After losing out 4-0 in their first clash, the Great Britain women’s bounced back against Australia, battling to a 1-1 draw with the Hockeyroos at Altwood Church of England School in Maidenhead, Berkshire.
Head coach Danny Kerry complemented his rivals hard-nosed approach to attacking in the first game of the two-match test series on Wednesday, but on Friday it was the GB players who received his praise, with a much more physical approach paying dividends on a cloudy day which was much cooler than the Antipodean temperatures experienced in the opening clash.
“For the first 31 minutes on Wednesday we played very well, but once Australia scored the game got away from us,” said Kerry. “Today Australia were better in the first half, and generated pressure. But we had all the opportunities and chances in the second half and really could have easily come out with the win. “It was a much-improved performance. There was more toughness from everyone in the squad, but the problem is it doesn’t come naturally to us. In the second half our technical ability was great, we generated many more opportunities.”
Australia took the lead after 21 minutes with a scrappy goal. After a turnover in midfield Australia attacked quickly, and although GB got back in numbers, 24-year-old midfielder Madonna Blyth bagged her 39th international goal in 153 appearances with a low shot from three yards out which gave Clifton’s Gemma Ible little chance in the GB goal.
The Australians’ goal only seemed to galvanise both the team and the spectators into action, with several pupils from hosts Altwood Church of England School swelling the crowd as well as the noise levels. Shortly after half time GB levelled, with a penalty corner on 44 minutes from Leicester’s 24-year-old defender Crista Cullen. Her low flick to the bottom left of the goal was accurate and left the Hockeyroos with it all to do once again.
But whereas they were comfortably ahead at this point in Wednesday’s match, the visitors were struggling to cope as GB gave as good as they got, both in terms of physicality and hockey skills. GB pushed on and were awarded seven or eight penalty corners which could’ve given them the lead, but in the face of some athletic - and sometimes desperate - defending from Australia, the scoreline remained unchanged.
“We’ve used 26 players throughout these games, just trying to broaden the squad’s experience. We made several changes to the team from the first game, but not in response to anything they did wrong. We’re just trying to give as many players as possible more game time,” added Kerry, who kept just four players in the starting line-up from Wednesday’s first match.
Missing from the team was experienced Reading forward Alex Danson, the 25-year-old who was denied the chance of adding to her tally of nine goals for Great Britain after being struck on the left elbow by a ball fired from a ball machine in training on Thursday. While it is only bruised and should not keep her out of action for long, it was enough to rule her out of Friday’s match.
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from these games it is that Australia play a very direct game,” added Kerry. “You’ve got to put your bodies on the line and stop that direct play, and not be physically out-played. Once you’ve evened up the levels of physicality it’s all about the hockey, and we can match the Australians at that.”
Great Britain will now focus on the Samsung FIH Champions Trophy in Nottingham from 10-18 July and their opening day clash with Argentina.
Goalkeeper Rachael Lynch and defender Kobie McGurk were amongst the best players for the Hockeyroos who will now travel to Germany to compete in a 4 nations tournament against Germany, India and Ireland.
Great Britain-Australia 1-1 (0-1)
Goal Great Britain: Crista Cullen 44 (PC)
Goal Australia: Madonna Blythe 21 (F)
Source: Great Britain Hockey ltd/Hockey Australia
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