By Rob Cole
Wales Under 18 head coach Lee Ible is hoping the second half fightback against tournament favourites Scotland by his side at the EuroHockey Youth Championships II in Cardiff will be the catalyst for some big wins in their upcoming games.
Wales trailed by three goals a minute into the second half against the accomplished Scots at Sophia Gardens, but hit back brilliantly with two goals from senior cap Rhys Bradshaw and another from Miles Margetson to secure a priceless point on their opening night.
Now they face Switzerland on Tuesday and the Czech Republic a day later in a battle to reach the semi-finals and stay on course for a tilt at a top two finish to bag promotion.
“We need to carry the momentum we gathered in the second half against Scotland into our next two games and pick up more points. The way the boys came back after going three goals down meant the draw felt like a win against the Scots,” said Ible.
“We had a chance to win it 4-3, but confidence is high after that fightback and we look forward to facing the Swiss. We played Scotland in a three game series at Easter and clawed our way back to a draw after being 4-1 in the first match.
“They won the other two and came into this competition on the back of a series win against Austria and a 4-4 draw against England. That marked them out as one of the favourites for the title and promotion, so we can feel relatively pleased with our result against them.
“Rhys Bradshaw led the charge with his two goals and the fact he has been playing in the senior side has given the whole U18 squad a boost. They have seen what he has been able to achieve and they all now want to make the step up.
“This squad has had some training time with the senior group and they are now all eyeing up a shot at getting into the squad for next year’s European Championships. That says a lot for the joined-up approach we now have in Welsh hockey.
“A lot of it started with the former head of development, Dan Clements, when he came on board five years ago and we then grouped the Under 16 and 18 squads together for training. This squad has had continuity in coaching over that period and a number of them have gone on to play for the senior side.
“There was a good crowd watching our game on Sunday and the team enjoyed the reception they got for their fightback. Let’s hope that continues throughout the week and we can grow with each game.”
Scotland took the lead through a close range goal from David Nairn and then doubled their lead on the 20 minute mark with Struan Walker finishing well after finding himself in space in the Welsh circle. Their third goal came a mere 15 seconds into the second half, courtesy of yet another short-range strike, this time from Jacob Tweedie.
Then came the Welsh response, with three goals coming in a six minute purple patch. Bradshaw opened his account with a well taken individual goal before Margetson scored on his reverse from a tight angle. Bradshaw’s second of the night, via a penalty corner, made it 3-3.
The final quarter of the game finished goalless, despite chances for both sides, and now Wales will be looking to pile on the pressure on the Swiss on Tuesday night. While Ible insists there are no ‘whipping boys’ in the eight tournament, the Swiss have arrived in Cardiff with a young team and were beaten 5-2 in their opening game by the Czech Republic.
EuroHockey Youth Championship II (U18 Boys) – Cardiff, 22-28 July, 2018
Pool A: Italy, Austria, Russia, Belarus
Pool B: Czech Republic, Scotland, Switzerland, Wales
Sunday, 22 July
11.15: Italy 1-4 Russia
13.30: Austria 4-2 Belarus
15.45: Czech Republic 5-2 Switzerland
18.00: Scotland 3-3 Wales
Monday, 23 July
15.45: Russia v Belarus
18.00: Austria v Italy
Tuesday, 24 July
15.45: Scotland v Czech Republic
18.00: Switzerland v Wales
Wednesday, 25 July
11.15: Italy v Belarus
13.30: Russia v Austria
15.45: Switzerland v Scotland
18.00: Czech Republic v Wales
Thursday, 26 July
Friday, 27 July
09.30: 4th Pool A v 4th Pool B
11.45: 3rd Pool A v 3rd Pool B
14.00: SF1 1st Pool A v 2nd Pool B
16.30: SF2 1st Pool B v 2nd Pool A
Saturday, 28 July
09.00: 3rd Pool A v 4th Pool B
11.15: 3rd Pool B v 4th Pool A
13.30: 3/4 – Loser SF1 v Loser SF2
16.00: Final – Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
Wales’ U18 Girls suffered a 4-0 defeat against Scotland in the opening game of their EuroHockey Youth U18 Championship II tournament in the Czech Republic.
The Scots went on to beat Russia in the final, while Wales ended the week in Ratnovik in sixth place. They went down 6-2 to the Russians, but beat Lithuania 1-0, drew with Poland 1-1 and ended on a high with a 2-0 triumph over Italy.
It was a 54th minute goal by Jessica Hill that earned Wales their narrow win over Lithuania, while Lily Roberts bagged both goals against Russia and then netted in the raw with the Poles. Two penalty corner conversions in the opening period, by Emily Drysdale and Cerys Preston, earned the notable victory over Italy.