ENGLAND’s men secured a place in the final of the Investec London Cup after a clinical win over Ireland on the third day of competition.
Goals from Barry Middleton, Alastair Brogdon, Harry Martin and Henry Weir were countered by a Ronan Gormley strike as the hosts ran out 4-1 winners in glorious sunshine at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
In the early exchanges both sides tested their opposing defences. Ireland won the first penalty corner of the game on eight minutes, but Conor Harte’s low flick was charged down.
At the other end Simon Mantell dinked the ball over his marker’s stick and fired a tantalising ball across the face of Harte’s goal, but no one was able to get a decisive touch.
On 11 minutes, the ball came to the England captain Middleton, who deftly chipped the ball up, nudging it goalwards in mid-air and agonisingly for the Irish, it rolled over the line.
The Irish were not deterred, Michael Watt’s reverse shot soon after forced an athletic low save from Pinner.
Just before break a diving Adam Dixon effort was saved by Jonathan Bell, but with four minutes left in the first half England attacked down the right and the ball was pulled back to Brogdon who deflected high into the net.
A third followed just three minutes later, as Ashley Jackson’s beguiling run through the middle drew the attention of four Irish players, allowing him to release a sublimely-timed ball to Harry Martin breaking down the left who duly slashed home on the reverse.
Early in the second half an incisive pass found Ireland veteran Ronan Gormley unmarked on the edge of the England circle and he slammed the ball past George Pinner.
But the joy was short-lived as Henry Weir added a fourth for England from close range, just minutes later.
Despite rallying strongly, Ireland failed to convert from two penalty corners.
England too, could have added to their tally, but a penalty corner flick from Jackson pinged off the underside of the bar and a fresh-air swing from David Condon with four minutes to go was a waste of another perfect Jackson pass.
Speaking after the game, Ronan Gormley said he was pleased with how his side had contained their opponents for large spells, but added, “Coming back from three down is a tough ask.”
England goalkeeper George Pinner said: “I don’t think we did as well as we have done in the previous two games, it was a pretty sloppy goal to give away.”
England striker Simon Mantell added: “We are in the final, which is important.
“It’s not a major tournament, but we want to set our marker out that we want to go into these tournaments and win them.”
In the day’s earlier game, South Africa beat Scotland 3-2. That fixture will now be repeated as Sunday’s 3rd / 4th play-off game at 9.45am, with Ireland again clashing with England in the final at 2.45pm.