Lee Valley — There will be tougher Tests ahead against the world No 1 team, but England women were good value for their 3-1 win over the Netherlands at Lee Valley on Saturday.
Resting their top stars from league exertions in the Big League, the Dutch called up five junior players to leave England with a decent chance of recording a rare win over the Oranje. Meanwhile, the England stars of today were being watched by those of yesteryear after being awarded their GB caps for an ongoing initiative to track down all past internationals.
Goals from Anna Toman, Izzy Petter and Grace Balsdon duly paved the way for their first win as an England outfit since their EuroHockey shoot-out heroics back in 2015.
This was also the first time that England or GB had beaten the Dutch in the Pro League, while victory was also the first time an England women’s team had won in normal time against the Oranje for 19 years.
Argentina now look favourites to win the FIH Pro League, the Dutch languishing 15 points behind with five games remaining. With a looming home World Cup, the Netherlands will unlikely lose sleep over relinquishing the chance of a hat-trick of Pro League titles.
It was a first quarter full of running, predominantly from England down the right flanks, runs from close friends Flora Peel and Lily Owsley catching the eye.
Ellie Rayer then saw her dink go just past Julia Remmerswaal’s far post, while at the other end Maddie Hinch’s calculated move smothered a fine run from Joosje Burg, the Dutch player clattering to the ground.
Coach Dave Ralph was vocal, urging his side onto the front foot at several junctures as England gifted turnovers. But the hosts were rewarded via a second quarter PC, the ball switching to the left and swept in by Toman.
Holding a slender 1-0 lead at half-time, England took the advantage when a third quarter ball was worked from left to right, Petter angling home across Remmerswaal from another Toman slap.
With 12 minutes remaining, the Dutch then found a clear opening with a slap hit at the top of the castle from Maxime Kerstholt’s stick.
With the Dutch down to 10, England made hay and a penalty stroke awarded off a Dutch body saw Balsdon enter the circle. Not even a change of goalkeeper could halt the power-hitter’s authoritative flick to retain a two-goal cushion.
Giselle Ansley then swatted away expertly late on and England survived a trio of late PCs to take momentum into Sunday.
The mood fell flat as the Oranje men stormed to a two-goal lead in the first quarter, courtesy of a Dennis Warmerdam close range double, Tjep Hoedemakers scoring expertly late on to seal a 3-0 victory.
Victory moves the Dutch up to second in the table, two points behind leaders India having played three fewer games. England stay fifth.