Another Ashley Jackson double and one from Reading’s Iain Mackay gave England victory over India in the final test at the University of Birmingham on Sunday. England were forced to fight their way back into the game after falling two goals behind inside 18 minutes.
England began the match poorly and a cagey start saw defenders Richard Mantell and Ali Wilson both gift India possession inside the opening two minutes. India took heart from their best opening to a match this week and were ahead just a minute later when a foul inside the circle after goalkeeper Nick Brothers’ penalty corner save resulted in a penalty stroke being awarded. From the spot, Vikram Pillay slotted home low to Brothers’ left, although the goalkeeper almost kept it out, diving low.
England countered from the restart and Iain Mackay narrowly missed connecting with Matt Daly’s cross before Brothers was again called into action, smothering well Dhananjay Mahadik’s shot from the top of the circle.
The home team won their first penalty corner after 14 minutes but Matt Daly’s tame effort was comfortably saved by Adrian D’Souza.
Leading, India were playing with confidence and went two up after good interplay in the final quarter of the pitch released Rajpal Singh along the baseline and his cross to Sunil was smashed home from five meters.
Thereafter, England enjoyed a spell of prolonged possession but their probing was only rewarded with a number of long corners as India defended well in numbers. In the 24th minute Ashley Jackson’s penalty corner effort was touched over the bar by Adrian D’Souza but he found his spot just six minutes later when he unleashed a powerful drag flick high into the left corner to pull England to within a goal of the visitors.
England had another opportunity from the set piece shortly before the break but Matt Daly’s effort was charged down and deflected wide by the stick of the onrushing defender.
Into the second half and England emerged stronger and hungrier than at any time in the first period. Disappointingly however, several good chances went begging as first Surbiton’s James Tindall blazed high and wide from the top of the circle and then Harry Jawanda, playing in only his second senior international, failed to connect with Ashley Jackson’s early cross to the penalty spot.
India were awarded a penalty corner in the 42nd minute but Dhananjay Mahadik’s effort was ruled out by the umpire.
Midway through the second half and England were beginning to exert some authority on the match. Ashley Jackson and Martin Jones combined well down the left but Jackson’s reverse stick effort was deflected over the bar but with 20 minutes remaining, Jackson got his second of the game and his fourth of the series when he beat D’Souza powerfully to his right at a penalty corner to make it 2-2.
With the Indian fans drumming in the stand and looking to inspire their players, the men in blue went back on the attack through Prabodh Tirkey, who drove at the heart of the English defense only to find Richard Mantell and Richard Smith standing firm.
England passed up further opportunities to take the lead as Tindall found himself crowded out inside the circle and Jawanda dallied on the ball around the penalty spot, allowing the Indian defenders to recover. The hosts did get their winner though with seven minutes remaining when one of the best flowing moves of the match was finished off by Iain Mackay who deflected home from close range. Starting the move, Rob Moore drove hard down the left of midfield before switching play quickly to the right where the onrushing Richard Alexander was on hand to fire the ball into the circle on the angle where Mackay deflected the ball with pace high into the net.
There was still time for a tense finale as India were awarded a penalty corner with just 14 seconds left on the clock but England were wise to the move that had brought a goal on Wednesday and the defense stood firm, blocking Arjun Halappa’s effort to a ecstatic roar from the England bench. 3-2 the final score.
Goal scorer Iain Mackay was pleased with his contribution at the end. “I scored in the 1-1 draw against Pakistan but it is good to get the winner today. India have definitely improved during the week so it was nice to come out on top in this third game and although it was a bit shaky at the end the penalty corner defense stood firm.”
Speaking afterwards, coach Jason Lee expressed his disappointment with how the team had begun the game but was upbeat ahead of the EuroHockey Nations Championships in three weeks and looking ahead to London 2020. “We have seen over the week here that the pitch is slippy and in the first 20 minutes we struggled, we didn’t play properly. You saw the difference later on when we began playing properly – players stayed on their feet much more.
“The summer series’ that we’ve played against the likes of Australia, Netherlands, Pakistan and India have been great for us ahead of London 2020. We’re further ahead in our preparation than normal and with a squad of 30 or so players, which is ten more than we would normally work with, we are in good shape for the next three years.”
England – India 3-2 (1-2)
Goals England: Ashley Jackson 30, 50 (PC, PC), Iain Mackay 64 (F)
Goals India: Vikram Pillay 3 (PS), Sunil S.V. 18 (F)
Source: England Hockey