Black Sticks draw 1-1, set to face top team
New Zealand ended their losing streak at the Champions Trophy today but a 1-1 draw with England in their final pool game cannot prevent them confronting an ominous quarterfinal and potential early exit from the medal race in Melbourne.
Although they produced a much-improved performance following losses to Olympic champions Germany and a resurgent India, the stalemate still condemned them to bottom place in pool A and a clash with either Australia or the Netherlands on Thursday - the pacesetters in the other group.
England finished a tense encounter at the State Hockey Centre a man down after captain Barry Middleton was yellow carded with less than four minutes to play, soon after 289-cap veteran Phil Burrows drew the Black Sticks level with a perfect deflection of a Stephen Jenness cross.
The Black Sticks pressed hard in the dying stages but were unable to conjure up a winner that would have taken them to three points and on a par with Germany, who were still to play unbeaten India.
New Zealand finds out later tonight whether they face their trans-Tasman rivals or the Dutch, who won silver at London 2012.
The Black Sticks paid the penalty for a sluggish start against the world No 4-ranked English as poor ball control contributed to a debilitating turnover rate.
Promising attacking raids were often undermined by the last transfer while England ruled the midfield until the tide turned towards the end of an opening spell played out in blustery conditions.
England took a deserved lead in the 11th minute when goalkeeper Hamish McGregor tangled with his defenders when attempting to intercept a Simon Egerton cross which ultimately found Mark Gleghorne, who swept the ball into an empty net as he overbalanced.
Veterans attackers Nick Wilson and Simon Child were a constant threat when in range of the English circle and the latter would have equalised in the 22nd minute had backtracking defender Michael Hoare not lifted his stick to deflect a goal-bound stroke after keeper' George Pinner was stranded.
New Zealand gradually gained the ascendancy and forced three penalty corners to one in the opening half but were unable to capitalise.
Illustrating their woes, the final set piece fell apart a minute before the break when the ball wasn't trapped at the top of the circle and rebounded clear.
New Zealand maintained their momentum early in the second spell though Pinner was rarely tested until Jenness, in doubt after suffering a nasty hand injury against India, zeroed in a cross for Burrows to nudge home.
England 1 (Mark Gleghorne 11) New Zealand 1 (Phil Burrows 72). Halftime: 1-0