Hockey: Agony for Atkins

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The Independent Online
Jill Atkins, the Great Britain captain who had marshalled her defence heroically, ended up the villain of the piece in her side's 1- 0 defeat by world champions Australia on Friday night. Atkins's pass across the top of her circle was intended for Kath Johnson, but Michelle Andrews intercepted and beat goalkeeper Hilary Rose from close range at the second attempt.

The game had got under way with the Australians, defending an unbeaten run of 35 games stretching back to August 1995, in all-action, attacking mode with Great Britain matching them in midfield and looking well organised in defence.

An intriguing contest was developing when an accidental collision between Karen Brown and Jackie Pereira in the 25th minute left Britain having to bring on Jo Mould for the vastly experienced Brown, necessitating a reorganisation of the defence.

As the Australians, sensing the uncertainty in the British rearguard, stepped up the pressure, Atkins was forced into her error in the 29th minute. Australia, now in complete control, caused several moments of panic in the British defence, but were unable to increase their lead. The return of Brown after the interval restored order in the defence, but Australia continued to bombard the goal in search of doubling their lead.

None of the three British penalty corners worried the Australian goalkeeper Clover Maitland, while Australia notched up a total of 12, but, thanks to a string of brave saves by Rose and their own insipid corner drill, failed to add to their score.

As the final whistle drew near Britain moved Tammy Miller and Pauline Robertson forward from the midfield but there were still all too few British players in the Australian circle, whereas the Australians swarmed into the British circle, creating all sorts of problems and winning penalty corners.

Australia, now hot favourites for the gold medal, go marching on, leaving a complicated puzzle in their wake, with Britain now one of four teams on four points - all potentially with the chance of a bronze medal. Britain's two remaining preliminary games are against Argentina and Germany, whom they drew with and beat respectively in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Cape Town, but their attack must still be a cause for concern, with just the one shot on goal against Australia and just one goal from open play in their five games.

Great Britain: H Rose (Sutton Canada Life); J Atkins (Bradford Swithenbank); S Fraser (Bonagrass Grove), K Brown (Slough), K Johnson (Balsam Leicester); P Robertson (Edinburgh), M Davies (Sutton Canada Life), T Miller (Clifton); J Sixsmith (Sutton Canada Life), R Simpson (Edinburgh), M Nicholls (Slough). Replacements: C Cook, T Cullen (both Hightown), A Bennett (Slough), J Mould (Balsam Leicester).

Australia: K Marsden; J Morris; J Haslam, L Tooth, N Peris; L Powell, R Hawkes, R Farrell; K Powell, A Annan, M Andrews. Replacements: D Roche, L Dobson, J Pereira, K Starre, C Maitland.

Umpires: M van Gemert (Netherlands) and Mi Ok Lee (South Korea).