Great Britain 3 v Netherlands 1
Two squads of sixteen junior players (aged 12-16 years), plus two mascots, Team managers and a large group of parents and supporters from Ashford (Middlesex) Hockey Club (AHC), travelled to the Olympic Park in Stratford, London to play at the Lee Valley National Hockey and Tennis Centre on Sunday 10th June 2018. As part of the England Hockey Women’s World Cup campaign, the junior sides were going to re-enact the Rio 2016 Olympic Ladies hockey final which involved Great Britain (GB) and the Netherlands (NED). The squads of sixteen were mixed and the game, which was played as four 15 minute sections (the same as in the final in Rio), was excellently umpired by two National League umpires. The umpires had briefed the teams about the procedures before the game and the anthems and other happenings, and helped settle everyone’s nerves, especially those of the parents, supporters and Team Managers Claire Brant (NED) and Ian Parker (GB), both of whom coach AHC Junior sides.
Updated 11:04 - 12 Jun 2018 by Lynne Morgan
After the teams had been proudly led out in the sunshine by the Umpires, Team Managers and mascots Aimee Barber (GB) and Analise Lawton (NED), the anthems played and handshakes conducted, the game started off just after noon. It was played at a good pace and with lots of noise coming from the stands. It was GB who dominated the first quarter though, with Alex McCelland opening the scoring for GB with a fine solo run and then notching another by deflecting in a shot just before the first break. The crowd were joined shortly after the start of play by Olympic GB, Gold and Bronze hockey medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh, who played and scored in the Rio final. Helen, a friend of the Club President, had visited AHC in 2017 and so recognised some of the players and supporters, and was impressed by the standard of play and good team work being shown by both teams. Both goalkeepers Jack Barber (GB) and Daniel George (NED) were playing well and thwarting both sides’ attempts at goal. The Dutch side were controlling play in the second quarter, but were unable to convert the chances they were creating into goals.
The longer 10 minute break for half time was appreciated by all players and two mascots whom were undertaking ball girl duties. The third quarter saw the Dutch again dominating long periods of play a bit like the final itself, only for Harry Parker (GB Captain), to notch a third goal for GB, rather against the run of play, but the Dutch continued to press forward. Although the score stood at 3-0 to GB, there was still all to play for in the final quarter and Captain of the Dutch side Flick Lawton managed to pull a goal back early on to make the score line 3-1. With the excitement and tension rising in the stands and despite weary legs on the pitch due to the very hot, sunny conditions, there was still a lot of determined play by both teams, but the GB defence and Lily Imi and the goalkeeper in particular kept some of the shots at bay. Encouraged by their Team Manager Claire Brant, the Dutch side kept going forward and went very close to scoring a second goal, and had wave after wave of attack and nearly pulled a goal back. It was not to be though and as the final whistle blew, GB duly won another exciting final, this time without the tension of penalty shuttles.
All the players, Team Managers and the two umpires were duly presented with medals by Helen Richardson-Walsh, along with miniature sticks for the Players of the match who were Lily Imi for GB and Pierre Henry-Ndangan for NED, both choices of which were agreed on by the Umpires agreed with and they then chose Louis Kynyanjui (GB) and Jake Meads (Ned) for their efforts and continual running during the game. Club President Lynne Morgan, whom had won the two hour Match day experience and donated it to the juniors, acted as Master of Ceremonies, then thanked Helen and presented her with a small AHC goodie bag and her first ever AHC medal. Helen then duly stayed for at least 15 minutes signing everything that anyone put in front of her and making sure everyone got the selfies or family photos they wanted. AHC Chairman Ian Jenkins then rounded off things with a short speech after an historic day in the history of the Club and one which the players, parents and supporters will not forget. Unfortunately several players and parents could not attend due to it being school examination time. In addition AHC Colts Coordinator Peter Cottrell and the original NED side Team Manager Jackie Parsons, who had done so much work in organising the players and their kit, along with her daughter Nadia who was due to play for the Dutch side were absent. The latter two were both called up to attend the South region, under 15 girls Performance centre training day in Guildford - another honour for the Club and its junior section. A big thank you is due to also to Paul and Jason who arranged things at the Lee Valley Centre and our AHC photographer Steve McCarthy.
Well done GB on your win and well done to both squads, the junior player’s behaviour both on and off the pitch was exemplary, and future looks bright for AHC, with such talented and enthusiastic crop of youngsters.