On Sunday 7th May 2017 Mansfield Hockey Club were invited to take part in a prestigious warm up game against the current World and European Champions, England Mens Masters, at Lee Valley, the home of England Hockey, with Mansfield Junior Hockey Academy players providing pitch side ball duties and three club umpires officiating on the day.
With a select team from Mansfield, comprised of players over 40 years old, the trip was made to London full of expectation that this would be a hard game against an experienced and successful team of the best players from England aged over 55 years old.
The opening exchanges provided enthusiasm for Mansfield with some sharp passing and strong positional discipline providing a challenge for the England Masters. The play was evenly contested throughout the opening period with both sides creating promising attacking threat combined with great defensive work. The experience of the England Masters however started to have increasing influence and after ten minutes a defensive short corner proved a test too far with Mansfield conceding the opening goal. After the initial blow delivered England Masters could have doubled their advantage after a couple of minutes but for a fantastic diving save by the Mansfield goalkeeper Craig Speed. This was however to prove the start of the pressure for the second goal with a penalty flick being awarded after another short corner was illegally stopped on the line.
Heading into half-time following a third goal from England Masters it was a credit to the Mansfield players for the start they made to the second half, creating three excellent scoring opportunities and controlling the opening moments. This position of dominance however soon turned as England stretched their lead further, followed shortly after by a deflection which looped agonisingly over the Mansfield goalkeeper in slow motion.
As the game went on both sides continued to create goal scoring opportunities, with Mansfields Chris Goddard showing excellent tenacity and ball control to force a last minute outstretched leg from the England goalkeeper to save a certain goal. This was followed shortly after by a top level save from Mansfield goalkeeper David Smith with an outstretched hand saving a goal bound effort.
Ultimately the quality in the England side shone through as dominance led to a run of late goals for the hosts, providing them with a resounding 8-0 win. The victory however did not come without its tests for the champions, and their coach, Andy Taylor, was quick to point out the game provided the perfect final warm up for his team as they head towards the upcoming Home internationals