England beat the European Champions the Netherlands in a competitive match for the first time in Coach Jason Lee’s five year tenure thanks to goals from James Tindall and Matt Daly and the superb goalkeeping of James Fair.

The home team got off to the best possible start just eight minutes in when Beijing Olympian James Tindall dispossessed a Dutch defender deep inside his own half.  As he entered the circle his initial effort was blocked and as the ball spun to Barry Middleton his shot came off goalkeeper Guus Vogels, falling nicely to Tindall who passed the ball into the empty goal on his reverse.

With the wind in their sales England surged forward again and Tindall had the 850 strong crowd gasping a minute later as his shot flew inches wide.

The game began to settle into something of a rhythm after that with Netherlands happy to let England hold possession in their own half.  A couple of Dutch forays forward came to nothing and it was England who extended their lead in the 18th minute through another Beijing Olympian, Surbiton’s Matt Daly, who did well to control a long aerial pass down the inside right channel.  As he entered the circle to shoot, a good challenge from Marcel Balkestein seemed to have killed off the chance but with Daly, Balkestein and the onrushing Vogels all on the floor it was Daly who reacted quickest to the loose ball, knocking it in for a 2-0 lead.

That advantage did not last long however with the first of Taekema’s double; a ferocious penalty corner conversion dispatched powerfully high to James Fair’s left side.

England’s response was to attack with pace, the impressive Barry Middleton causing trouble with darting runs behind the Dutch back line.

Moments before the break Lucas Judge had the opportunity to level things for the Dutch but his powerful reverse stick effort was well saved by Fair using the stick high above his head.

After the pace of the first of half, the second half began at a somewhat slower pace with England probing at the Dutch defence but failing to find the killer touch in front of goal; the best chance flashing past Ashley Jackson, who plays his club hockey in the Netherlands, after Richard Alexander’s powerful cross from the left.

At the other end Judge had another opportunity to level the scores but failed to connect with Teun de Nooijer’s flick from the baseline and the Netherlands were made to pay just minutes later when Daly netted goal number three, deflecting in low from close range after Jackson had beaten two men to provide the pass.

It was the spark that reawakened the Dutch, who won a penalty corner soon after.  Again it was Taekema who did the damage from the set piece.  This time his low flick was partially saved by Fair, who managed to stick out his left foot, but the ball squirmed off it and over the line to cut England’s advantage.

3-2 down and with fewer than 15 minutes remaining the Netherlands began to exert more pressure on the English defence, winning another corner which Roderick Weusthof fired towards goal but the shot came off Rob Moore and went wide.  Then, good combination play between Weusthof and De Nooijer along the base line created an opening but James Fair stepped out well to block the initial effort and De Nooijer could only hit the side of the goal from the follow up.

With the clock ticking down the English supporters had their hearts in the mouths as first Fair saved well to his right from a Taekema corner before tipping the ball onto the post from another in the dying seconds.

When the hooter went a minute later the vocal support rose in unison to applaud a superb England victory over the European Champions.

Speaking afterwards, a happy Jason Lee said freshness was the key for his side: “Most of the guys did not take part in our practice match yesterday so they were fresh for today and I think that made the difference.  This is the level we’ll be playing at the Europeans so it has been good practice.”

Two goal hero Matt Daly was delighted with his part in the performance but warned of looking into the result too much.  “It’s certainly the first time in quite a while that we’ve beaten the Dutch and it’s especially nice to get two goals today,” he said.  “We won’t be reading too much into beating the European Champions though because this was a one-off game but it’s a good start.”

England’s next test comes hot on the heels of their Dutch demolition with a three match series against India at the University of Birmingham from 29 July to 2 August.

England – Netherlands 3-2 (2-1)
Goals England: James Tindall 8 (F), Matt Daly 19, 45 (F, F).
Goals Netherlands: Taeke Taekema 23, 50 (PC, PC)

Source: England Hockey