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Sothern doubles up as Ireland win series

Ireland 3 Pakistan 2

By Graham Hamilton

Two goals from Alan Sothern helped Ireland men to a 3-2 success over Pakistan at Lisnagarvey yesterday to help the Green Machine win the three-game series arranged as build-up for the forthcoming World League 3 tournaments.

It was the second 3-2 success of the weekend, having beaten the Asian giants by the same scoreline a day earlier at the same venue.

And, added to Thursday's 2-2 draw, it was the sort of start that coach Craig Fulton would have wanted as the build-up to Johannesburg and the final World Cup qualifier starts gathering momentum.

Yesterday's win was a slick performance from an Irish side which included some of the younger players - they scored three great goals but also stood firm and soaked up pressure when the Pakistanis attacked in waves.

The scoreline, in fact, could have been more, as Neil Glassey twice, Eugene Magee and Matthew Nelson all came close to adding to the tally, although Pakistan also had some great chances but goalkeeper David Harte pulled off one world-class save in particular.

It was a tight first half which ended up scoreless despite some creativity from both sides.

But then Sothern opened the scoring, tapping in at the far post from Neil Glassey's cross to put the Irish on their way.

And then Jeremy Duncan added the second, deflecting home another superb cross after a sustained bout of pressure.

Harte's save proved crucial -he was diving one way when a deflection sent the ball the other way, but he still managed to divert the ball wide with his stick.

Pakistan roared back with a goal from Muhammad Rizwan Jun, but Sothern responded and got his second when he collected the ball on the byline and weaved his way into the circle before slotting home.

Pakistan skipper Muhammad Umar Bhutta got one back with a deflection two minutes from time but it came too late to change the outcome.

Saturday's win saw Lisnagarvey's Sean Murray open the scoring with a screamer into the roof of the net and, although Bhutta levelled from the penalty spot, Peter Caruth and Shane O'Donoghue set up Sothern to make it 2-1.

Ali Shan levelled matters at 2-2 but O'Donoghue had the last word with a last-gasp winner.

The Irish head to Germany for the Hamburg Masters later this month and then it's Johannesburg for the final World Cup qualifier in July.

Coach Fulton now has a headache in front of him, as his younger players showed up well during the Pakistan series and are pushing hard for places.

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