Indian striker Mandeep Singh scored a goal and assisted the other as the Ranchi Rays climbed to third position in the Hockey India League. The 2-0 win sees the Rays level on points with the U.P Wizards, with the latter barely clinging onto second position courtesy a superior goal difference.
Ranchi Rays Opt For Pace
As has been the trend of Harendra Singh’s men this edition, the Ranchi Rays chose to go with a pacey lineup. Birendra Lakra joined Fergus Kavanagh in defense as Daniel Beale headed the attack up front. Trent Mitton returned from his illness to find his place on the Ranchi Rays’ bench.
Roelant Oltmans and his U.P Wizards opted to go in for a more conservative lineup. Wouter Jolie, S.K Uthappa and Nikkin Thimmiah were all deployed in attack as Australian goaltender Tyler Lovell was placed in the goal.
Ranchi Rays Dominate First Half
Anticipating that a victory would keep them in the hunt for the championship, Harendra Singh’s men began strongly, with Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton enforcing the play from the middle of the park. Thus, the first ten minutes saw complete domination in posession of the ball from the away side. An early penalty corner for the Rays was squandered when P.R Sreejesh’s left handed block kept the scores level.
Mitton Puts The Rays Ahead
Returning from an illness, Trent Mitton made his presence felt as he put the Rays ahead with 12 minutes of the first quarter gone. A swift counter attack from Ashley Jackson and Mandeep Singh in particular saw the Wizards struggling to get defenders back. As a result, a two on one situation saw Mandeep Singh calmly square the ball to an unmarked Trent Mitton, with the latter slotting the ball into an open goal.
The sarcastic smile from P.R Sreejesh told the story as the Rays found themselves a goal ahead.
Sreejesh’s Heroics Keep Wizards in the hunt
The complete domination of posession of the ball and the circle penetrations saw the Wizards on the back foot for most of the second and the third quarter. The stats read 11 shots in favor of the Rays as opposed to the 3 shots by the Wizards. Thus, it all came down to the Indian National team goaltender P.R Sreejesh.
Playing almost as a sweeper, Sreejesh came out on top in one on one situations against Nick Wilson and Mandeep Singh. However, Sreejesh’s heroics failed to inspire the hapless U.P Wizards as they failed to score.
Mandeep Singh Scores To Complete Victory
Mandeep Singh finally found himself on the score sheet following his tap-in into the open Uttar Pradesh goal with 42 minutes of the match played. Mandeep Singh’s goal was not only the icing on the cake, but also, a mere testament to his performance to secure his side maximum points.
In what was a complete performance against the U.P Wizards, performances from Kothajit Singh and Barry Middleton in particular certainly did not go unnoticed.
The 2-0 shutout is significant for the Ranchi Rays in more ways than one. Apart from being a massive confidence boost, the Rays now move into third position on the table, level on points with the Uttar Pradesh Wizards. Coach Harendra Singh will be hoping for more of the same from his forward Mandeep Singh as the challenge for the League title seems more likely.