European Open Match reports
England O50's match report from the recent European Open
England O50s retain European title
England fought hard to defend their title at the European Open Tournament in Belfast with both Scotland and Ireland pushing the champions close.
The squad gathered on the Monday afternoon at the magnificent Lisnagravey Hockey Club, the facility boasting two water-based artificial surfaces and a clubhouse with a panoramic view of the pitches. What was meant to be a gentle training session ended with keeper, Rob Brown heading off for stitches to a cut eye, Rob having removed his helmet a little too early! To add to the European flavour of the event, the squad enjoyed the evening at an Italian restaurant.
The first match saw England take on Wales, and England dominated from the start. Kevin Smith opened the scoring from a penalty-corner before Robin White added a brace, his second being ‘pinched’ from the deserving Andy Batchelor. Richard Adams, the team’s very own golf professional, scored the fourth before Batchelor netted the fifth. Phil Cobbald strode forward from his sweeper’s berth to complete the scoring, his first time strike catching the Welsh defence off-guard. Cobbald was to go on to have an outstanding tournament , filling in as sweeper in the absence of vice-captain, Mark French.
Wednesday brought with it a double-header, The Netherlands appearing as the first antagonists. The skipper, Richard Organ, set the ball rolling form a p.c. and further goals came from Smith, Adams, Andrew Law (aided and abetted by a Dutch defender) and Batchelor (3). Both keepers, Howie Ford and Rob Brown, were largely redundant as the England side stroked the ball around the pitch to create several goal-scoring opportunities. Dale Mullins, Greg Taylor and Paul Congerton snuffed out any hint of danger and Gentleman Jim Laslett looked as imperious as ever in the England mid-field.
The second game of the day proved to be a combative affair, Scotland largely nullifying England’s attacking instincts by closing down the ball-carrier early and getting men behind the ball. Against the run of play, Scotland took the lead but Kevin Smith levelled matters and Robin White helped England to move ahead. Richard Organ and Nisar Chaudhry were pulling the strings in the England mid-field whilst Rob Ward and the England front men were testing Scotland’s defence to the full. It was Batchelor who netted to create a two-goal advantage for England and, despite a late Scottish rally, England preserved their 100% success rate.
On Thursday, Ireland opted to play an aggressive game, hoping to unsettle England and knock them out of rhythm. To some extent, the tactic worked as England found it hard to create clear-cut chances but, thankfully, England’s refusal to wilt led to Nisar Chaudhry scoring the only goal of the game.
The USA provided the opposition on the final day for the 050s and, once again, England’s immediate adversaries opted to pack the defence in order to limit the possible damage. Paul Nicholson had recovered from injury - Lisa Jelly having done her work on the physio’s table - and played, as did Laslett who also benefited from a severe rub-down from England’s miracle worker. Goals came from Batchelor, Adams, Chaudhry and Organ although the USA did manage to find the net first from a penalty stroke.
The immensely enjoyable Tournament dinner was held in the confines of the magnificent Titanic Centre in Belfast on Friday evening before the squad departed on Saturday morning with yet another memorable experience to recount. Once again, coach Mary Booth and manager Ian Fitt had overseen a successful campaign for the England O50s. Richard Organ, an inspirational captain, now moves on to the 055s, as do Laslett, Mullins and Taylor – they will be keen to continue to experience similar levels of success to those that they have enjoyed in the 050s and we wish them well.
England 6 – 0 Wales
England 8 – 0 The Netherlands
England 3 – 2 Scotland
England 1 – 0 Ireland
England 4 – 1 USA
Ian Fitt (Manager), Tim Ollerenshaw (Asst Manager), Mary Booth (coach), Richard Organ (Capt), Andy Batchelor, Rob Brown, Nisar Chaudhry, Phil Cobbald, Paul Congerton, Howie Ford, Andy Law , Jim Laslett , Dale Mullins, Paul Nicholson, Greg Taylor, Kevin Smith, Rob Ward, Robin White, Richard Adams, Lisa Jelly (Physio).
Author: Paul Nicholson