Vitality Hockey World Cup: England 1 Ireland 0
PUBLISHED: 20:39 29 July 2018 | UPDATED: 20:39 29 July 2018
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England finally got the win they had been craving in their home World Cup, but they were made to wait by a dogged Ireland side before Giselle Ansley’s penalty corner found the net with less than eight minutes left.
The Irish had already rained on England’s parade somewhat by winning their first two group matches to ensure top spot and an automatic place in the quarter-finals.
And having come from behind to draw their opening game with India thanks to Lily Owsley’s late goal, then seen Alex Danson’s wonder strike cancelled out by the USA in another 1-1 draw, the hosts were looking to gain some winning momentum ahead of the crossover games.
With another packed house looking on, many bedecked in plastic ponchos to combat the wet weather, England made a confident enough start in possession and Danson’s reverse-stick shot was kicked away by the Irish goalkeeper after five minutes.
Ireland enjoyed some pressure of their own, largely on the left wing, before Danson saw another reverse stick shot kicked out and Jo Hunter’s follow-up was also blocked and England were awarded the first penalty corner in the 10th minute, with Laura Unsworth’s attempt repelled.
Another corner was awarded a couple of minutes later when the ball hit an Irish foot at the top of the D, with injector Ellie Watton’s shot blocked, with a third corner fired by Hollie Pearne-Webb off the stick of Susannah Townsend at the far post.
It had been an encouraging first quarter by England, though, as they posed most of the questions and they looked to keep the pressure on after the restart, winning another corner after four minutes, but it was deflected high over the crossbar by an Irish stick.
Hannah Martin tried to carry England forward with a forceful run, while Ireland’s McCay made ground on the left with some nifty stickwork, but a subsequent cross thudded into the body of Maddie Hinch and behind.
A sense of frustration was starting to build as half-time drew nearer, but Unsworth’s superb stick tackle denied an Irish attacker and drew a loud cheer from the home crowd as it remained scoreless.
After a lively interval rendition of YMCA from the fans, the tense began to grow again at the start of the second half, with Sarah Haycroft going close to breaking the deadlock after a mix-up in the Irish defence.
Owsley’s driving run to the byline came to nothing as Ellie Rayer waited in the D, before Ireland won their first corner of the match in the 40th minute.
A second followed when the flick deflected off an English foot, then another, when Owsley blocked and limped back to the goalline.
And Hinch threw out a big right pad to kick out the shot, before England countered to howls of excitement and looked to fashion a chance, which a diving Danson deflected wide of the target.
Martin’s shot on the turn forced another England short corner with two minutes left in the third quarter, but Giselle Ansley’s drag flick found an Irish foot, then Unsworth’s strike was blocked by a stick and Danson’s follow-up attempt drew another corner.
Pearne-Webb was next to try from the top of the D, but her effort was deflected off an Irish stick and palmed away by the keeper, but hitting the body of a defender, which was confirmed after a successful review by England.
Townsend scuff her attempted injection, though, and although Pearne-Webb retrieved the ball and sent it towards the near post, the Irish defence held firm again.
Further England pressure led to another corner with just five seconds on the clock, but Ansley’s flick hit an Irish shoulder and flew behind as the buzzer sounded.
Townsend deflected a Pearne-Webb hit beyond the far post with barely two minutes gone in the final quarter, before England forced yet another penalty corner, with Grace Balsdon seeing her try kicked away on this occasion.
And as England kept their rivals pinned back, Townsend saw a blocked shot lead to another corner with just over 10 minutes left on the clock, but Pearne-Webb miscontrolled her trap and Owsley won another corner, despite Ireland’s attempt to have it overturned for a back-stick.
This one from Ansley was deflected into the body of the Irish goalie, who kicked the loose ball into the body of Danson, with the England captain showing the umpire a mark on her leg which, after another video review, meant the hosts had yet another corner.
A change of routine failed to find a way through, however, and the wait went on.
To make matters worse, Balsdon was then shown a green card as Ireland managed to get over the halfway line briefly, but a driving run by Owsley led to another green card for Chloe Watkins, evening up the numbers at 10 apiece.
A stick tackle on Danson led to another corner, with 7.44 left on the clock, and England finally got the goal they so desperately wanted as Watton injected and Ansley’s flick found the backboard.
Ansley saw another corner kicked out inside the last two minutes, after another successful review by England, but one goal proved enough this time and they will now take on Korea in the crossover matches on Tuesday (8.15pm) as they look to join Ireland in the last eight.