First Azlan Shah win for England

England v Ireland Sultan Azlan Shah 2018
England secured their first win of the 2018 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a gritty performance against Ireland.

Despite the quick turnaround and stifling humidity there was plenty of effort and endeavour on show as both Barry Middleton and Sam Ward scored with diving efforts to give England an two goal lead.

A penalty corner goal from Julian Dale threatened to get the Irish back in contention in the third quarter as the game began to open up.

But Ward and Middleton netted their second strikes in the final quarter – the latter after a superb run by Liam Sanford – to secure the three points.

After a tentative start, Mark Gleghorne thought he had opened the scoring in the 8th minute from a penalty corner, only for it to be disallowed as the ball had not left the circle.

David Goodfield’s deflection on an Ian Sloan pass brought a save from Jamie Carr four minutes later before Middleton opened the scoring at the end of the first quarter, sliding in at the back post to divert a clever corner from Roper past the Irish ‘keeper.

Ireland had their own corner goal chalked off in the 18th minute as Shane O’Donoghue’s effort was deemed dangerous after deflecting off Gleghorne’s hip.

The game once again settled into an attritional rhythm for the rest of the first half, with only Ian Sloan’s penalty corner in the 22nd minute causing either defence any concern as it was blocked on the line.

England then doubled their lead in the 37th minute as Ward flung himself to get a touch on Phil Roper’s dangerous cross after neat work down the right by Harry Martin, before Dale hit back two minutes later.

That sparked the game into life, James Gall forcing a brilliant save from Carr and Gleghorne hitting the crossbar from a corner before Kirk Shimmins flashed a dangerous ball across the circle.

Carr was then on hand to keep out further efforts from James Gall and Gleghorne in the final quarter but could do nothing to stop Ward doubling his personal tally in the 49th minute after a lovely pass from Adam Dixon.

Sanford then produced a moment of brilliance as he charged forward in the final minute before setting up Middleton to slot the ball into an open goal.

England next opponents are Argentina at 1000 GMT tomorrow, a game which you can watch on the FIH’s YouTube channel.

Starting XI: Pinner (GK, C), Willars, Martin, Ward, Roper, Dixon, Middleton, Creed, Goodfield, Condon, Sanford

Subs: Gibson (GK), Weir, Griffiths, Sloan, Gleghorne, Ansell, Gall