With Team GB narrowly missing out on medals in the men’s team gymnastics and the women’s rugby sevens on BBC1 and BBC4 last night, I had to tune in to the Red Button to watch the majority of the British ladies’ hockey squad’s second pool game.
For the record, the Virgin “Big Kahuna” package is bloody slow and without the remotest hint of exaggeration, I would probably have had time to fly over to Rio and watch the game in person quicker than the little box decided to stop buffering and actually show me some pictures.
The good news is that Team GB duly made it two wins from their opening two fixtures with a 3-0 success over India, a result made even better by Australia’s loss to the USA, which leaves the “Hockeyroos” bottom of the group.
The bare scoreline suggests a relatively comfortable win for the British girls, and in many respects that was the case, although it took quite a while to break down an Indian side that right from the outset was set up to defend and play on the break; and after a goalless opening quarter, there some signs of frustration crept into in our play, with possession being conceded through careless or bouncing passes on several occasions.
That said this is a quality GB squad with real depth, and once the deadlock was broken by Giselle Ansley (from a penalty corner), the eventual result was never in doubt. Nicola White added a second from close-range (although she was mistaken for Lily Owsley in the commentary box… not the first such blunder from those behind the microphones) and Alex Danson’s second goal of the competition made the game absolutely safe in the third quarter.
The lack of ambition from the Indian side was a bit of a surprise given the standard of hockey they produced at the beginning of the final period. They played with pace and no little skill and had Britain on the back foot for six or seven minutes; and although there were no goals to show for their spell of pressure, they showed enough to make me wonder why they didn’t start the match with such positive intent.
For the second game in succession, Laura Unsworth was my player of the match. She looks so assured at the heart of an experienced GB defence, and as well as having an important role in set penalty corner plays, Laura also found her way into the Indian D to very nearly finish off a wonderful flowing move in the latter stages of the game. Sam Quek was another to impress and the defensive unit really does look very strong indeed.
At the opposite end of the field, Susannah Townsend made a telling contribution; and Alex Danson must thoroughly enjoy being able to play alongside the incredibly gifted Lily Owsley and Sophie Bray, who just looks the consummate athlete.
Given the nature and tactics of last night’s opposition, I’m not too sure how easy it is to measure how far the squad has improved or progressed since their opening fixture, but in both games we have coped well when put under pressure, managed to create chances from open play, and (to the best of my knowledge) not sustained any serious injuries—by this stage of London 2012 Kate Richardson-Walsh had been hospitalised with a broken draw.
Overall then, it’s a great start from my “team to follow”, and I can’t wait for the next instalment.
Richard... Jack of some trades... you can guess the rest