England will come out fighting to salvage a medal from their Hockey World League campaign after suffering semi-final defeat to New Zealand, claims captain Alex Danson.
Olivia Merry fired in the winning penalty corner for the Black Sticks with just five minutes remaining in Auckland, as the home side progressed to the gold medal match of the Hockey World League final.
Lily Owsley had earlier had a goal disallowed for England, with Sophie Bray also hitting the cross bar in a game that saw the hosts dominate, but Danson’s side arguably generated the better chances.
England will play again on Sunday for the bronze medal, against either Korea of the Netherlands, and Danson is determined not to leave the southern hemisphere empty handed.
“Credit to New Zealand, they were fantastic and had us running,” she said.
“But I’m very, very proud of the team, we never stopped running the entire game, we gave it absolutely everything we could and didn’t stop until the last minute.
“We’ve had a really good tournament here, building on some momentum coming into it, so we want to finish here nice and strong.
“We’ve travelled a long way and put in some very tight performances, New Zealand were great tonight but we’ll come out fighting on Sunday.”
Owsley’s first-half effort was ruled out for a back-stick in the build-up, while goalkeeper Maddie Hinch was forced into fine saves to stop Rose Keddell and Brooke Neal giving the home side the lead.
Sarah Haycroft then mishit a shot when well-placed for England and Ellie Rayer brought a good stop from Kiwi keeper Sally Rutherford.
England continued to find opportunities in the second half, but Bray could only manage to cannon her instinctive overhead smash off the bar.
Rutherford also denied Giselle Ansley twice from penalty corners before Merry beat Hinch with a drag-flick in the final minutes of the match.
England could not find an equaliser as time ticked away and Hollie Pearne-Webb – who converted the gold-medal winning penalty at Rio 2016 – now wants the young England to remember the pain of losing a semi-final.
“We came here with quite a young, new, squad and our aim was to develop,” she said.
“But we’ve got to the semi-final and we don’t want to be losing semi-finals so we need to remember how we’re feeling right now.
“Credit to the Black Sticks, they came out and put everything at us and I think they probably tipped us and deserved the win.
“We had lots of chances and that’s something we need to learn from now. We need to look at the video and make the most of their chances next time, to make sure as we go into next year, and the World Cup, we are putting those chances away.
“I was very lucky that I got to play with some legends of our sport back home and I learned so much from them.
“Now, four years on I’m in a different position and I want to help the youngsters out there and help them gain tournament experience.
“Some of them have never played games like this, or had this feeling, so it’s about making sure they learn quickly.”