England expect as Portsmouth hosts international

England's Liam Pitchford will be in action at the Mountbatten Centre tonight
England's Liam Pitchford will be in action at the Mountbatten Centre tonight
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LIAM PITCHFORD is targeting a 3-0 whitewash of the Netherlands in England’s crucial European Championship qualifier at the Mountbatten Centre tonight (7pm).

The 19-year-old, who featured for Team GB at this summer’s London Olympics, believes an emphatic victory is achievable – and necessary – if third-placed England are to fulfil ambitions of topping a six-team qualification group.

Ahead of tonight’s international clash in Portsmouth, Pitchford said: ‘We have still got a chance of winning the group and will be looking for a 3-0 victory over the Netherlands to proceed with our challenge.

‘We have got to go for it and they have got nothing to lose, so it should make for a very good match for the spectators.’

England’s match against the Netherlands will mark the halfway stage in the qualification process for the 2013 JOOLA European Championships in Schwechat, Austria.

But England haven’t had it all their own way in their bid to secure promotion to the tournament’s prestigious Championship division, comprising of Europe’s top 12 teams.

Having looked on course to qualify, after beating Slovakia 3-1 in their opening fixture, England came unstuck against a competitive Romanian team.

And with difficult-looking ties away to Bulgaria and table-toppers Czech Republic to come, British No2 Pickford accepts tonight’s hosts cannot afford to drop further points against a side languishing at the foot of the table.

He said: ‘We will prepare for the Netherlands as we would any other game.

‘Maybe there is additional pressure on us because we are the favourites but we have to deal with that.

‘We all play at a good standard and so, if we can bring our best game to the table, we are confident we will get the right result.’

Pitchford and his England team-mates, fellow Olympian and British No1 Paul Drinkhall, and national doubles champion Daniel Reed, will perform in front of an expectant partisan crowd at the Mounbatten Centre tonight.