England’s men and women both recorded European Championship qualifying victories on Tuesday with Paul Drinkhall left toasting a job well done as his team made it two wins from as many matches.
Following up their 3-2 home victory over Greece, this was a more straight forward match for the Rio 2016 trio of Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker as they triumphed 3-0 away to Netherlands.
Walker had the honour of leading off the match against Ewout Oostwouder, ranked No 258 in the world, and the Brit was always in control as he recorded a 3-0 (11-9, 11-7, 12-10) victory.
Pitchford was next up against Rajko Gommers, and although his left-handed opponent took the second set it was still comfortable for the Brit as he won it 3-1 (11-8, 7-11, 11-8, 11-4).
And it was left to Drinkhall to seal the overall triumph, though he too dropped a set before coming home 3-1 (11-3, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5) against Laurens Tromer.
“We always felt we were going to win, but they put up a good performance,” said Drinkhall, who became only the third Brit in history to reach the last 16 stage of an Olympic singles competition in Rio.
“They had a good crowd and it was a decent atmosphere.
“It was very important to win this match – if we had lost I think it would have been very difficult to go away to Greece and put in a performance to win the group.”
Walker added: “It was a great experience for me to play the first match in an England team match for the first time, and I was happy to start us off with a win – it’s always important to start that first match well.
“They’re a dangerous young team, so it was great to get that 3-0 win and for it to be fairly comfortable.”
As for the women, Tin-Tin Ho won the deciding match as England came from 2-1 down to defeat Slovenia 3-2.
Kelly Sibley claimed two victories as England won what is likely to be a crucial victory after losing 3-0 to Germany earlier in the campaign which will decide which division they play in at the finals next year.
After Sibley had beaten Tamara Pavcnik in the opener, Ho and Karina Le Fevre lost successive matches to Alex Galic and Manca Fajmut.
But Sibley then downed Galic before Ho kept her cool with a 3-1 victory over Pavcnik to secure the win.
Ho said: “It feels really great playing at home I wanted to take the opportunity and perform under pressure.
“In the first match I wasn’t really playing my game, I was trying too hard. In the second match I relaxed a bit and even when she opened up I was able to block it back and get it on the table and move her around.
“We had really good team spirit. Kelly played really well to take it back for us and give me the opportunity and Karina also played well. Now I’m really excited to play Germany again.”