GB Under-20 Men finish the main round at the EHF M20 Championship without a win, but with some positives to draw on.
The trip was always about developing for the future as GB found themselves in a tough group featuring hosts FYR Macedonia, together with Switzerland, Italy and Ukraine.
GB opened against FYR Macedonia, supported by a very partisan crowd, and struggled in attack in the first half as they went into the break 5-15 down. The GB offence improved in the second half, but the Macedonians still went on to win 32-15. Nate Green top-scored for GB with four goals, while Jack Lees and Samuel Paulin added three each.
The second match against Switzerland followed much the same pattern as their opener, as GB struggled to get into the game against a very tall 6-0 Swiss defence. A short attempt at attacking 7 vs 6 also proved fruitless and Switzerland were 18-3 up at the break. GB started the second half better and held their own for about 15mns, but Switzerland again pulled away and won 33-11. Jack Lees top scored for GB and won the EHF Man of the Match Award.
GB U20 Head Coach Mark Hawkins commented “It was tough to start against the two strongest teams and in the early games there were some positives defensively but a lot of issues in the attack which we didn’t immediately resolve. Off the back of this we really struggled to find any success in offence”.
After a day’s rest GB were back in action against Ukraine for match three. They showed huge determination in the first half and went into the break just 6-8 down. GB continued to give the Ukrainians huge problems in the second half and even levelled the score at 14-14 mid-way through the half, but could never quite take the lead. In the end Ukraine hung on and two late goals gave them a 20-16 victory. GB goalkeeper and captain Craig McClelland played a superb match, including a double save that must be a contender for save of the tournament, and deservedly picked-up the man-of-the-match award. In attach Jack Lees was again the top scorer with six goals.
Mark Hawkins said after the game “This was our best performance so far. Previously we gave away many chances to the opponents, but this time we were better. We still didn’t score too many goals, but I am satisfied”.
GB were unable to repeat the heroics of the day before as they took on Italy in their final group match. Italy stormed ahead and GB were always chasing and were 5-13 down at half-time. The second half followed the same pattern as GB made too many mistakes in attack and suffered a bewildering number of two minute suspensions. Italy ran out 31-16 winners. Jack Less top-scored with four goals, while Chris White added three.
Mark Hawkins was understandably disappointed “After yesterday’s match against the Ukraine we thought that we can do better, but today we played very bad.”
GB finish bottom of group B and now have three days' rest while they wait to find out who their opponent will be in the cross-over match on Saturday.