Monchengladbach — From a EuroHockey low against the hosts to their own home nations record, England put one step into the semi-finals and a likely showdown with world No.1 Netherlands on Tuesday.
A 5-0 win was their biggest victory margin against Scotland in the last 40 years (on record), as a PC brace from Grace Balsdon and classy hat-trick of differing, world-class qualities by Tess Howard cast aside their inadequacies against Germany. It was her first international hat-trick.
From the outset, England were out to prove some error-strewn wrongs. Lily Owsley gave a notable first-pump and yelp to spur on her side, just for winning a first PC in the opening salvos.
There followed a pretty chaotic midfield battle, with trips and stick blocks aplenty in this home nations dust-up and England holding a 6-0 EuroHockey record.
England’s two early corners were easily dealt with, while Sophie Hamilton thudded her shin pads in frustration after scuffing a shot across goal in the dying embers of the opening quarter.
It took the second minute of the second quarter for any quality to show.
A turnover midway inside England’s half saw the impressive Ellie Rayer have space and time to prolong her pass into the on-running Howard, who entered the circle at pace and tapped from the top through the legs of the closing Amy Gibson.
For setpieces, Olivia Hamilton had been the go-to when Balsdon was off field. The latter finally had a stab deep in the second quarter with a straight slap which beat Gibson’s left boot.
The match, though, was far from secure with this cushion. For all England’s circle endeavour in the third quarter, Scotland did have rare breaks up field with Charlotte Watson venturing free but reversed into the pads of Sabbie Heesh.
“I saw the goalie rush out and I knew I had to drive hard and when I saw the gap just before she dived, I thought I would put it through there,” noted Howard afterwards. “That was a huge release of energy for all of us.”
Minutes later, England had their sixth PC and Balsdon slapped low again.
Mounting pressure in the fourth quarter saw David Ralph’s side create more penetration and when Howard found herself with space on the right she thundered a rising forehand past Jessica Buchanan, the full force of her top corner strike forcing her to ground in the process.
A fifth was garnered through a late PC, a low hit fizzing towards goal and Howard finding a touch for her hat-trick.
Rayer, problematic for the Scots all game, hit the post with 90 seconds left after a lift across goal. It was the last circle threat before the likely powerhouse of the Oranje.
The pool could yet throw up a surprise should Ireland beat Germany later on Tuesday. England’s five goals have given them a +1 cushion over Ireland, who would need to score more than one without conceding to have a chance of making the last four for the last time.