THE familiar pain of watching England in the World Cup was felt by fans across East Lancashire on Saturday night – as Roy Hodgson’s men went down 2-1 to Italy in their opening match.

Thousands crammed into pubs to watch the game, with a huge outdoor screen ensuring The Havelock Inn, in Mill Hill, Blackburn, was one of the busiest in the area.

An evening of drinking meant dozens of fans were in good voice before the 11pm kick-off, and the initial hope and expectation appeared justified when England, and in particular Raheem Sterling, started brightly.

Spirits were soon dampened by the brilliance of Marchisio’s long range opening goal, following a clever dummy by Pirlo, but The Havelock erupted with joy just minutes later, when Sturridge buried Rooney’s pinpoint cross to level the score.

This was to be the high point though, and English hopes faded in the second half as the Italians gradually asserted their superior footballing skills, and deservedly regained the lead through the familiar head of Mario Balotelli.

Despite the defeat, TV installer Ayuub Patel believes England can still do well.

The 30-year-old, of Winston Road, Blackburn, added: “It was a really good atmosphere with the big screen and I enjoyed the match.

“When we scored we had the momentum, but we played so slowly after that. I think we’ve still got a chance to beat Uruguay and can go through.”

“I think Rooney should have been played in the middle, where he’s at his best, because he hardly did anything.”

Call centre worker Claire Stevenson, 24, of Lilly Street in Darwen, said: “I thought it was a good game and I enjoyed it, but I’m obviously disappointed with the score. When Sturridge scored I thought we might go on and win.”

Blackburn College lecturer Stacy Doherty, 30, of Maria Street in Darwen, said: “The big screen was really good and the atmosphere was sound.

“We played quite well and were in a good position to win it at one point. I thought Sturridge was brilliant and hopefully he’ll do the same against Uruguay.

Not everyone in East Lancashire was disappointed with the result of course, such as Italian nurse Carmine Accardo, 24, who works at the Royal Blackburn Hospital. He watched the game at home and said: “I was joking with my English neighbours before the game and it was a really good atmosphere in the town. I didn’t expect to see Italy play with this organisation, so I really enjoyed it.”