As the teams marched out onto the turf and stood for the introduction session, Punjab Warriors’ Sandeep Singh and Kalinga Lancers’ Gurjinder Singh were seen twirling their moustaches. For the 2000 fans at the International Hockey Stadium, Mohali, the match meant a duel between the two drag flickers and the two teams were too relying on the drag-flickers. After 70 minutes though, it was a different tale and crowd at the stadium were seen chanting Warriors’ skipper Jamie Dwyer name as the former Aussie skipper scored two goals in the Warriors 4-2 win over Lancers to score their first win of the Hockey India League this season.
For a player, who spent the last five months away from the sport due to a tore ligament in the foot, Dwyer did not look out of practice and after Lalit Uppadhay’s brilliant field goal in the eighth minute of the match put Lancers in the lead. Dwyer rolled back the years and scored two goals in the space of two minutes to set up the tempo for the home side. If Dwyer’s first goal came off a slow shot by Robert Hammond with a 76 km per hour push to deceive Lancer’s goalie Harjot Singh in the 27th minute, the next goal came off a second attempt by the Aussie veteran the following minute to put the Warriors in the lead. “It’s good to score goals and I am happy that I was alert enough to score the two goals. The last five months were tough for me and initially I thought, I will take less load in the initial matches for Warriors. I have been running lightly and working out in the gym to strengthen the muscles. Lalit’s goal was a brilliant one and somebody had to make the same effort. We had some misses in the first quarter but we changed our strategy in the second quarter and that worked for us,” shared Dwyer after the match.
Last year, Sandeep Singh had scored 11 goals for the Warriors and was the leading scorer for the league and his initial misses in the penalty corners in the first two quarters did raise doubts for the veteran drag-flicker. The first penalty corner for Warriors in the 21st minute saw Sandeep Singh fail to collect the ball properly. It was not until the 37th minute in the match that Singh found his touch and he curled a 110 km per hour shot into the lancers’ goal post to make it 3-1 for the home side. When local lad Dharamveer Singh collected the ball outside Lancers penalty area and dodged goalie Harjot in the 50th minute, it all but sealed the win for the Warriors.
Lancers’, who initially did not opt for Gurjinder in the first penalty corner, did opt for Gurjinder for the second penalty corner and the Batala lad’s goal in the 52nd minute did reduce the deficit for Lancers. “Sandeep took his time to settle in the match. He did manage well in the last two quarters. Last time he was the leading scorer for us but the way to the final was successful as the mid-fielders and forward line scored almost 2-3 goals each. I hope this time too, players like Mark Knowles and Simon Orchard will manage the mid-field to pose a threat,” added Dwyer.
With one win and one loss in the league, Lancers’ coach Jude Felix believed that there is a long way for the team in the league. “We had the advantage after the first goal. But once we played with ten players for five minutes, Warriors took advantage. Jamie showed how brilliant he can be and he spoiled our plans in the mid-field too. We hope to bounce back in the next match,” said Felix.