BY MAX HALL
Wandsworth-born Sarah Haycroft says England are benefiting from an extra lift from the fervent home supporters in Stratford for the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup.
Haycroft was part of the England team who opened their campaign at the weekend with a 1-1 draw against India, thanks to a goal from Lily Owsley seven minutes from time.
And the Surbiton ace – captain of a side that dominates the English club game – said she was fired on by the presence of her fan club at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
“All my family are here; mum, dad, fiancé,” Haycroft told the South London Press. “And then there are school friends, players I’ve played with at clubs, people that have supported me at Surbiton and at school, so it’s great to have them in the crowd.
“One of the great things about having the tournament in your home country is that all your friends and family can support you, and you heard it out there today, how the crowd got behind us. Hopefully that will give us the extra edge to win games.
“It’s amazing [to play in London]. To be able to play in a World Cup is obviously the highlight of anyone’s career. To be able to do that in your home city is something extra special that only happens once in a lifetime, so we want to make sure we come out here and play the best we can and make the nation proud.”
If anyone in a sell-out 10,000 crowd had come expecting the hosts to breeze through their opening fixture though, they were in for a shock as England made hard work of converting their chances, their equaliser coming from one of nine penalty corners.
Haycroft had to wait until the second quarter to enter the fray in a match which saw Wimbledon duo Anna Toman and Suzy Petty heavily involved.
England enjoyed plenty of opportunities but were unable to find a way through before Neha Goyal made the breakthrough for India in the 24th minute, her close-range strike allowed to stand after England’s appeal for dangerous play by Nikki Pradhan was overruled.
The home crowd became subdued as the hosts failed to live up to the RAF fly-past, columns of fire and fireworks that greeted them out of the tunnel, but the supporters cranked up the volume as England chased the game after half time, and had their reward when Owsley finally broke the resistance of Indian goalkeeper Savita.
With the USA and Ireland expected to make up the numbers in Group B, top spot should boil down to a shoot-out between England and India in their remaining games, with Haycroft and company returning to action at 8pm on Wednesday, against America.
“Obviously we wanted the win,” said Haycroft. “But we showed out there what things are to come so if we can continue playing like that we just need to tweak little things, and make sure in the D we’re getting more outcomes. We’re controlling it and we’re getting corners, we just need to make that one step further so we’re scoring more goals.”
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