Lee admits Britain had not prepared for penalties

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The Independent Online

The Great Britain coach, Jason Lee, said yesterday that his players had to draw on what experience they had to take ninth place at the Olympics in a penalty shoot-out victory over South Africa, as they had not practised penalties beforehand.

The Great Britain coach, Jason Lee, said yesterday that his players had to draw on what experience they had to take ninth place at the Olympics in a penalty shoot-out victory over South Africa, as they had not practised penalties beforehand.

They ran out 4-3 winners from the spot as, after Niall Stott had missed Britain's third stroke and Wayne Denne South Africa's fourth, Danny Hall stuck in the fifth and Simon Mason saved with his feet from Craig Fulton.

The match went to a shoot-out when golden goal extra-time could not separate the sides. The Guildford midfielder Guy Fordham's 43rd-minute goal was cancelled out two minutes later by Greg Nicol.

Afterwards Lee admitted that because of the logistics of the tournament - which involved a 90-minute round-trip from the Athletes' Village to the Helleniko Hockey Centre and a day-on, day-off playing schedule - they had not prepared for taking penalties.

"At the back of my mind, because of the way the competition has gone, we had to expect strokes," he said. "But our preparations have not had the best balance because we have had 45 minutes' travel to the ground - therefore we have not had the opportunity to practise strokes during the course of the tournament.

"In the warm-up games, we had asked our opposition to play a stroke competition so we had practised and had [picked] seven guys. When it came to it today we had four yes's and two maybes so it was just a question of persuading one of the maybes."

The match itself was largely forgettable as the Athens heat suppressed much attacking intent. The monotony was broken only by an enterprising 30-yard run from Fordham and Nicol's superb demonstration of how to find space in the circle.

"It has always been tight between us and them but I think we were the best side," added Lee. "They have got good individuals and the heat took the energy out of our game. It didn't seem to affect them as much but eventually we got there."

Ninth place was only one below GB's world ranking coming into the tournament, although in reality that should have been lower as Spain (who were ranked below them) are one of the most improved sides in the past two years.

Lee made no apologies for going to Athens with the intention of trying to win a medal, but admitted that when the approach did not work it made things even harder.

"It has been very tough because we set ourselves very, very difficult targets," he said. "Probably they weren't achievable targets but we set them anyway knowing how difficult they were.

"Ninth place in this tournament is pretty much a reflection of how good we were a year ago and I think it is a fair reflection of British hockey at the moment."

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