Pete Russell’s team head into their third Group A game against Denmark later today still searching for their first points of the tournament, but buoyed by their performance in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Slovakia
That came on the back of Saturday’s 7-1 defeat to world No2-ranked Russia, although the ongoing tournament’s capacity to shock continued yesterday when Slovakia made it three wins from three when they defeated their more illustrious rivals 3-1, putting them top of the group after four days of frenetic action in the Latvian capital.
GB were heavily outshot at the Olympic Sports Centre on Sunday but it was there ability to stay in the game and fashion a handful of clear chances that has given them confidence going into today’s showdown with a Denmark team (2.15pm UK time) who have already sprung their own surprise when beating Sweden 4-3 on Saturday.
One reason GB were able to ensure Slovakia could not afford to relax was Kirk’s well-worked leveller in the 23rd minute, his second of the tournament.
It was a moment the 21-year-old forward will understandably treasure, but his focus very much remains on the team goals over the next few days, as opposed to his own.
“It was kind of nice to get it over and done with, I didn’t want it to go three tournaments without it happening,” said Kirk, when asked about his goal against Russia which was effectively made in Sheffield having been fashioned by his Steelers’ team-mates Brendan Connolly and Robert Dowd. “It was a great play by Conns and then a lovely pass from Dowdy and all I had to do was find a way of putting it in.
“I was extremely honoured to get that goal and get it out of the way, but I would rather we get a result and take a win, that’s the most important thing for us this week.”
With no relegation taking place this year, there is an assumption by some that the likes of GB – who would normally enter such an event with the threat of demotion hanging over them – can somehow relax more.
But nothing could be further from the truth, captain Jonathan Phillips - who today becomes only the third GB player after Ashley Tait and David Longstaff to reach 100 caps - last week insisting there was too much pride at stake for that to be even contemplated, a stance Kirk and the rest of the roster share.
Two years ago in Kosice, GB went into their group game against Denmark having targetted the match as one they could take points from. But, on the day, they were easilt overcome when humbled 9-0. Kirk says there is no danger of GB getting ahead of themselves again.
“We take loads of confidence into the Denmark game because of how we played against Slovakia,” added Kirk. “But it’s a case of build, build, build and just making sure we take it game by game.
“We don’t want too far ahead of ourselves as we did the last time we played Denmark – we saw that as a game that we could get a result from going in and then we got swept 9-0, so we just need to concentrate on improving each day.
“Denmark obviously beat Sweden, one of the top teams in the world, so it will definitely be an interesting game.”
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