Mixed results for GB on opening day of AYOF

Andy Bull in action for Great Britain

Great Britain’s U21 men got their Australian Youth Olympic Festival campaign off to the best possible start with a victory over Malaysia on day one of the competition in Sydney. Andy Bull and Ross Gilham-Jones were among the goal scorers as GB ran out 7-3 victors over Malaysia in temperatures above 30 degrees.

Great Britain got off to a fantastic start and had a convincing 4-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes. It was Captain Andy Bull who got his team off the mark as he scored from a penalty corner after eight minutes. Following this, the flood gates opened as Ross Gilham-Jones, an own goal by Malaysia and then Arjan Drayton-Chana helped to take Great Britain into the break with a four goal cushion.

The second half was a much more even affair with both teams scoring three goals apiece. Sam Hatherley, Ross Gilham-Jones with his second of the match, and Alan Forsyth all found the mark as Great Britain took the three points with a 7-3 victory.

Speaking after the match, Great Britain Head Coach Martin Rodgers was pleased with his team's result, but was also quick to highlight the two games coming up.

"It was something of a mixed bag today, particularly as we had progressed so well in our three practice games against Australia [which we played in the run up to this tournament]. Whilst some of our final third work was encouraging, our trapping, passing and decision making seemed slightly laboured in the heat against this young Malaysian side.

We will certainly be tested in our next game against Australia tomorrow evening and will need to make some significant improvements if we are to challenge them."

The GB men will face Australia in their second match, which gets underway at 08:00 local time on Thursday, 21:00 Wednesday in the UK.

Also in Sydney, Great Britain’s U21 women lost to their Australian counterparts on the opening day of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, going down 3-0.

Despite enjoying a positive opening spell, GB found themselves behind to a goal from Murphy Allendorf before the Aussies doubled their lead with a penalty corner goal from Mariah Williams before half time. In a closely fought second half, Great Britain worked hard to create opportunities but it was the Jillaroos who added to their lead through Madison Fitzpatrick’s penalty corner.

Great Britain Head Coach Craig Keegan said afterwards, “I was quite happy in terms of our overall performance. We achieved our targets for attacking circle entries. We are not the strongest on penalty corners so we will continue to work on our variations and we missed some chances in front of goal today so we definitely have to try and be a bit sharper there tomorrow against China. We don’t know much about China so it will be an interesting test.”

The match was played amid soaring temperatures in Sydney and Keegan added: “It’s 30 degrees here today so the girls will have felt that and we play at 1pm tomorrow when it is due to be even hotter, so there will be plenty of rest and rehydration for the team tonight.”

GB’s Shona McCallin explained that the match against China will be a new experience for the group. “Most of us have only played against European opposition before,” said McCallin. “China will present a different style and different tactics. We’ll focus on ourselves, get our rest, recovery and preparation, and if we perform well again, the result will take care of itself.”

McCallin admitted that while the result against Australia was not what the team had hoped for, she was pleased with how the team played. “A defeat wasn’t what we were looking for but we competed really well against Australia. We created at least the same number of chances and penalty corners as them but we just didn’t have that little bit of luck you need sometimes. We had chances to score at crucial times in the game but didn’t take them. While we’re disappointed with the result, we are upbeat with the quality of the performance. We’ll build on this and carry on to the next two games. Coming together and playing as Great Britain we’ve not had as much preparation as some other teams like Australia who have been training together for 12-18 months. We have had only a fortnight together so we need to accelerate our learning and this is the perfect opportunity. We’re getting better with very game.”

Rebecca Van Berkel put the result into context, saying: “It’s a long tournament and you can’t win it on the first game so we’re happy with the performance. We had so many chances, we hit the post and we couldn’t convert our penalty corners. It was like they had a force field around the goal today! The Australians deserve credit for strong defending and clinical finishing; hopefully we can take a leaf out of their book and meet them again in the final on Sunday. We don’t know a lot about China, none of us have played them before but we’ll watch a bit of their first game and bring it out to them tomorrow. The AYOF experience has been amazing; I can’t believe how big it is with 120 athletes just from Team GB and 30 other countries competing.”

Great Britain’s U21 women take on China at 13:00 local time on Thursday, 02:00 GMT.

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