Dixon Leads GB To First ProLeague Win Of 2020

Two goals from Adam Dixon helped Great Britain’s men secure their first win in the 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League as they comfortably beat New Zealand in Auckland.

Liam Ansell also found the back of the net as Danny Kerry’s side grabbed all three points for the first time this season, having previously drawn with the Black Sticks yesterday and Australia the previous week.

GB’s women then claimed two more points for themselves with an exciting draw against the same opponents, with Anna Toman and Grace Balsdon each producing fine corner flicks before Sarah Jones had a last minute goal disallowed. Tess Howard and Sabbie Heesh then starred in the shootout as to secure the bonus point.

The day’s action also saw Ashley Jackson make his 250th combined England and Great Britain appearance, while Shona McCallin won her 50th cap for GB.

New Zealand 0 (0)

Great Britain 3 (1)

Dixon (14’, PC; 55’, PC); Ansell (50’, PC)

Unlike yesterday, this meeting started at a sedate pace as both teams sized each other up. Indeed Dixon’s precise flick from a 14th minute corner was the first chance either side had mustered up until that point.

That gave his side the confidence to be a little more adventurous in the second quarter as they fashioned a few more chances, with two Luke Taylor corners cleared while a Black Sticks defender smashed another effort of the line.

George Pinner was called into action for the first time early in the third quarter, while Richard Joyce produced two fine saves to keep out efforts from Alan Forsyth and Phil Roper.

The visitors increased the pressure in the final quarter and added a second as Ansell fired a corner through the man stationed on the post in the 50th minute.

Five minutes later Dixon wrapped up the points with another superb finish, finding the opposite corner to his first goal with ease to ensure Great Britain’s men ended their tour of Oceania on a high.

After the game, Dixon said: “I’m feeling very happy with the result. Obviously we’ve been here for a while and not found a win so to come away with the full points is reflection of the work we’ve put in. 

“We’ve been trying a lot of new stuff over the last couple of weeks so to see it come together is all very nice.

“We didn’t feel like we played that badly yesterday to come away with the draw but we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal. So to see a few things click into place is great and to wrap the tour up with a win is great for team morale.

“It felt nice to score. It was a bit of a shock. They were the first flicks I’ve had on this trip so it was a bit of a bonus for them to go in. It was a good day at the office.”

Starting XI: Pinner (GK), Martin, Dixon (C), Jackson, Ansell, Waller, Gall, Sanford, Sorsby, Calnan, Draper

Subs (Used): Taylor, Forsyth, Shipperley, Sloan, Gleghorne, Roper

Subs (Unused): Ames, Griffiths, Gibson (GK), Wallace

New Zealand 2 (1)

Shannon (28’, FG; 53’, PC)

Great Britain 2 (0)

Toman (38’, PC); Balsdon (41’, PC)

GB win shootout 5-4

Both Heesh and her opposite number Georgia Barnett were called into action in the opening stages to prevent their opponents from opening the scoring, while Lily Owsley did well to charge down a corner.

Great Britain ramped up the pressure in the second quarter but couldn’t find a way through the Black Sticks defence before the hosts hit with a blistering counter in the 28th minute as Shannon smashed the ball past Heesh to give her side the lead.

Susannah Townsend almost equalised a minute later but somehow Barnett flung herself across the goal to stop her shot from close range.

New Zealand looked to have doubled their lead early in the third quarter as Kaitlin Cotter forced the ball beyond Heesh but she was adjudged to have done so illegally.

Shortly after Toman made them pay as she fired in her fourth goal in seven international matches to level the score.

Balsdon then produced one of those corners she’s becoming known for as she rocketed the ball into the top corner, giving Barnett no chance, to complete the turnaround.

But with seven minutes remaining the Black Sticks hit back as Shannon was on hand to turn home a rebound after a corner was initially well blocked by Laura Unsworth.

As the game entered its final minute, Jones put the ball into the goal for what she thought was the winner after great build up play from Charlotte Watson.

However New Zealand reviewed immediately and the goal was disallowed having been deemed to have touch the back of the Scotland striker’s stick in the build up.

GB then led 4-2 in the shootout thanks to Howard, Owsley, Hannah Martin and Sarah Robertson before New Zealand clawed it back to 4-4 and take it to sudden death.

Heesh stood tall to deny Michelsen before Howard stepped up once again to slot the ball into the goal and grab the bonus point.

Speaking after the game, Toman said: “We’re happy to get those two points with the bonus in the shootout. However we are a bit disappointed to not get all three. We dropped intensity a little bit in the first half compared to yesterday, which is something to learn from as we will have back-to-back games again.

“I wouldn’t say I’m becoming a goal machine but it is nice to be able to step up and get a few goals – as a defender it doesn’t happen that often and it didn’t happen at all for me earlier in my career.

“This weekend has given us heaps of confidence. We aimed to get 50% of points from this trip so we’re a little bit down on that but it’s been an incredible tour, we’ve improved leaps and bounds as a team. We’ve started to create a new identity as a team as well so we need to carry that forward. I’m really excited for what’s to come.”

Starting XI: Unsworth, Toman, Martin, Townsend, Robertson, Rayer, Pearne-Webb (C), McCallin, Heesh (GK), Owsley, Balsdon

Subs (Used): Howard, Jones, Neal, Hunter, Watson, Wilkinson

Subs (Unused): Hinch (GK), Burge, Petter

Both teams will next be in action away to Belgium on 28-29 April.

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