Nat Metcalf helps England maintain unbeaten run against Malawi
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Barrowford’s Metcalf won gold on the Gold Coast in 2018 before being given the honour of the armband this time around by coach Jess Thirlby and once again helped the hosts to victory after yesterday’s 74-22 triumph over Trinidad and Tobago.
And there was not a spare seat in sight inside Birmingham’s NEC as the defending champions strutted their stuff to the backdrop of deafening noise to go top of Pool B.
The experienced Jade Clarke, 38, delivered a solid display for her skipper with two goal assists in 42 minutes on court and said: “It’s a world class stadium. There’s nothing better than running out in front of a home crowd.
“We always say we want to celebrate the good stuff and they are doing it for us, they are helping us do that.
“We feel like they are part of the team.”
The world’s No.7 side Malawi represented a much sterner test but a fast start inspired by Eleanor Cardwell and Stacey Francis-Bayman gave England a 15-point cushion at half-time.
Having made 30 out of 30 shots in their first game, Blackpool-born Cardwell was handed a starting berth at goal attack in place of 2018’s golden girl Helen Housby.
She repaid the faith shown by Thirlby with 31 goals and said: “I thought it was a great contest and a really good, composed performance from every single person on the team. We adapted well to the changes that were happening around us.
"We need to make sure that what we did at the start and end of that game, we do throughout the whole 60 minutes of every game. We will try to address those patches where it was a bit stickier."
Malawi fought back in a drawn third quarter before the hosts stretched their lead in the final quarter of an hour, much to the delight of their adoring support and Clarke reckons the team will be better for being given more of a workout.
She said: “I think we are definitely building. We knew Malawi was going to be a really tough game, they’ve got world class players like Joyce Mvula.
“We played them a couple of weeks ago in South Africa, so we’ve made some improvements since then.
“It’s a long journey, day two and we are pleased with the progress and pleased we’ve had some really good challenges.
“They really challenged us in that third quarter as well which is a good thing. There’s still work to do - Jess always wants more from us and we will go back and assess the video.”
England return to action on Monday against Northern Ireland but first they have a day off during which they hope to watch England’s footballers win the Euro 2022 final against Germany.
Clarke said: “We will do some ice baths, go in the pool and finish off the day watching the Lionesses, so we can’t wait for that as well.”
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