ENGLAND’s men secured their berth in the semi-final of the men’s competition at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games with a solid 3-1 win over Canada.
A brace from Ashley Jackson and single from captain Barry Middleton were countered at the death by a last-gasp effort from Canadian captain Scott Tupper.
England were in rampant form at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre and the Scottish weather was in full Jekyll and Hyde mood, with downpours broken by spells of glorious sunshine.
The first penalty corner of the match was won inside the first two minutes after Ali Brogdon skilfully brought the ball out from the England half.
Brogdon and Catlin marauded forward and on 14 minutes, Michael Hoare found himself in the unusual position of being unmarked in the circle with the ball, but his shot was into the side-board of the Canadian goal.
A second penalty corner to England forced a fine save from David Carter in the Canadian net, getting low to his right to fend Phil Roper’s forceful flick to safety.
Soon after Jackson burst into the circle but fired high over the bar.
England’s opener came after Roper attacked down the right, Barry Middleton burst to the edge of the circle and was fed on-the-run by Roper.
Middleton struck the ball first with his second touch as he entered the circle and the diving out-stretched Jackson deflected the ball past Carter.
In the last five minutes of the half, England earned a further three penalty corners, but failed to convert.
Early in the second half they made amends though as Jackson broke forward, passed to Brogdon, who fed David Condon whose saved shot was swept home by Middleton on 36 minutes.
England won two penalty corners in succession mid-way through the half, with Jackson despatching his second with typical aplomb, rippling the net over Carter’s right shoulder.
Canada were forced to attack with limited numbers, or from long-balls, with Iain Smyth working hard to try and create chances, but being smothered by the English midfield.
With less than four minutes to play, the Canadians earned their first penalty corner of the match.
George Pinner, called into action for the first time in the game on 67 minutes, dived low to his right and parried a fierce Tupper strike clear.
The Canadian captain found a foot in the circle seconds later and duly slotted a trademark flick to the top right of the goal, from the resulting penalty corner.
England failed to convert from two further penalty corners – a conversion rate of one from nine, perhaps something to work on ahead of their semi-final match, likely to be against Australia.
Speaking after the game Canada’s Iain Smythe praised the performance of his team’s defence during the tournament.
He added: “We came out here hoping to build on some of the stuff that we have come out here to do and unfortunately the game kinda got away from us.
“We went through dips and moments and England exposed us.
“To play England, fourth in the world, we don’t get much better opportunity than this, so we definitely don’t want to spoil the chance to play this guys.”
England’s Alistair Brogdon said confidence was high ahead of the likely match against Australia in the semi-finals.
Speaking of today’s result, he added: “We will be reasonably happy I think.
“It was still only 1-0 in the first half we knew that if we carried on as we had done we would get more.
“It was disappointing to concede the goal at the end, we would have liked to have kept a clean sheet.”
He added: “Off the back of the World Cup we wanted to start scoring more goals.
“We have controlled the game, played well and created chances, we probably could have converted more of them.”