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Hockey star Tess Howard believes teams will be terrified of England if they can improve their consistency at the Commonwealth Games.
Howard scored a terrific diving deflection as England came through a tough test to beat India 3-1 in Birmingham.
The Cambridge-born forward was a constant threat throughout a game in which England had to defend for long periods, and the East Grinstead player hailed her side’s steely rear-guard.
“Our identity is becoming a real strong hard defence, and then being really ruthless in attack and I think we’ve shown that,” said Howard, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“Consistency is the thing we’re working on and the other teams have got to watch out.
“It was a great moment for us to make our mark on the tournament.
“It’s history that no English team has ever won three in a row at the Commonwealth Games so it’s just a marker for what we can do here.”
England got off to the best possible start in front of a vocal crowd at the University of Birmingham, as Giselle Ansley ruthlessly converted from a penalty corner after just three minutes.
But it was not all plain sailing for the hosts, as India fought back and nearly equalised immediately after Anna Toman nearly turned into her own net, forcing goalkeeper Maddie Hinch into evasive action.
Hinch was then called into further into two saves from penalty corners before the break, with a third going narrowly wide.
“If you’d have said that [we would win 3-1] before the game we would have been very happy,” reflected Howard.
“Parts of the game we went into deep defence, and we had to ride out the pressure.
“Maddie made an incredible save off the line at the beginning, it gave us all a boost to keep putting the pressure on.”
Howard then added a crucial second after the break as the team were watched on by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, as well as the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte.
“I didn’t actually know they were here, so it was a really nice surprise,” added Howard.
“It’s one of those you dream about in training and try to execute. As soon as Sophie got the ball I thought ‘it’s going to be crossed, I’m going to have to dive’ and it went into the goal.”
The England team were roared on by a vocal crowd, and Howard is still taking in the strength of the support.
“You can’t really put the words on it,” she said.
“The English crowd really helped, family and friends in the crowd, then you’ve got your coaches and your teammates, and you really just do it for them.”
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