In the 500th match to be played in the history of the hockey World Cup, England and South Africa contested an entertaining ten goal thriller at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Delhi on Tuesday. A double from Richard Mantell sandwiched strikes from Rob Moore, Ashley Jackson, Nick Catlin and Iain Mackay as England recovered from an early set back to win 6-4.
After their historic victory over Australia on the opening day of the tournament, favourites for the match England were intent on securing three more points and improving their performance. For South Africa, who lost to Spain on Sunday, this was an opportunity to get their tournament up and running.
In a change from Sunday’s squad, England head coach Jason Lee brought Hampstead & Westminster defender Dan Fox onto the bench with Reading’s Jonty Clarke resting a tight hamstring in the stand alongside reserve goalkeeper and club teammate Nick Brothers.
England were clearly keen to start in a more attacking manner than against Australia two days ago but two early circle entries came to nothing before Surbiton forward James Tindall received an early green card and a two minute suspension.
James Fair, the hero for England on the opening day, was called upon in the seventh minute as he came off his post to narrow the angle with Thornton McDade pulling the trigger. Three minutes later, Fair could do nothing to stop Marvin Harper from opening the scoring from close range after good work by Justin Reid-Ross along the baseline.
As against Australia on Sunday, England immediately rallied from their set-back. Bowdon’s Alastair Brogdon looked to have been crowded out inside the South African circle but his cutback found its way to Glenn Kirkham and the East Grinstead man’s shot found the foot of a defender. Before Kirkham could pull the corner in from the baseline, South African Lloyd Norris-Jones broke the line and was sent to the halfway line by the umpire. Facing a now depleted South African penalty corner defence Richard Mantell (pictured above) executed a well placed low drag flick into the bottom right corner, which hit the backboard via the stick of Lloyd Madsen on the post for 1-1.
In the 20th minute South Africa were reduced to ten men with the temporary suspension of Wade Paton, although the green card should have been shown to his teammate Paul Blake.
England were beginning to assert their control on play and in the 23rd minute Surbiton’s 28 year old midfield forward Rob Moore (below) robbed South African captain Austin Smith in the middle of the pitch. Bursting forward at pace, Moore entered the circle and fired a blistering shot through the legs of Erasmus Pietersen in goal to give England the lead. It was the 15th England goal of Moore’s international career.
No sooner had England gone ahead than South Africa responded, albeit with some good fortune favouring the attacking endeavour of Norris-Jones. Playing the ball across the face of goal from inside the right of the England circle, the former Canterbury player’s cross was nowhere near a South African colleague but a defensive error gave South Africa an equaliser. In attempting to stop the ball Richard Mantell deflected it under the body of his goalkeeper Fair and into the goal; 2-2 with 25 minutes played.
The goal seemed to boost the Africans’ confidence and Fair soon had to save on his post from the reverse stick effort of Julian Hykes, who was looking to add to his goal against Spain on the opening day.
South Africa had been level with Spain at half time in their opening match on Sunday before going down 4-2 and they began the second period intent on preventing a repeat. Within a minute of the half beginning Julian Hykes had South Africa’s first sight of goal but under pressure from Richard Alexander he squeezed his shot wide of Fair’s right post.
There then followed a period of patient possession play before England re-took the lead in the 43rd minute. Good work in the midfield from Dan Fox, playing in his first ever World Cup match, saw him find Captain Barry Middleton on the left of the circle. Middleton drove around Lloyd Madsen before cutting back to the diving Fox on the near post. Fox’s effort was heading towards the far post where Jackson (pictured left) was on hand to knock home from a metre out to make sure of the goal.
Two well worked goals in as many minutes then looked to have put England in control. In the 50th minute Nick Catlin deflected Richard Alexander’s hard pass onto the target but Pietersen pulled off a good reaction save. Not to be thwarted, the 20 year old Loughborough Students player followed up to add a World Cup goal to the one he scored against Korea at December’s Champions Trophy.
And a minute later Catlin (below right) was involved again as England stretched the lead to 5-2. Breaking with Richard Alexander and Iain Mackay in a three-on-one, Catlin drew the goalkeeper before sliding the ball right to the diving Mackay to knock the home for his fifth England goal.
On 53 minutes a good piece of skill from Marvin Harper at the other end of the pitch pulled one back for South Africa as he dived to connect mid-air at the back post, meeting a cross from the South African right for 5-3.
With South Africa trying to force a comeback Richard Mantell restored England’s three goal cushion with his second of the match and his 45th goal for England in 90 appearances. Given another opportunity from a penalty corner Mantell flicked home just above the backboard between the goalkeeper and the man on the post.
With Mantell having taken England’s penalty corners, HGC’s Ashley Jackson had his first set piece sight on goal with just over an hour played. Erasmus Pietersen was equal to it though and kept the flick out with a gloved saved above his right shoulder. There then followed a delay while South African defender Justin Reid-Ross was treated for an injury sustained in a collision with Jackson after the youngster’s effort.
Entering the final period, England upped the ante with Jackson breaking through the top of the circle and forcing another save from Pietersen. With five minutes remaining James Tindall won England another penalty corner after a failed South African referral to the video umpire. Richard Mantell’s shot was on target but comfortably kept out by the goalkeeper, who proceeded to clear dangerously and concede another corner. Jackson’s effort next up flew with pace but wide of the left upright.
At the other end, South Africa countered and forced another goal to take them to within two of England with just three minutes remaining. Austin Smith’s pass to the middle of the goal was met by James Fair’s stick but he could not prevent Thornton McDade’s follow up and after an appeal to the video umpire the goal stood.
With two minutes remaining Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith received a suspension for a foul in the 23 metre area and from the next move South Africa were awarded a penalty corner. Gareth Carr though failed to find the target and after the ball flew over Fair’s crossbar the clock ticked down on another England victory.
England’s six goal haul is just the third time that they have scored six goals in a World Cup match, the others coming in a 7-0 defeat of Cuba in 2002 and a 6-1 victory over Ghana in 1975. It was England’s 17th win over South Africa in 36 meetings.
After the match, manager Andy Halliday admitted England were missing some of the defensive resolution they displayed against Australia, saying: “Overall we’re a little disappointed with the performance but having said that there were some patches of good hockey played, especially early in the second half. The defensive strength that we displayed on Sunday wasn’t there today but it is two wins from two now so we’ve got to pleased with that.”
Speaking about debutant Dan Fox, who was only called up to the squad last Friday after Simon Mantell withdrew with a foot injury, Halliday said: “We’re pleased with Dan’s contribution today. Ashley nicked a goal off him when Foxy thought he’d scored. Four days ago he was expecting to be teaching year seven pupils about plate tectonics and now he nearly scores inside 30 seconds of coming on for his first game at the World Cup.”
Next up for England is Pakistan on Thursday. The match gets underway at 13.05 GMT.