England over 40s made a sound start with a controlled and a largely comfortable win against the host nation. They might have taken a first minute lead, forcing a short-corn er almost immediately but, as he did throughout the match, the Singapore 'keeper made a good save.
England tended to dominate possession and, although a couple of the more skillful Singapore players occasionally threatened, the game was taken away from them when England notched a brace before half-time. Tim Wood, who recovered from a mystery illness, atoned for (quite literally) 'roofing' his earlier aerial-pass by scoring the opener from extremely close range after Dave Stokes neatly deflected a short corner towards goal. Shortly afterwards Nigel Land made it 2-0 from another short corner after the initial shot was saved he slotted powerfully into the corner.
England started the second half exactly as the first, winning another short-corner in the first minute and dominating play generally. England had a shout for a penalty stroke when Nick Morris was clattered as he went for goal but they only gained another corner. A welcome rain shower cooled the players briefly before England wrapped-up the result when they scored the goal of the game with four slick passes. Mark Morris found Land who released Luke Watson in the Singapore half and his diagonal pass found Bobby Bhogal behind the defenders and his pass across the circle beat them all and was thumped home by skipper Neil Pendle.
Australia 3 - 4 England
England Masters over 40s recorded their first ever victory (I'm FAIRLY SURE THIS IS TRUE!) over the Australians in a thrilling and often end-to-end encounter in searing Singapore heat.
The well organised Australian side enjoyed the better of the first ten minutes and looked threatening but the English defence with Ian Brown and Chris Duerden in the middle was marshalled well by Gary Stoneley to keep them out. Then England took control for a period with Nigel Land distributing well from centre half and Neil Pendle darting through numerous times (earning him the award from the opponents as best England player). England opened the scoring when Tim Wood turned in the circle and fired home his second in two games. It wasn't long before Australia drew level from a well finished short-corner, but England had the better of the rest of the half and took a 2-1 lead into the half-time interval when Ade Betts struck home after the 'keeper had saved the initial shot.
The early part of the second half followed a similar pattern with Australia pushing hard to get back on level terms and they did this when a short corner shot deflected-in off a defender's stick. Then the moment England dreaded happened - Australia took the lead with a well worked goal that took advantage of a moment of poor marking in the circle allowing a forward to deflect home.
England struggled briefly but the game then became stretched as the Australian's began to tire - but still threatened occasionally - requiring some England players to put themselves on the line, Matt Bearsby taking a knee in the face when tackling low before Sean Parker kept the score close with a fine save from an Australian short-corner.
Then, England began to dominate as the game drew on, with their better physical fitness showing. Space opened-up enough on the right side for Dave Stokes and stand-in right-back Richard Jones to push-up (Dave Oatley missed the game due to illness but is recovering well already) whilst England's forwards continued to trouble the Australians. It wasn't long before Gary Ferguson scored the equaliser from a drag short-corner.
England completed the comeback when Jeff Longden's neat touch found Nick Morris at the top of the circle and he slapped the ball past the on-rushing Aussie 'keeper to make it 4-3. Shortly afterwards Luke Watson might have put the game to bed but couldn't quite control the pass. There were still nervous moments when a stray Mark Morris pass fell to the Australians but he atoned with a brave diving tackle in the circle before the time ran out and England had won this truly thrilling match 4-3.
Outstanding from the boys and one of the proudest moments of my career, well done boys.
England 9 - 0 Hong Kong
England Masters o40s recorded their biggest ever victory (we think?!) with a comprehensive 9-0 demolition of Hong Kong, even without regular skipper Neil Pendle (and Mark Morris who were both rested) in the coolest conditions so far as the heavy rains came over during lunchtime and caused postponements of earlier games.
The goal-fest began inside a minute and a half when Luke Watson was fouled as he lined-up to shoot and Nick Morris tucked away the resulting penalty stroke. The first substitution brought captain-for-the-day Tim Wood into the action and almost immediately he dribbled into the circle and scored to make it 2-0. Gary Ferguson slotted a third direct from a short-corner before Luke Watson latched on to Nigel Land's pass and made it 4-0 as he feinted to shoot and let the ball roll across the on-rushing keeper to calmly push home. Watson was involved again when he played in Richard Jones near the top of the Hong Kong circle and he faded right but passed left for Jeff Longden to score from the top of the circle. Sean Parker in the England goal was called upon only rarely but when needed he kept-out Hong Kong's skillful centre forward when he was able to slip the grasp of the attentive England centre-back Chris Duerden.
Hong Kong seemed intent on disrupting England's flow by staying in a changing room as the half time interval ended but their plan failed as England took advantage of space offered out wide from the back upwards, with Dave Oatley enjoying a busy spell at left back. Gary Stoneley came into the goal at half-time and needed to keep his wits about him in goal with saves in open play and from corners. Tim Wood capped a memorable day by repeating his earlier feat, dribbling through to flick home another solo effort to make it 6-0 early on. Nick Morris then set-up two goals, first with a pass to Bobby Bhogal who scored with a diving effort before being up-ended to win a penalty which Jeff Longden scored to make it 8-0.
England were unlucky to have the otherwise controlling Gary Ferguson green carded for a mis-timed tackle. Whilst Matt Bearsby and Ian Brown had kept the Hong Kong centre forward under wraps for almost all the game, when he did burst through, Brown was yellow carded when he had to put in a tackle to stop the player having a clear run at goal.
England rounded off a good all-round performance when Dave Stokes ran along the by-line before slotting a neat reverse stick finish past the keeper. Worthy of note was another clean sheet and a great complement to the England defensive capability.
England 10 - 0 Indonesia
England confirmed their place in the (unofficial) World Cup Final of Masters Hockey at over 40s level, despite a shaky start as they overcame a spirited but clearly outclassed Indonesia side.
Within the first five minutes England could have been a goal down when Indonesia caught them on the break and took advantage of a 2 on 1 situation to create a shooting opportunity which was only foiled when both Tim Wood and Gary Stoneley converged on the imposing Indonesia striker and fouled him. However Stoneley got down low to his right to save the resulting penalty stroke.
England sorted themselves out and took an expected lead when Neil Pendle found Nick Morris in the circle and he cooly slotted home. Goals then flowed until half time with Jeff Longden finishing off a rebounded save from his own initial shot and then Richard Jones put an England penalty stroke into the top left corner and followed this with a short corner strike in the bottom left, before his cross-field pass towards the Indonesia circle released Ade Betts and he slammed home another. Dave Oatley made it 6-0 at half time when he pounced on a loose ball at a short corner.
England controlled the match in the second half using the opportunity to switch the ball and keep possession as much as possible in the defence with Mark Morris and Ian Brown occasionally striding forwards in the centre and Chris Duerden and Matt Bearsby again enjoying some freedom wide left in particular. Such was their dominance that second half 'keeper Sean Parker only touched the ball once, to play a long clearance back to one of his teammates. England produced a great team goal when these defenders kept switching play before moving the ball into the midfield up to Bobby Bhogal high on the left side who then unselfishly played the ball back to midfield from where a fast diagonal pass found Tim Wood near the penalty spot and he deflected home neatly to keep his goal-a-gam e scoring run going. Adie Betts added his second of the match when his shot was deflected past the hapless Indonesia 'keeper and Jeff Longden profited again to register his second when he reacted first in front of goal. In the dying moments Dave Stokes smacked home the tenth from the top of the circle after a jinking run to make this England Masters over 40s record win.
This result leaves England's defence conceding only three goals in their five group games (all against Australia) and scoring 29 goals which is a record haul in such a tournament for the o40s. The Final against New Zealand will be at 1700 local time on Saturday (0900 GMT) and we'll try to get news out as soon as possible!
England Masters over 40s became unofficial but very worthy World Champions (how does that sound!!) when they quite simply outplayed reigning IMHT champions New Zealand. Gary Stoneley made three outstanding saves from three first half short corners to earn him the Man of the Match award from the Kiwi's but England enjoyed possession and control throughout.
But as with all the group games - and before this tournament the long build-up through this year - the secret was the fitness and spirit of the entire squad under the guidance of Graham Cartmell and Dominic Camilleri, including even those who could not make the trip to Singapore.
As for the match, Tim Wood scored the first two goals as England took control and second half goals from Jeff Longden and Gary Ferguson put the match out of New Zealand's reach and capped England's outstanding progress this year by paying the very highest of dividends to all those associated with this fantastic success.
I'm sure some of the lads can find some time aside of drinking tonight to post some photos but I'm at Changi Airport already on an early flight back!! Well done the other victorious England Masters sides too for showing great character to come back with win