England’s second half performance gave the crowd at Cannock something to shout about as they fought back against a three goal deficit to almost draw the second of three Test Matches against their Asian counterparts.
In a feisty first half – which saw temporary suspensions for Glenn Kirkham and Saijad Anwar – Pakistan went into the interval with a two goal advantage following goals from Muhammad Waqas and Muhammed Imran. Abdul Haseem Khan added a third in the second half before Surbiton duo James Tindall and Matt Daly mounted a come-back which was to prove too little too late.
England had an early opportunity with a fourth minute penalty corner but Ashley Jackson was denied by a dive to the right from Salman Akbar who was outstanding throughout in the Pakistan goal.
In the seventh minute, Pakistan found their first opening after a good run Muhammad Zubair found a congested circle and the troublesome Haeseem Khan could not get his shot away.
However, they did take the lead seven minutes later with a goal which came out of nowhere – the ball came across the face of goal and the England defender tried to get a stick to it, but Waqas was waiting to tap the ball in.
England’s second penalty corner of the match saw Daly’s shot directed over the bar by Akbar’s stick and shortly after, Waseem Ahmed supplied Abbas Haider who launched a ferocious shot which came to nothing.
Their lead was increased to two in the 22nd minute when Imran drag flicked the ball out of James Fair’s reach from a penalty corner.
Within minutes, England found themselves on the attack when a good run from James Tindall saw him penetrate the circle, but his shot to the right was wide and a diving Barry Middleton couldn’t get a touch.
Akbar again proved to be the thorn in England’s side when he saved Ashley Jackson’s 25th minute penalty corner with a low save to his right.
England exploded onto the scene in an entertaining second half with Tindall again on the attack, but he was stopped in his tracks and shortly afterwards, some silky skills from Adam Harper went unrewarded in a crowded circle.
Another penalty corner from England ricocheted off the bar with Matt Daly’s follow up being forced out of danger by Akbar.
In the 47th minute, England goalkeeper James Fair was quick off his line to put a stop to Haseem Khan’s attack after he had capitalised on a bad pass and shortly after at the other end, a nice interchange between Iain Mackay and Glenn Kirkham gave Richard Alexander the opportunity for an excellent reverse stick shot from the top of the circle, but Akbar was equal to the attempt. Alexander then turned to supplier providing the ball to Martin Jones with a long pass, but the former Cannock player was tackled by Muhammad Irfan.
Despite England’s pressure, the next goal belonged to Pakistan. Abbas Haider drove in to the circle to force Fair off his line and once the keeper had committed, the Pakistan player slipped the ball to the right to his colleague Haseem Khan who smashed the ball into an open goal. Fair said of the goal after the match “Pakistan are a good side on the counter-attack and took advantage of us pushing for a goal”.
However, England had reduced the deficit back to two a minute later when some nice play between Glenn Kirkham saw Jones get a touch on the ball for Tindall to complete the move.
In the 59th minute, Jones weaved through a number of players in the circle and won a penalty corner which was duly converted by Daly with a fierce shot which showed England meant business.
A 61st minute reverse stick hit from Rob Moore went just wide of the mark and in a last gasp effort, Tindall could not make the most of an open goal.
Head Coach Jason Lee remained critical of his side’s performance saying that England started “as lethargically as we did in the first Test Match and we just can’t play at that low an intensity at international hockey and expect to compete. We let them have the ball so comfortably for such long periods in the first half that it’s not surprising we struggled to get into the game, even though we had enough corners to give ourselves a chance.
“However, in the second half, we found the right intensity of play and then we became very competitive. We hit the cross bar and had an open goal at the end and the goal they scored was entirely down to our mistake so in many respects, we were in control in the second half.
“What we’re trying to do is learn international hockey again after a long break after Beijing. It was very disappointing how we started and the players will feel that, but it’s good that we finished properly.”
James Fair said that the team would be hoping to avoid a “whitewash” in tomorrow’s match which will be more than likely if “the team start as we finished today” as the three-match series concludes at 7pm.
England – Pakistan 2-3 (0-2)
Goals England: James Tindall 54 (F), Matt Daly 58 (PC)
Goals Pakistan: Muhammad Waqas 13 (F), Muhammad Imran 22 (PC), Abdul Haseem Khan 51 (F).
Source: England Hockey
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