Great Britain triumphed on home turf in front of a noisy crowd of around 3,000 young people, part of a special schools event at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre as they beat Japan by 5-1.
After a quiet first quarter the game sprung into life in the second with goals from Alex Danson and Laura Unsworth. Akiko Kato hit back in the 49th minute but Danson’s second as well as further strikes from Helen Richardson-Walsh and Sophie Bray ensured the hosts came away with a big win.
Danny Kerry’s side dominated the opening exchanges but were unable to find a breakthrough in the first quarter. Great Britain delighted the crowd in the second quarter as Danson was brought down by the goalkeeper winning a penalty stroke. The No15 dusted herself off and found the net to make it 1-0.
Laura Unsworth added a penalty corner strike in the 20th minute – her fifth international goal to double the lead. Japan hit back in the third quarter with a nicely taken deflection from Akiko Kato.
However, their joy was short lived as Great Britain scored three times in four minutes to blow their opponents away. In the 52nd minute Helen Richardson-Walsh rounded off a lovely move involving Kate Richardson-Walsh and Danson to make it 3-1.
Danson notched her 80th international goal with her second of the match, also from the spot and then Sophie Bray carved open the defence and fired a lovely backhand strike into the bottom corner to make it 5-1.
Speaking after the game Head Coach Danny Kerry had mixed feelings: “I’m very happy with the first half, it’s probably the best we’ve played since September 2014. We were dominant and in control and deservedly 2-0 up. The 2nd half was sloppy and could easily have let Japan back in. The good news is they came out to chase the game and that allowed us to cut them open a bit more but we were very sloppy and could easily have thrown that away. It wasn’t a complete performance.”
On the positives to emerge from the game: “We executed our corners well. We scored some good goals, Sophie Bray, Helen Richardson-Walsh and of course Alex took hers well. We created and took our chances, which was good. Sabbie Heesh who played the second half played well and saved some good corners a couple of players who didn’t play yesterday got a run out after injury and illness which was good for them.”
On the preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers in June: “These are ideal games for us. Japan are a very disciplined side, very good in defence and have good counterattacking threats. It’s about concentrating for the whole game and it was perfect for us.
It’s good to get into the mindset of bringing your best game to every moment of the match so these types of series are good for that. Hopefully it will stand us in good stead for the upcoming challenges.”
Great Britain 5 (2)
Alex Danson 18, 55 (PS, PS)
Laura Unsworth 20 (PC)
Helen Richardson-Walsh 52 (F)
Sophie Bray 56 (F)
Japan 1 (0)
Akiko Kato 49 (F)
Investec Private Banking International – Great Britain squad v Japan
Name – Club
Maddie Hinch – Holcombe
Laura Unsworth – Holcombe
Georgie Twigg – Surbiton
Susie Gilbert – Reading
Kate Richardson-Walsh – Reading
Alex Danson – Reading
Giselle Ansley – Surbiton
Sophie Bray – East Grinstead
Hollie Webb – Surbiton
Shona McCallin – Slough
Lily Owsley – University of Birmingham
Emily Maguire – Reading
Hannah Macleod – St Albans
Helen Richardson-Walsh – Reading
Susannah Townsend – Canterbury
Sarah Robertson – Holcombe
Joie Leigh – Clifton
Sabby Heesh – Leicester