First half goals from Phil Burrows, Blair Hilton and Shea McAleese gave the Black Sticks Men a 3-2 victory and the team’s second successive win over the Great Britain Unicorns in another practice match at the University of Westminster Sports Grounds, in Chiswick, London on Sunday 10 July 2011.
The victory followed up Saturday’s high-scoring 5-4 win to the Black Sticks. There were good performances from Canterbury defender Bradley Shaw, making a welcome return to form, midfielder and vice captain Shea McAleese, who was involved in all three goals, and the hard-working Otago striker Hugo Inglis.
The Black Sticks was again missing penalty corner striker Andy Hayward through illness (flu) and rested goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex from Sunday’s match against the Great Britain Unicorns, a team comprised of mostly potential England international players.
It was a much better start for the Black Sticks team that was guilty of inconsistent play in the practice game the previous day. The Black Sticks started at a furious pace and put the Unicorns under considerable pressure in the opening ten minutes with Inglis and McAleese both going close with half-chances before the Black Sticks took the lead in the 14th minute. Captain Phil Burrows was the inspiration for the goal showing energy and enthusiasm to create a goal-scoring opportunity, exchanging passes with Simon Child, McAleese and then bursting into the second to force Stephen Jenness’ cross into the goal.
Ten minutes later, the Black Sticks added their second when McAleese won possession in the Unicorn’s half with a great reverse stick tackle. McAleese moved the ball on to Inglis who produced an outstanding swivel and pass to release Jenness along the baseline. Jenness’ clever pass was forced over the line by his Wellington team-mate Blair Hilton.
The success continued four minutes later when McAleese stepped up at New Zealand’s second penalty corner to flick the ball low into the corner and put the Black Sticks 3-0 ahead. It was McAleese’s second goal in successive matches for the Black Sticks and a fitting reward for a hard-working performance.
The half-time interval couldn’t come sooner for the Great Britain Unicorns who had been outplayed in the opening thirty-five minutes but the Black Sticks took their foot off the accelerator in the second half and allowed the spirited Unicorns team back into the game and the Unicorns kept working hard. Hesitant defending gave the Unicorns two half chances which David Beckett gratefully accepted and suddenly the Black Sticks commanding lead had been reduced to only a one-goal advantage. It gave the Black Sticks a tense last ten minutes but they held on for another encouraging success.
“We are building well for the London Cup and I am pleased with the development of our structures and tactics as we head into next week’s London Cup,” says Black Sticks coach Shane McLeod. “I am looking forward to our first match against Korea on Tuesday.”
Black Sticks used the two practice matches as an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming London Cup, a four nations tournament also involving England, Korea and Belgium being played at the University of Westminster Sports Ground in Chiswick, London.
The Black Sticks play their opening match at the London Cup with a tough game against Korea on Wednesday 13 July at 12.45am (NZ time). They then play Belgium on Thursday 14 July at 6.45am (NZ time) and complete their pool matches on Saturday 16 July at 9am (NZ time) against hosts England. The classification matches are on Sunday 17 July with the bronze medal game at 4am (NZ time) and the gold medal match at 6.30am (NZ time).
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