England’s youngsters impressed again and it was Hollie Webb who gave the hosts the lead with her first international goal after 25 minutes. However, Australia’s Jodie Schulz pulled one back for the Hockeyroos late in the second half as a closely fought game was played out for a draw.
Leicester’s Nicola White, who was back on the bench today after missing yesterday’s match, earned her 50th cap for England alongside Slough’s Ashleigh Ball.
England Head Coach Jason Lee spoke after the game about his team’s performance. “They’re a young team and we found ourselves defending for large periods of the second half today as Australia pushed for an equalizer. Inevitably with the younger players, we did start to physically struggle in the latter stages, however I thought we defended defiantly. Although it’s not the style of play I want the girls to play in, I was really impressed that we managed to keep Australia at bay and take a point from the game.”
Hockeyroos head coach Adam Commens said afterwards, “I thought it was a game we started really well. We created a number of chances and were unlucky not to be ahead. England defended defiantly and tried to counter attack us; we need to learn how to play against that.
“We got better and better as the match went on and we’re still top of the pool, which means our destiny is in our own hands. A good performance against South Africa [in the final pool match] should give us a good draw for the quarter-finals.”
Australia were the brighter of the two sides in the opening minutes, attacking promisingly and full of confidence after their 5 – 0 win over Spain yesterday. After just three minutes they were awarded their first penalty corner of the match. 2012 FIH young player of the year Anna Flanagan stepped up at the top of the circle but Slough’s Ashleigh Ball was out quickly and closed down the Hockeyroo’s number nine.
With strong home support, England soon started to settle into the game with Holcombe’s Laura Unsworth and Reading’s Susie Townsend linking up well in the middle of the pitch. Some strong play from Townsend down the left hand side found Bristol Firebrand’s Lily Owsley who weaved her way into the South African circle and won England their second penalty corner of the match. Reading’s Kate Walsh saw her initial strike blocked by Casey Eastham but Beeston’s Hollie Webb was quick to pounce on the loose ball and fired home low to the keeper’s left to give England a 1 – 0 lead after 25 minutes.
England continued to press in the closing minutes of the first half and Reading’s Alex Danson nearly doubled England’s lead, dancing through the Australian defence and shooting just wide of the left hand post. The score remained at 1 – 0 going into the break.
England looked to continue where they had left off at the start of the second half. Positive build up play down the right hand side between Reading team mates Sam Quek and Townsend resulted in the ball finding Leicester’s Hannah Macleod at the back left hand post. She cleverly deflected the ball goalwards and forced a brilliant reaction stick save from Rachael Lynch.
With Australia pushing for an equaliser, they picked up the tempo and won a series of penalty corners in quick succession. Holcombe’s Maddie Hinch was called into action stretching to deflect the ball away with her left foot after a powerful Australian strike. However in the 60th minute Hinch was finally beaten, as Jodie Schulz converted a fierce drag flick, high into the left hand corner to bring the score level at 1- 1.
A tense final few minutes saw Australia request the video umpire and have their referral upheld as they were awarded another penalty corner. Hinch wasn’t going to be beaten twice by Schulz though and dived low to her right, preventing a last minute Australian winner and leaving the final score standing at 1 – 1.
After her fine goalkeeping performance, Maddie Hinch spoke after the game. “We defended really well as a unit, which made my job a lot easier and I think it was a fair result in the end. Australia are a good attacking side and we’ll settle for a draw.”
The draw means that Australia still top the group on goal difference from England, holding the coveted number one position that would mean a quarter-final showdown against the bottom team in Pool A, currently USA who suffered a surprise defeat to Italy earlier in the day.
The Hockeyroos third and final pool match is against South Africa at 2:30am AEST on Wednesday, 26 June, while England’s final group game is against Spain on Tuesday 25 June at 20:00 BST where they will be hoping to keep up their unbeaten run. Tickets are available on the gate.