Kaz and Scots bounce back with draw against China

Scotland co-captain Kareena Cuthbert and Becky Merchant
Scotland co-captain Kareena Cuthbert and Becky Merchant

Scotland's ladies' hockey team, under the co-captaincy of Western Wildcats' Kaz Cuthbert, produced a fine display to hold China to a draw in their second World League semi-finals match in Belgium.

Playing against a side ranked nine places above them, Scotland put their opening defeat by favourites Holland behind them - and were unlucky not to pick up the win in a highly entertaining match.

China got off to a bright start and took the game to Scotland with pace without really causing the Scots any real difficulties in defence. The Scotland defence was strong and confident and restricted the Chinese to playing keep-ball.

That all changed when Scotland took the lead after a swift move down the left created the opportunity for Becky Merchant who calmly slotted the ball home to put Scotland 1-0 up.

Scotland had a good chance to double their lead when they won a penalty corner. Amy Costello’s effort was charged down just on the whistle for the end of the first quarter.

China started the second quarter quickly and some excellent defending by Costello denied a shot on goal for China who then had a penalty corner bravely charged down by Ali Howie.

Another penalty corner resulted in a superb save from Gibson keeping the Scots ahead at half-time.

Then it was Scotland’s turn to be awarded a penalty corner; the resulting ball into the D found Cuthbert unable to connect to deflect the effort, and the ball was cleared easily by the feet of the goalkeeper.

Scotland started the final quarter strongly and nearly doubled their advantage, but then China won a penalty corner and used it to find an equaliser. The low bullet into the right corner made it 1-1.

In the dying seconds of the match a series of penalty corners were awarded to the Chinese but they couldn’t convert any of them and Scotland held on for a well-earned draw.

Scotland Head Coach Gordon Shepherd said, “It was a very good performance and I’m delighted to get a point from the match. It was tough to lose the equaliser late in the game but the performance was excellent, and a point is a good return against the higher ranked team."

Scotland's next match is on Sunday against Italy, a crunch clash the Scots have earmarked as crucial to their chances of finishing high enough in the competition to book a place in next year's World Cup.