Nelson on a hot streak as Irish top their World group
Ireland 1 Italy 0
Matthew Nelson made it three goals from three games as Ireland beat Italy 1-0 yesterday to clinch a World League 2 quarter-final clash against Poland tomorrow afternoon at Stormont.
The Green Machine, like in Sunday's game against Austria, found it difficult to break down opposition more intent on defending, but the young Lisnagarvey striker came up with the goods again as he turned in Ronan Gormley's cross 10 minutes from the interval.
There were a handful of other opportunities to score but luck wasn't on Johnny McKee's side, and he was denied four times.
Nevertheless, the single goal success guarantees top spot in their pool and the new-look squad will rest up today before tomorrow's crossover quarter-final against the bottom team in the other pool, Poland.
"It's great to get among the goals again, that's three in a row," said Nelson, who, like most of the other Irish players, spent more than 20 minutes signing autographs for almost 300 schoolchildren after the game.
"We could have scored more, but unlike Sunday, this time we held out for the win. It's on to the quarter-finals now and we have something to build on."
Skipper Jonathan Bell agreed.
"We should have had a few more goals, we had numerous circle entries," he admitted.
"If that second goal had gone in it would have settled us, but our first target was to top our pool and that's what we have done."
There was some bad news, though, with another Rio Olympian - Chris Cargo - ruled out of action.
Missing 10 players from Rio already, Cargo took a thump on the hand during Sunday's match and, although he played on, he found out later that his finger was broken, leaving the Irish one man short in their squad for the remaining three games.
If Nelson took the plaudits for scoring the goal, there were also fine shows from McKee and Eugene Magee in attack and also the defence, who never looked like conceding until they got a little jittery at the end.
McKee's first shot on target was blocked by his own man, his second on the reverse beat the keeper only for a defender to knock it off the line and his third found the net only for the umpire to rule it out as the cross had hit his arm. The fourth was padded away by the keeper.
The second half saw the Irish unable to break down the Italian defence and the best opportunity fell to Jeremy Duncan but the keeper forced him wide.
World League 2 (Stormont): Ireland 1 (M Nelson) Italy 0; Austria 4 Ukraine 2; France 1 Wales 0; Scotland 2 Poland 1.
Pool A: Ireland 8 pts; Austria 6 pts; Italy 4 pts; Ukraine 0 pts. Pool B: France 9 pts; Wales 5 pts; Scotland 4 pts; Poland 0 pts.
MEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
TOMORROW: World League 2 (Stormont Playball): Quarter-finals: Ukraine v France (10am); Italy v Wales (12.15am); Austria v Scotland (2.30pm); Ireland v Poland (4.45pm)
Ulster Premier League: Mossley v Campbellians (The Glade, 8.15pm)
Burney Cup final (Stormont Playball): Wallace High v Sullivan Upper (7pm)
SATURDAY: World League 2 (Stormont Playball): 5th-8th play-offs (10am and 12.15pm). Semi-finals (2.30pm and 4.45pm)
SUNDAY: World League 2 (Stormont Playball): 7th-8th play-off (10am); 5th-6th play-off (12.15pm); bronze medal play-off (2.30pm); gold medal play-off (4.45pm)