Life in the Covid-era of touring for Great Britain women started with eating on tables for one at the team hotel and ended by digesting a solitary point which deserved more. The Dutch arrived at the ground in their own cars, motored to an early goal and finished the night fuelled by two points after a convincing 3-1 shoot-out win.
In this behind-closed-doors encounter, which ended 1-1 in normal time, no one knew how it might pan out. Indeed, Pien Dicke found herself with socially-distanced space aplenty after just 90 seconds. After eight months, she seemed to have plenty of time too to slot past Sabbie Heesh for her first Oranje goal.
Jo Hunter deservedly restored parity with her first GB and Pro League goal to take the match the extra distance. The Dutch were authoritative from the 23 line. But for 60 minutes, GB had the measure of the hosts and should be buoyant by this performance ahead of the second match on Thursday.
If both sides had claims to be ring rusty on the international stage, this was entertaining, physical fare between the two rivals. The 8-0 defeat handed out to an England side in the Antwerp heat last year seemed in another world.
Here, GB didn’t waver after Holland’s fortuitous start. Their defence and the midfield press deployed by Mark Hager gave them the upper hand, even if they had yet to find an attempt on goal. At the other end, Heesh was nearly wrong-footed by a deflection off Anna Toman’s stick in the third quarter but managed to get her left glove in the way. A 2-0 lead would have been harsh on Hager’s side.
With the Dutch down to 10, and after two PC attempts, GB kept up the pressure and Hunter tapped in and then tapped sticks with her equally ectastic team-mates after her fourth senior goal.
GB had further chances too. Lily Owsley, with a typically bullish run on the baseline, won another PC but the Dutch held firm. A period of crash hits into the D late on suggested tired legs. Thus it was left to the shoot-out for the extra Pro League point.
With no crowd, the shoot-out drama never materialised. That much was evident when Izzy Petter walked back after missing GB’s effort and the echoing cheers from the Dutch team.
“It wasn’t great, there were a lot of basic things we didn’t get right,” said Margot van Geffen. After so long away, double headers mean they only have to wait 48 hours to iron out the creases.