Floris Wortelboer scored his first international goal to give the Netherlands men victory in their first international match in eight months.
In a match that lacked a significant goalscoring threat, a debut for young goalkeeper Ollie Payne was the highlight for Great Britain, who also welcomed back several players from injury.
It was raining, it was windy, it was freezing and the Wagener Stadium virtually empty, but that did not affect the players in the first quarter of this Pro League match between the two hockey giants. The game was flowing from the first minute, with the hosts taking control. First, it was Sander de Wijn who played in striker Bjorn Kellerman with a great crossfield pass, a prelude to what would happen later. The Kampong striker should have given his side the perfect start, but with an eight-month absence of international hockey, Kellerman uncharacteristically did not connect well with the ball, allowing young British goalkeeper Oliver Payne to save easily.
A few minutes later, a fine combination over the left side of the field between Thijs van Dam and Jeroen Hertzberger resulted in the first penalty corner to the hosts. With the absence of Jip Janssen and Mink van der Weerden, the Penalty Corner responsibilities fell to Rotterdam star man Jeroen Hertzberger.
The Netherlands immediately lost their use of the video referral, as they wrongly appealed a goalline save from Thomas Sorsby, claiming the ball struck the body of the GB player from Hertzberger’s drag-flick. The review showed a well-executed, cricket style, defensive drive that Ian Botham would have been proud of.
Great Britain came out the stronger team in the second quarter, forcing Netherlands goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak into several quick reaction saves, including a low dive to his right to deny Great Britain with an outstretched arm, utilising all 37″ of his stick, to turn the ball around the post.
That incredible save by Blaak gave the Netherlands a boost, immediately winning the ball and descending on the visitor’s goal to win the second Penalty Corner of the game. The duel between young Holcombe keeper Payne and the Rotterdam archer continued. Payne again standing strong and making two superb saves to keep the Netherlands attack at bay.
With the game heading towards a 0-0 half-time score, after two exciting quarters, it was defender Sander de Wijn who played Floris Wortelboer with a wonderful disguise pass.
Defender Wortelboer, playing in his first game back at international level after undergoing surgery to his shoulder, took the ball from De Wijn, seemingly taking all the time to pick his target shot brilliantly with his backhand. It almost seemed routine, as Wortelboer fired home his very first international goal. With the ball striking the backboard, his fist hit the air, and the dream comeback for the much-troubled Bloemendaler was complete.
After the half-time break, the pace remained high, but the game became disjointed and frantic. Adam Dixon fired wide from a penalty corner, Zach Wallace had a close-range effort charged down by Justen Blok, and Adam Forsyth forced Pirman Blaak into a routine save.
In the fourth quarter, it was the Netherlands who looked the more threatening, Justen Blok missed the opportunity to make it 2-0 with a simple tap in on his backhand, but the Rotterdammer struck the side netting. Payne denied Billy Bakker with a good save as the Dutchman shot on the turn before a smart video referral overturned a Netherlands Penalty Corner opportunity.
After an eight-month break, it was great to see international hockey being played again. Both sides will be relatively happy with their performances; however, the lack of a goal threat for Great Britain will be concerning. With Sam Ward out injured, Alan Forsyth is the only realistic goal threat in the side, a threat the Scot can not shoulder on his own. Surely now is the time for Danny Kerry to give a long-awaited call up to Holcombe’s Nick Bandurak.
Scorers: WORTELBOER 30
BALK Lars, BAKKER Billy (C), SCHUURMAN Glenn, de WIJN Sander, PRUIJSER Mirco, KELLERMAN Bjorn, de MOL Joep, BRINKMAN Thierry, BLAAK Pirmin (GK), WORTELBOER Floris
Subs: CROON Jorrit 1, PIETERS Terrance 1, KEMPERMAN Robbert 4, BLOK Justen 4, BEINS Teun 5, van DAM Thijs 5, van der VEN Sam (GK) Unused
Cards: Green – KEMPERMAN 26, KELLERMAN 33.
FORSYTH Alan, SHIPPERLEY Rupert, MARTIN Harry, ROPER Phil, DIXON Adam (C), CREED Brendan, PAYNE Oliver (GK), ANSELL Liam, SORSBY Thomas, WALLACE Zachary, DRAPER Jacob
Subs: TAYLOR Luke 9, GOODFIELD David 5, CONDON David 4, WALLER Jack 5, GALL James 6, SMITH Rhys 6, PINNER George (GK) Unused
Cards: Green – DRAPER 40