Ladies cruise to Lewes win

West Ham United 8-1 Lewes

West Ham United Ladies have enjoyed a tremendous start to their pre-season campaign with a fine victory against Lewes following last week's 2-0 against Aston Villa.

The win against Lewes on Sunday was the first game played by Tony Marshall's side at the Ship Lane home of Thurrock FC, their new home for the 2008/09 campaign. The impressive stadium has a fitting surface for the Ladies' passing game. It was also significant because it was away to Lewes last year that Marshall and assistant Alex Bonner's Southern Premier League hopefuls began the previous pre-season - going down 3-1 on a disappointing day.

What a difference a year makes with a side that included five new signings and without both first choice strikers, it was a performance full of pace and power with the goals spread between six players. The match included full debuts for striker Leah Cowan, who joins from Arsenal, and also Rosey Sullivan an England U-17 centre back signed from Leyton Orient.

The temperatures were in the 80's but after the hard work put in to date on fitness the girls begun the game at full speed with Jess Barling opening the scoring with a 25 yarder placed into the top corner after five minutes quickly followed by a Sam Pittuck cross shot and a very neat left foot finish from Claire Rogers - both from outside the box.

Some very good one-touch play led to new signing Cowans receiving the ball at her feet on the penalty spot who turned sharply and side stepped two defenders and placed the ball in the bottom corner. Finally a sweet passing move ended with a superb cross field ball from Claire Rogers met by Natalie Grafton at the far post. Other positives were Toni Munro not having to make a save and vice-captain Carly Roache leading by example.

After the break, Lewes struck a consolation but normal service was resumed when Natalie Grafton beat the defence to score before Pittuck added a second. The final goal of the night came when Dani Hoy tapped in from a Natalie Grafton cross. The pre-season games continue thick and fast with Chelsea, of the Northern Premier League, on Thursday before a match away to another team from that division in Broxbourne FC on Sunday.

The pre-season had begun on 22 July with a 2-0 win at Aston Villa after five weeks of intensive fitness and conditioning work at Chadwell Heath. It was a chance for a first look at most of the season's new signings and also allowed Marshall to give some Under-16s, treble winners last season, knowledge of a higher level of football. A towering header from Julia Stepford and a close-range nod from Pittuck did the damage just before half-time.

Much of the good progress can be pointed to the summer programme. Marshall said: "After a great end to last season which highlighted we have the ability to push for promotion we decided that we would commence pre-season early on 17 June. This was a week of testing and planning for the senior squad as last season we highlighted a couple of weaknesses in our fitness levels and also squad size.

"We have brought in the expertise of an outside fitness trainer Roy Nixon who has been focusing on core strength, stamina and speed and the girls have been working very hard. We have also utilised the services of Craig Smith who works at the WHU academy as a conditioning coach helping the girls on their diet and stretching and recovery techniques." Praise has also been given to Academy coach Paul Heffer for his support.