Britain indebted to Giles

HOCKEY
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The Independent Online
By way of a guide to survival in Atlanta, the British Olympic Association gave out a list of 20 don'ts before their competitors left for Georgia. No 21 in the case of the hockey team ought to be: "Don't leave yourselves having to beat Australia to reach the semi-finals."

Britain face the No 1 seeds at Morris Brown College today knowing a draw will not be sufficient. "Whether it's 8-7 or 1-0, it's got to be a win," David Whittle, the manager, said - which, on current form, is like asking England's football team to beat Germany. It could happen, but usually does not.

In their last 10 meetings, Britain have managed no victories and just one draw and you have to go back to the distant days of the gold medal campaign in Seoul to find the last time they came out on top.

Sean Kerly scored a hat-trick that day when the ball only needed to get near his stick and it ended in the net. With the current team, you sometimes get the impression they could play continuously to the next Olympics in Sydney and still be goalless were it not for the short corner.

They got another two in Saturday's 2-0 win over South Africa, both of which stemmed from Calum Giles' appearance on the pitch to act as hit man on set-pieces. First Jon Watt pounced on a rebound after South Africa's goalkeeper, Brian Myburgh had saved from a Giles piledriver, then Giles got his fifth goal of the tournament, flicking in after 29 minutes.

A field goal, though, did not come and that put unnecessary pressure on a British defence which, while being impressive throughout, was nevertheless indebted to Simon Mason. The Reading goalkeeper has been the closest thing to a brick wall so far in Atlanta and he made four outstanding saves against the South Africans.

"Simon was voted one of the best two goalkeepers in the World Cup two years ago," Whittle said. "Here he is proving worthy of that accolade."

Mason will probably need the reflexes of a cat today if the South African verdict on the British is anything to go by. Their coach, a former England international, Gavin Featherstone, was unimpressed.

"They play like they always do," he said. "Well organised, difficult to beat and they talk to each other on the field. But they will need to be more expansive against the Australians, who will convert the chances that we missed." Did he think Britain could get to the semi-finals? "I can't see them beating Australia," he replied, "but they might trip into a win."

GREAT BRITAIN: S Mason (Reading); J Wyatt (Reading), J Halls (Old Loughtonians); P McGuire (Teddington); Kalbir Takher (Cannock), Soma Singh (Southgate); C Mayer (Cannock), R Garcia (Polo Barcelona), J Lee (Old Loughtonians), J Laslett (Teddington, capt), N Thompson (Old Loughtonians). Substitutes used: C Giles (Havant), S Hazlitt (Hounslow), J Shaw (Southgate), D Hall (Guildford).

SOUTH AFRICA: Myburgh; Cooke, Jackson, Michalaro; Teversham, Boddington; Graham, Chree, Hallowes, Anderson, Nicol. Substitutes used: Milne, C Fulton, Clark, Fredericksau, W Fulton.

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