BY MAX HALL
Hosts England may have stumbled through to the knockout rounds – but Wimbledon midfielder Suzy Petty is in no doubt about how it feels to be part of her first hockey World Cup.
Petty was part of the England team that notched their first win at the third time of asking on Sunday night, as Giselle Ansley’s penalty-corner strike saw off Pool B winners Ireland at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London.
“I’m loving it,” said the 27-year-old, “it’s a long tournament; we’ve had a game, then four days off, then a game and three days off. But to be here in front of 10,000 fans is amazing.”
One of the game’s rising stars, Petty says her South London club can only benefit from the experience she and Wimbledon team-mate Anna Toman are gaining in Stratford.
“I chose [to join] Wimbledon because I think it’s a great club,” the all-action midfielder told the South London Press. “The [men’s team] are brilliant, they’ve got a massive junior section that I coach in and I think they potentially could be one of the top clubs in Europe.
“It’s amazing that Anna and I can be here and we’ve also got some great players back there [at Wimbledon]. We’ll go back at the start of September and try and play with this intensity and start the season on a high and get promoted, hopefully. Our aim next season is to win the Conference East.”
The centrally contracted England player, like Toman, opted for second tier Wimbledon when seeking a club in London, rather than joining a dominant Surbiton side packed with internationals.
“[Surbiton are] an obvious choice but look how many internationals they’ve got,” said Petty, talking as fast as she plays. “It’s a brilliant club but they can win every game, and do win every game quite a lot. As a younger international player I want to be playing in teams where I have to make a difference and you have to have pressure on to do that.
“I think if I’d gone to Surbiton there would be some great players around me but not every Saturday do you have to play your absolute 100 per cent.
“I also wanted to go to a club where you build up, and we want to win the Conference East next season, and the year after that try and get into the top four in the Prem. I want to be at that club, really, for the rest of my life. It would be great to be able to say that I’ve been with them and a loyal player, so that’s why I chose Wimbledon.”
On Sunday Petty put in a typically tigerish display, supplying a vital tackle on Anna O’Flanagan in the 27th minute to prevent the Irish player getting through on goal with the game scoreless.
England were subject to familiar failings in front of goal as they utterly dominated and racked up a remarkable 15 penalty corners, five of them coming back to back in an eventful third quarter that also saw Ireland’s three set-pieces.
Time and again the opportunities were blocked and Wandsworth-born Sarah Haycroft – who had set up the first short-corner award – summed up England’s difficulties when she brilliantly dispossessed a dozing Zoe Wilson right in front of the Ireland net in the 36th minute only for goalkeeper Grace O’Flanagan to twice rescue her side.
The breakthrough finally came seven minutes from time, when Rio gold medallist Ansley powered home to break the Irish defence’s resistance.
England, who as number two seeds were expected to win their pool and secure automatic passage to the quarter finals, are back in action tonight(8.15pm start) in a crossover match against a South Korea side who finished third in Pool A.
The victors go into a quarter final on Thursday (6pm start), with the semi-finals on Saturday and final on Sunday.
“I actually haven’t watched that many games for Korea,” admitted Petty. “No doubt our coaches have done lots; we have so much video on teams going back through all the years, so we’ll watch that, we’ll come out with tactics and we’ll be really excited to play.
“There are four games left and we’ll go on and try to win all four.”
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