Commonwealth Games 2014: Aussies call time on England hopes

Bobby Crutchley’s side lose heavily in semi-final and must beat New Zealand for a bronze medal

Glasgow

England may be on course to top the medal table at the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 28 years but the Ashes battle for supremacy with Australia does not stretch to the men’s hockey.

Originally scheduled for early afternoon, the semi-final was moved to a 10am start as it had contravened recovery time rules by the FIH, the sport’s governing body. In truth, even if the match had been played at midnight, the Australians would have been victorious – they were a class apart.

The 4-1 winning margin was not entirely indicative of the contest, the latter goals coming as England pressed desperately to force their way back into the game, which was slipping away from them early in the first half at Glasgow National Hockey Centre.

Wave after wave of green and gold shirts scythed through England’s defence in the early exchanges. With three minutes not quite up, the Aussies were in front, eight minutes later that advantage was doubled.

 

There were moments when England came close to matching the Olympic bronze medallists but it was the consistency for the full contest that was lacking.

England coach Bobby Crutchley said: “The problem is you have to play well against them throughout the whole game. They are a top side and are clinical if you give them a sniff. We have to be pleased with some of our play but ultimately we don’t want to run them close we want to beat them.”

A medal still potentially lies in wait today in the bronze-medal encounter against New Zealand who were  defeated by India 3-2 in the later of the two semi-finals in what proved a captivating match. India had trailed 2-0 after 17 minutes following goals by Simon Child and Nick Haig but turned it around with goals from Rupinder Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh to set up a final against Australia.

“It is a game to win a medal now and the guys know that,” added Crutchley. “They know the success or failure of this tournament will be based around whether we can get a medal or not.”

It was a soft way to go behind in the semi-final, Tristan White guiding the ball through George Pinner’s legs when England’s goalkeeper arguably should have done better. The ball was passed Pinner again moments later when Dan Fox was dispossessed and Simon Orchard cut across with a reverse hit into the England goal.

Any thoughts of an Australian rout dissipated as England found themselves on an even keel for much of the rest of the contest. It took a moment of brilliance from Ashley Jackson (pictured left) to give England hope in the wet conditions. Breaking down the left flank, he cut the ball in beautifully to David Condon, who found Harry Martin with his cutback, Martin connecting in the D.

That hope was rapidly squashed as Chris Ciriello hit back and Eddie Ockenden put the ball into an open goal as England pushed virtually their entire playing staff up field to get the required breakthrough.

England captain Barry Middleton blamed his team’s slow start for the result. “We were just a bit passive in the first half and let them come at us,” he said. “We were upset with the goals we conceded.”

England may have come here to win gold – Middleton tweeted as much on his arrival in Glasgow – but bronze would be some consolation.

“We have come here to win things,” he said. “Now we can’t win the whole thing so you reassess and say we need to win the bronze medal. I think it’s pretty simple now, some games you find are hard to pick yourself up for but I think there have been a lot tougher matches to get myself up for than a bronze medal.”

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