added, “We had a lot of free hits around the circle today but it didn’t quite fall for us and we didn’t put our corners away.”

England played the match with a squad of 15 after Glenn Kirkham failed to recover sufficiently from a dead leg sustained in Wednesday’s victory over Trinidad & Tobago.

England’s men now have a rest day before meeting New Zealand in Saturday’s first match of the day at 08:30hrs (local).

International results section will be updated shortly