Harry Martin on top form as England qualify for the hockey World Cup

Ipswich-born Harry Martin in action for England at the World League in Malaysia.

Ipswich-born Harry Martin in action for England at the World League in Malaysia. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich-born duo Harry Martin and George Pinner both played their part as England thrashed Japan 5-0 in the World League quarter-finals today.

With winger Martin scoring from open play and custodian Pinner keeping a clean sheet in Malaysia, England not only set up a semi-final against Argentina on Saturday but also secured qualification to next year’s World Cup in Holland in the process.

The International Hockey Federation confirmed: “England have sealed a berth at the 2014 event by virtue of a “worst case scenario” fourth-place finish here in Johor. It is already known that at least one of the two fourth placed teams in the Hockey World League semi-final stage will qualify for the World Cup.

“As England’s world ranking (4) is higher than that of New Zealand (6) – the fourth placed finishers in Rotterdam – England’s safe passage is assured.”

Speaking after the game, England’s Ashley Jackson said: “We knew that if we won this game we would qualify for the World Cup next year. We got ourselves in a good position in the group to get to this place and I think we dominated the game today.

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“We tried a few different things in the last game and they seemed to work well for us so we took that into today as well. I’m really enjoying playing out here, we’ve got some incredibly talented players in this squad; Harry Martin and Nick Catlin are running rings around some of the players in midfield and it’s great to watch.”

The first half of today’s match against Japan saw a dominant England keeping the opposition in their own half, maintaining possession and going two goals up in the process.

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The first 10 minutes were characterised by a strong Japanese defense, as a few early attempts at working the ball into the circle by Richard Smith and Reading’s Darren Cheesman were closed down effectively. A penalty corner for England in the ninth minute was a chance to get an early lead, but it was unfortunately sent high by Smith.

England kept up the pressure and it was only a matter of time before they made the breakthrough. In the 20th minute a good tackle by Simon Mantell led to a pass to East Grinstead’s Mark Gleghorne, who drove the ball to the left past the Japanese Goalkeeper Katsuyi Takase, giving England a 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, a brilliantly worked penalty corner saw East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson strike the ball straight to a sliding Barry Middleton’s stick, and he flicked the ball over Takase to make the score 2-0.

There were more close calls in the remaining minutes of the first half as Jackson, Cheesman and Mantell all continued to worry the Japanese defenders. One push in the last few seconds of the half saw Japan come close, but Shinji Kawauichi shot just wide of George Pinner in goal and it was England who went into the break the satisfied team.

The second half saw England continue in a similar fashion, maintaining their dominance in possession and creating attacking opportunities throughout the 35 minutes.

The first goal of the half came in the 44th minute from Beeston’s Harry Martin, and it was one to remember for the youngster in the team. After a brilliantly executed pass from Jackson, Martin sealed the goal with a rifling reverse stick strike, too fast for Japan’s Takase in goal who barely reacted, bringing the score to 3-0.

The fourth goal for England was executed in a similar manner just four minutes later.

This time it was a perfect set up pass from previous goal scorer, Gleghorne, followed by a booming reverse stick strike from Reading’s Simon Mantell, who all but assured England their victory.

Despite the four-goal cushion, England kept to their game plan and continued their patient build up play. In the 56th minute England won another penalty corner and this time it was Hampstead and Westminster’s Dan Fox who capitalised on the opportunity. The injection came out from Reading’s Nick Catlin, who had dominated midfield throughout the game, and Fox struck the ball perfectly as it flew over a diving Takase, smashing the top of the backboard and sealing the 5-0 victory.

Speaking after the game, head coach Bobby Crutchley said: “There were always going to be mountains to climb during this four year cycle. This might not be the biggest, but it was vitally important for us to take that first step and qualify for the World Cup next year.

“It was another good performance today for this group and I thought we played with flare, tenacity and solidity. I’m very pleased with the way we kept possession. We now have a day to rest and get ready for our semi-final against Argentina on Saturday.”

England will play Argentina at 12.15pm (UK time) on Saturday. Watch it live on the FIH YouTube channel.

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