HIL 2016: Ashley Jackson puts Ranchi Rays' title defence back on track
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Ashley Jackson scored a field goal, and then another from a penalty stroke, as Ranchi Rays came back from behind to win 4-2 against Uttar Pradesh Warriors in the Hockey Indian League at Lucknow.
Ranchi Rays shifted to a more attacking 4-3-3 formation for this game, following their failure to find the back of the net in their opening game against Punjab Warriors. Coach Harendra Singh made two changes to their line-up by bringing in Sumit Kumar and Mohammad Amir Khan. UP Wizards, on the other hand, fielded an unchanged 4-3-3 line-up, which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Kalinga Lancers in the inaugural game this season.
The home side took an early lead in the game with Ramandeep Singh scoring in the third minute of the first quarter. Akashdeep Singh played a long searching ball for Kenny Bain, and the Scotsman had to slide with his stick in order to keep the ball in play on the left side of the circle. The forward then picked out Ramandeep Singh in front of the goal, and the Indian star directed the ball past the goalkeeper.
After struggling to break down UP's defence in the first two-quarters, Ranchi Rays finally managed to put one past PR Sreejesh, right at the end of the third quarter. With second remaining for the quarter to end, Ranchi won two successive penalty corners. From their second attempt, Sarvanjit Singh made the most of a melee in front of the goal and managed to sneak it in.
The defending champions took the lead for the first time in the game at the start of the fourth quarter, when Ashley Jackson, who was the top scorer in the previous edition, scored his first field goal in HIL. The move started with Kothajit breaking up play at the back, which initiated a fast counter-attack.
Manpreet Singh picked out Barry Middleton, who made a darting run from the midfield, before playing a lovely reverse pass to Jackson on his right. The English midfielder showed tremendous composure in receiving the ball and finishing it into the top corner of the net, to give Ranchi a 3-2 lead.
With 20 seconds left on the clock, Ashley Jackson added the cherry on the top of the cake, with a thunderous strike from a penalty corner.