Great Britain men’s hockey were trying to feed off the amazing achievements by Team GB over the weekend as they took on Australia in game four of their Olympic campaign. Australia are always a tough opposition in any sport and hockey is no different as they are currently ranked number one in the world.
Great Britain got off to a good start and dominated the early play; however they didn’t create any clear goal-scoring opportunities. Australia were the first to break the deadlock after six minutes. Some slick play along the baseline saw Russell Ford get behind the GB defence and as he passed the ball across the goal he was lucky to get a deflection off James Fair, the GB ‘keeper, and the ball ended up in the back of the net. It went from bad to worse for Great Britain as some sloppy defending from a quickly taken free-hit saw Ford double his tally and extend Australia’s lead to 2-0 after just ten minutes.
The nerves of the occasion began to show for Great Britain as they were trying too hard to create chances and gave away possession too easily in key situations. The rest of the half was a reasonably placid affair until then last ten minutes when the hosts received their first short corner of the game. A smart save from an Ashley Jackson drag flick saw the score at the end of the first half stay as 2-0 to Australia.
Team GB started the second half well however another lapse in concentration in their own D saw Australia add to their advantage through a smart strike from Mark Knowles. This was the last thing that Great Britain and it was going to take a huge effort for them to take something from the game against the best side in the world.
The comeback started with eleven minutes gone in the second half as Jonty Clarke scored a similar goal to Australia’s first as he found space around the back of the defence and he forced the ball across the goal to be deflected into the net via a defender’s stick. Great Britain were well and truly back in the game just four minutes later as a well worked slip-move on a short corner saw captain Barry Middleton slide in to put the ball in the net at the back post.
Australia had a chance to extend their lead with twelve minutes to go, but a smart save from Fair snuffed out the danger. Knowles went from goal scorer to villain as he received a green card with five minutes left in the game. This was the chance Great Britain needed to complete the comeback, and they took their chance as some slick passing play in the D saw James Tindall manufacture a shooting opportunity and with four minutes to go the comeback was complete at three goals apiece.
Great Britain’s last pool game is on Tuesday night against Spain with a semi-final place at stake. The team will be able to draw confidence from tonight’s fight back and hope to produce the kind of performance worthy of an Olympic semi-final berth.