With an impressive 4-1 victory over South Africa, hosts England started their Investec World League campaign on winning note in front of home support at Chiswick. Susie Gilbert, Sophie Bray, Alex Danson and Giselle Ansley scored for the hosts as they secured full three points from the match, while Pietie Coetzee scored only goal for South African women.
Speaking after his first game as England women’s head coach Jason Lee said, “I think the score line probably flattered us a bit today, however we scored goals at the crucial times. That’s my first game in charge and if all matches end like that I’ll be very happy. I’m really pleased with the way the new and experienced girls are starting to play together and I thought it was a good team performance.”
After completing her A Levels earlier this week 18 year old Lily Owsley made her senior international debut. Nicola White did not play after being unwell over the last couple of days, while Kirsty Mackay was named as the reserve goalkeeper.
South Africa dominated possession in the opening couple of minutes, however it was England who got the first shot away on goal, when a strike from Reading’s Susannah Townsend at the top of the circle whistled past Vuyisanani Mangisa’s left hand post.
Seven minutes into the match and South Africa were awarded their first penalty corner. A powerful strike resulted in a diving save from Holcombe’s Maddie Hinch, who then recovered quickly and smothered the rebounds. Two successive penalty corners followed, but some brave defending by Reading’s Kate Walsh and more fine goalkeeping from Hinch kept the score tied at 0 – 0.
England built up momentum and the pressure was rewarded when a defence splitting pass from Beeston’s Hollie Webb found Walsh in the circle. Walsh slipped the ball to Reading’s Susie Gilbert who slotted home to give England a 1 – 0 lead.
England nearly doubled their lead immediately when good build up play from Slough’s Ashleigh Ball saw Surbiton’s Sarah Haycroft fire a shot just past the post. After 28 minutes, a quick turn of pace by Reading’s Sam Quek down the right hand side, led to the ball being run along the baseline and slotted home by MOP’s (NED) Sophie Bray to make the score 2 – 0. South Africa piled on the pressure and their efforts were rewarded in the final minute when a penalty corner was fired home by Pietie Coetzee into the bottom right hand corner, leaving the score at 2 – 1 going into half time.
England came out the blocks quickly at the start of the second half and after some good play Reading’s Alex Danson got her name on the score sheet with a first time reverse stick strike to restore the two goal cushion.
South Africa responded quickly to the goal and the following ten minutes resulted in sustained pressure in the England half and strong attacking play. The England defence saw off this tricky period though and were soon creating more goal scoring opportunities. Firstly, Danson showed off her reverse stick strike again and grazed the cross bar from an incredibly tight angle. Minutes later, Bristol Firebrand’s Lily Owsley, made a fantastic driving run from inside her own half, demonstrating good pace and skill and forcing the keeper to make a smart save.
In the 68th minute, England rounded off a strong team performance with a fourth goal. A foul on Quek as she drove into the South African circle led to a series of penalty corners and it was Loughborough Students’ Giselle Ansley who finally converted England’s chances with a fantastic debut goal to seal the 4 – 1 victory.
Speaking after the game, goal scorer Sophie Bray said “I’m really happy to get my third goal for England. You always want to win your first game in a big tournament like this and we have plenty to build on after today. The crowd was absolutely amazing today and it’s great to have the home support.”
England will be hoping to continue their winning ways tomorrow, when they face Australia at 17.00 in their second group match. Tickets are available on the gate.
ENGLAND 4-1 (HT: 2-1) SOUTH AFRICA
For England: Susie Gilbert 22 (FG), Sophie Bray 28 (FG), Alex Danson 39 (FG), Giselle Ansley 68 (PC)
For South Africa: Pietie Coetzee 35 (PC)