West Ham United Ladies continued their build-up to the new FA Women's Premier League Southern Division campaign with a hard-fought pre-season victory over C&K Basildon on Sunday.
The Hammers secured a 2-0 win through goals from central midfielder Stacey Little and new signing Cherrelle Albert as they prepared for the league opener at Charlton Athletic on Sunday 25 August. It was a third victory in succession for West Ham, who had overcome Brentwood Ladies and Enfield Town in their recent pre-season matches.
The first half was an even contest at the start, with both teams vying for control of the game during an open first 15 minutes, but the match turned in the Hammers' favour after the 23rd minute, as Little let fly with a speculative effort from 20 yards that the Basildon goalkeeper could only help into her own net.
Conceding in such a manner seemed to spur on the Basildon side, who managed to rally and had several chances to equalise before the break, including hitting the crossbar in the 43rd minute.
The Hammers sensed the danger and instantly replied with a second goal on the stroke of half-time. Albert took a great touch, settled herself and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to give the Hammers some breathing space.
West Ham started the second half as they had finished the first, creating a succession of early chances that went begging, the pick of the bunch being a powerful effort by Becky Merritt that cannoned back off the woodwork with the goalkeeper stranded.
Basildon were still dangerous on the counter, with a brilliant fingertip save by Toni-Anne Wayne needed in the 59th minute to keep the Bees at bay.
After the hour mark, the game lost some of its earlier impetus as the summer heat started to take its toll on the players.
The Hammers continued to press late on, however, and were nearly rewarded with a third goal in the 85th minute, but the effort was cleared off the line impressively by the desperate Basildon backline.
As the whistle blew for full-time, West Ham could be confident in the knowledge that they ran out deserved winners, as they were far more clinical in front of goal when it mattered.
Mark Saunderson's team travel to FA Women's Premier League Northern Division side Nottingham Forest for their final pre-season game on Sunday, but the match is under threat due to the Reds' financial problems.
Forest have made an urgent appeal for funding and, should they fail to find a sponsor for the forthcoming season, are threatened with closure within the next week.