GREAT BRITAIN 1 (0) Susie Gilbert (FG) 65
SOUTH AFRICA 3 (2) Sulette Damons (FG) 5, Bernadette Coston (FG) 10, Jennifer Wilson (FG) 58
As the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations were coming to a close the Great Britain women were beginning their pursuit of the Investec London Cup when they faced Commonwealth opposition in the shape of South Africa. With some key omissions from the Great Britain squad, including Captain Kate Walsh who was ruled out earlier in the day, the opening game proved too tough a task as a strong South African side secured a 3-1 victory.
Speaking after the game Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry said, “Missing 25% of our Olympic squad meant that this game was always going to be a tough ask, but the reality was that we still got enough chances to get a result. South Africa deserve a lot of credit for their strong defending and taking their scoring opportunities.” Walsh missed the match after suffering an adverse reaction to tape used on her ankle.
Despite the deteriorating conditions both teams started with vigour, looking lively and keen to play an attacking style. South Africa’s Sulette Damons proved particularly difficult to manage with several strong, purposeful runs that would be the hallmark of her play for the whole of the game. She dealt the first blow in the match with a determined yet straightforward drive down the right, finished with a simple, powerful shot past Reading’s goalkeeper Beth Storry to make it 1-0.
As the rain got heavier the pitch got slower. Stand-in Great Britain Captain Helen Richardson tried to stir her team into action through leading by example and running at the opposition. Laura Bartlett seized on a South Africa mistake in midfield, made good ground and created a chance at the edge of the circle for Richardson who couldn’t get enough on it. Moments later, at the other end of the pitch, Bernadette Coston didn’t have such problems as she took the direct route, rifling past the British defence to put her side two up with less than 10 minutes played.
The resilient crowd welcomed the positive response from the home side as they took the game on and immediately won a penalty corner, the first of the game. The South Africans dutifully coped with the threat but the Reading duo of Bartlett and Richardson soon combined again to keep the pressure on. Mariette Rix was forced to make a smart save after quick work by University of Birmingham’s Susie Gilbert with Richardson again the provider in the last action of the half.
Great Britain made a strong start to the second half winning a brace of penalty corners early on but they were unable to convert their chances and it was South Africa who added another goal to their tally. A blistering turn of pace from Sulette Damons left the GB defence trailing and a useful ball into the circle found FIH World All Star Pietie Coetzee who played in Jennifer Wilson for a close range finish.
As the rain continued to fall, Great Britain tried hard to break down a well drilled South African defence and they were eventually rewarded for their effort; Gilbert finding the backboard from close range on 65 minutes to provide a consolation. Despite pressure from Great Britain in the closing minutes the match finished 3-1.
Despite the defeat Kerry was upbeat after the game adding, “Once we were down we went after the game really well and generated plenty of opportunities. We know which areas we need to work on for the next game.”
Captain Helen Richardson added, “The wet conditions slowed the ball down significantly and made it difficult for us to play the fast-paced game we are used to.” She, like Kerry, also refused to be downbeat about the performance, “We came here with some ideas about where we wanted to go and I definitely think we did that today.”
South Africa’s next match at the Investec London Cup is tomorrow against Germany at 20:00 while Great Britain have a rest day tomorrow before returning to action against Germany at 20:00 on Thursday.
Tickets for all four remaining days are still available online here or by calling 0844 499 3222.
GB Hockey Press Release