Saunderson eyes Pompey victory

West Ham United Ladies manager Mark Saunderson is feeling confident that his side can bounce back from an opening day defeat when they face Portsmouth Ladies on Sunday.

The Hammers went ahead against Charlton Ladies at Sporting Club Thamesmead last weekend through a goal from new signing Cherrelle Albert, only for Charlton to turn the game on its head to take the spoils.

When reflecting on Sunday's 2-1 FA Women's Premier League Southern Division defeat, Saunderson believed that a share of the points would have been a fairer result.

"I believe that a draw would have been a fair result to both teams," said Saunderson. "Charlton had the greater possession in the first half but I was pleased that the defensive shape and movement that we have been working on in pre-season was evident.

"I thought the midfield three of Becky Merritt, Lindsey Morgan and Stacey Little worked well as a unit and protected the back line. The front three worked hard to close the ball down in the final third and the back line was solid. As a result, we really restricted Charlton to shooting from distance but I was also pleased that we still created chances.

"At half-time we asked to the team to open up the field with their movement and we looked the better team in the second half. I thought that the build-up play for our goal was excellent and I don't think Kelley Blanchflower has ever hit a sweeter shot that hit the post for Cherrelle to tuck away the rebound.

"To be fair to Charlton the free-kick strike from Kim Dixon for the equaliser was special and Emma Harrison took her goal well, but we kept going and had chances to get back into the game right until the final whistle."

One area that Saunderson has been working hard on throughout pre-season with his squad is improving the overall team spirit and bonding throughout the club. The former Fulham Ladies boss was impressed with the character his team showed.

"Most importantly, I was impressed with the team spirit that we showed and you can see that from the team celebration when we scored," he continued. "We showed real character and some of the individual performances, Danica Revell, Natalie Crinean and Hayley West to name but a few were really top draw.

"I was pleased to hand Sasha Kelly her debut at left-back and felt that she grew into the game as time went on. Overall, I was disappointed with the final result but not the performance or the character displayed."

West Ham Ladies' opening home fixture of the season takes place on Sunday, when they face another tough opponent in the shape of Portsmouth Ladies. However, Saunderson is adamant that his squad understand the need to prepare properly and that, should they perform to expectation, the right result will come.

"I think that whilst the team performance was good on Sunday it is still not at the level that the team can attain. I feel that the pre-season preparation has really indicated the quality that we have as a squad and the performances on the training ground and in matches are starting to highlight this to others. I genuinely feel that the game plan that we are working towards has been embraced by all of the players and management team and that we are on the right track.

"What is pleasing about this group of players is that they understand the importance of preparation and approach one game at a time. They understand the game plan and have the motivation to learn from games and apply that to training and the next match.

"Some people would suggest that we have a tough start because the opening schedule has thrown us against teams that were in the National Division last season but I genuinely sense that the squad see these games as an opportunity to test ourselves.

"It will be another tough test against Portsmouth but we are at home and we will prepare in the right way. Our focus is not on the result but on our performance because ultimately the right performance determines the right result."

Kick-off in Sunday's game at Thurrock FC in Ship Lane, Aveley is at 2pm.