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Hockey - 05. October 2010.

Cullen Hat-trick Leads England to Opening Win over Wales

A hat-trick of penalty corner goals from Leicester defender Crista Cullen formed the platform for England’s dominant 4-1 victory over Wales in their opening fixture at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi on Tuesday
photo John Coxon

England Hockey Results Service, Commonwealth Games Delhi, India

ENGLAND 4 (2)Crista Cullen 10, 20, 41 (PC, PC, PC)                  Charlotte Craddock 49 (F)                                              WALES 1 (0)Sarah Thomas 69 (F)

 A hat-trick of penalty corner goals from Leicester defender Crista Cullen formed the platform for England’s dominant 4-1 victory over Wales in their opening fixture at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi on Tuesday.  England dominated from start to finish but coach Danny Kerry was left with conflicting emotions, feeling that his side should have scored more goals after creating a number of good chances throughout. In rapidly rising temperatures, England dominated for long spells of the early morning encounter and in truth were always in control. England took the lead from the first penalty corner of the match after just ten minutes. 

Having already threatened through Leicester’s Chloe Rogers, Clifton’s Georgie Twigg and Reading’s Alex Danson in the opening ten minutes of the match it was Crista Cullen who gave England the lead as she flicked home under the body of the diving Margaret Rees in goal. Despite the heat, England were determined to play their pressing game and good work by the forward line resulted in a number of Welsh turn-overs deep inside their own half. 

Reading’s Danson was already making a nuisance of herself and she forced Rees into a shoulder height save from her shot on the reverse with just over quarter of an hour played. And Danson again caused palpitations in the Welsh defence soon after when she broke through the top of the circle and held off the attentions of two defenders to force a bobbling effort at goal.  Leicester’s Kerry Williams tried valiantly to reach the ball outside the right post but she narrowly failed to connect and it went wide. 

England’s pressure paid off again minutes later when Ashleigh Ball forced a penalty corner and Cullen stepped up to cleanly flick the ball home into the left hand side of the net, just above the backboard. Another corner came and went before Charlotte Craddock, who recently re-signed for Cannock in the England Hockey League Premier Division from Bristol side Clifton, came close in the 26th minute but was thwarted by the goalkeeping of Rees.  A pinpoint cross from Slough’s Nicola White on the left found the young Beijing Olympian on the penalty spot but Rees was alert to the danger, smothering the first effort and reacting well to get up and kick clear Craddock’s follow up. 

Rees was again Wales’ heroine two minutes from the break when she prevented Kerry Williams from adding a third after she latched onto a ball at the top of the circle.  Diving forward Rees deflected the ball with her stick into the body of Williams. Overall, it was a quiet match for Beth Storry in the England goal but in the final minute of the first half Wales had half a chance with a threaded pass through the heart of the defence.  The Welsh forward just failed to connect and Storry cleared the ball back through the top of the circle. After the break, England resumed where they had spent most of the first period, high up the field in Welsh territory and it was not long before Reading’s Alex Danson won England anther penalty corner. 

With the chance to complete her hat-trick there was only one likely taker and Cullen stepped up to flick the ball high into the roof of the net to put England 3-0 up and take her tally for England to 20 goals. Cullen’s work however was not confined to set pieces and she showed why she has twice been named in the World Team of the Year with a well timed tackle on Great Britain international teammate Sarah Thomas as the Welshwoman looked set to cause England problems down the right. In the 49th minute,

Charlotte Craddock showed good alertness to nip in quickly to intercept a loose pass across the Welsh defence.  Rees came out to challenge but 19 year old Craddock kept her head to coolly round the goalkeeper before passing the ball over the line from a narrow angle for 4-0. Four minutes later, from a fifth penalty corner, Crista Cullen’s flick hit an onrushing defender but the umpire deemed the effort dangerous. 

Welsh spirits were by no means broken and Sarah Thomas showed some of the talent that has made her a Dutch premier league star as she evaded two tackles before unleashing a reverse stick shot at the England goal.  Storry saw the shot all of the way though and cleared with her left leg. University of Birmingham’s Susie Gilbert was green carded on the hour mark but Wales failed capitalise.   England saw chances come and go; Helen Richardson squeezing the ball back into space in the middle from the left side and Craddock blazing over after determined play from Ashleigh Ball. With the result secured there was still a slight sting in the tail as Wales’ Thomas broke at pace, skipping four English tackles and entering the circle before skilfully firing low for a consolation goal. While pleased with the win,

England coach Danny Kerry admitted afterwards that his quest for perfection had left him feeling frustrated that England had not scored more goals. “We utterly dominated for 70 minutes but were poor in the attacking circle,” he said.  “If we want to win gold then we have to play better.  Having said that, I think it’s extremely difficult to be playing in these temperatures.  We need to set higher standards for ourselves and expect higher standards of our teammates.  If we had done that today it could have been double figures.” Hat-trick scorer Cullen said she was pleased to get off to a winning start and that hard work in training had paid off.  “It’s fantastic to get off the mark with a win. 

The girls kept running and running.  We made plenty of substitutions because you need to get rest and fluids on board.  It’s tough on all the teams though.” On her hat-trick, she said, “It’s great to get three. Hopefully we can build on it.  We know we’re a threat from corners but it was nice to show it today.” England take on Canada at 10:30am local time (06:00am UK) on Wednesday in their second Pool B match.  
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