By Jake Beleski
Both sides have everything to play for when the Black Sticks Men meet Pakistan in Clareville tonight, before the series wraps up at the same venue tomorrow.
Pakistan’s 4-2 win in game three in Wellington on Monday night locked the series up at 1-1, after New Zealand won the opening clash 3-2, followed by a 2-2 draw in the second match.
A second half hat-trick from Pakistan drag flicker Abu Mahmood proved too much for New Zealand to overcome on Monday, after Pakistan had gone to the halftime break up 1-0.
Black Sticks captain Arun Panchia said there was a “bit of disappointment” after the result, and identified areas they needed to improve.
“They scored four penalty corners so our corner defence is pretty important.
“It was their number two flicker that scored three out of three so we’ll have a good chance to look at the video and make some adjustments so we can try and negate that.”
Despite the setback of seeing their series lead evaporate, Panchia was happy with how the squad was progressing.
“It’s always a tough process when you bring a new squad together,” he said.
“We haven’t played together a lot but we tried to make small improvements every game.”
The team were not lacking confidence, but Pakistan were a quality side and would improve with every game as well, he said.
The Black Sticks had tried a few different things across the opening three matches, and learnt a lot in the process.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction and hopefully that will show in the results in the next couple of games.”
The last time Trust House Hockey Wairarapa hosted an international hockey match at Clareville was in 2014 when the national women’s team played the USA.
Wairarapa Hockey executive officer Kelly Govan said the women’s series had been a learning curve for the region.
“We’ve got stands in which will allow a few extra bodies — in 2014 we had about 3000 people over the two days.
“It doesn’t sound like an especially big number, however it was about six people deep around the turf.”
It was hoped that having the matches in the evening, as opposed to during the day as they had in 2014, would add to the atmosphere.
She was unsure how many tickets had been pre-sold, but said they were confident a large crowd would turn up to support the event.
“I haven’t checked with New Zealand hockey exactly how online ticket sales are going, but we know historically a lot of it tends to be last minute.”
The learning experience of 2014 had shown that a lot of people turned up at the gate to buy tickets instead on purchasing them beforehand, she said.
Tonight’s match starts at 6.30pm, with the fifth and final match starting at the same time tomorrow night.