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NZ beat England to edge towards easier route

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 21:40 29/07/2014
Shea McAleese
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ
FIRE IT UP: Shea McAleese gets a shot away for the Black Sticks against England.

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A late goal from Simon Child snared New Zealand a crucial 2-1 win over England and means they likely avoid the powerful Australians in the Commonwealth Games men's hockey semifinals.

Child smashed home a reverse stick shot after a penalty corner with three minutes remaining at the Glasgow National Hockey centre to jubilant scenes. It left them unbeaten from three matches and meant England will likely finish second and face the gold medal favourites Australia in the semis.

New Zealand just need to beat Malaysia in their final group game on Thursday night to stay on top, and probably face India in the semis for the right to play for gold.

An Andy Hayward penalty stroke was cancelled out by a brilliant goal to England's Adam Dixon, and a draw looked likely which would have left the pool decided on goal difference.

It always promised to be tight struggle, with England seeded second and New Zealand third. After some scorching days, this had the familiar feel of Wellington's National Hockey Stadium, blustery, grey and chilly.

This was their first meeting since January and their semifinals thriller in the World League finals in India, when the Black Sticks edged England 7-6 in a shootout after the scores were locked 3-3.

A scoreless first half was a good result for New Zealand who scrambled well under pressure. England clearly had the better of the first 35 minutes and their goalkeeper George Pinner was largely redundant.

New Zealand managed no shots on goal while England had six, along with two penalty corners. Black Sticks keeper Devon Manchester was seeing it well with two key saves, one a lightning reaction from an England drag flick headed for the top corner. Shea McAleese also made a key intervention in the circle to deny England's best chance.

Child, New Zealand's most dangerous attacker, began to threaten after the break and momentum shifted. He created their first real chance, then New Zealand finally earned their first penalty corner. Hayward's drag flick was accurate, but somehow edged over the top by England skipper Barry Middleton.

Then came the turning point inside the final 20 minutes when Blair Hilton was shoved by Michael Hoare in the circle and immediately demanded a referral. Replays showed a push in the back, and Hayward did the rest as England protested wildly.

At the other end Manchester again produced a fine save one on one, but England finally struck via great leadup work from Phil Roper, smashed home by Dixon to lock it up heading into the final 10 minutes.

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