Ireland moved another step closer to progressing as one of the top two finishers from the World League round two in Delhi as they saw off Oman 7-2 in a scrappy affair.
It leaves the Irish in second place in the competition overnight, an outcome which if maintained after Sunday will see them advance to round three and a step closer to World Cup 2014 qualification.
Alan Sothern started their run with his seventh goal of the tournament and would later move up to eight to lead the tournament rankings while Mitch Darling’s second half double helped him earn the man of the match award.
Sothern’s first came 15 minutes in when he was found by a lovely reverse pass five metres out and he quickly turned in one touch and smashed home.
The green machine doubled up when Geoff McCabe’s right wing cross took a heavy deflection from Salim Ali Al Zadjali. But Oman were an aggressive, lively force throughout and nicked one back via Mohamed Hubais Al Shar’s heavily deflected drag-flick in the 28th minute.
It came during a particularly messy spell in which a string of sin-binnings were dished out but Ireland reasserted their control when Conor Harte dragged home the third just before half-time.
A more fluid start to the second period yielded a glut of goals, Sothern holding off a couple of rough tackles to slide home. Darling’s punch shot found a gap at the near post and his second soon after made it 6-1 with 27 minutes still to play.
The game done and dusted, the tie was an exercise in frustration as Al Shar pulled one back from a penalty stroke. Davy Carson applied a delicious chip to Eugene Magee’s assist for 7-2 but the closing phases saw Ireland struggle to find a route through a packed defence.
Nonetheless, Ireland meet China in their final game, tipping off at 4pm (10.30pm, Irish time).
Ireland starting XI: D Fitzgerald, J Jackson, R Gormley, A Sothern, E Magee, B McCandless, M Darling, P Maguire, C Harte, P Brown, D Carson