Ladies up for London derby

While Sam Allardyce and his team will be preparing for an exciting London derby at Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, West Ham United Ladies will also be playing out their own rivalry against Spurs.

The Hammers Ladies kick-off their own London derby with Tottenham Ladies at 2pm on Sunday afternoon at Thurrock FC's Ship Lane stadium and captain Becky Merritt is looking forward to the FA Women's Premier League Southern Division clash.

"Tottenham are a decent team and have strengthened this year," said Merritt. "Some Ex-West Ham players could be lining up in their starting eleven so we know of the quality they have available.

"They have a strong core with some added pace on the flanks. I do however think that they will underestimate us.

"For me, the midfield battle will be vitally important and will determine who will end victorious."

In the past two weeks, the Ladies have been on the wrong end of the score-line, losing 3-2 at home against Keynsham Town in the FA Women's Premier League Cup and last weekend's 1-0 league defeat at Brighton. Despite the results, Merritt is adamant that the squad's confidence hasn't been affected by these results and that they have learnt from their mistakes.

"We have had disruptions to our back four regularly since the start of the season so we anticipated some mistakes as we are all still learning about individual strengths.

"As a team we are defensively stronger this year and have learned to soak up the pressure far better than in previous seasons.

"It has not affected team confidence, but has simply made us more determined to ensure we learn from our mistakes and work harder as a collective unit."

West Ham Ladies are now six weeks into their first season under new manager Mark Saunderson and Merritt, who was appointed captain by Saunderson, believes that the squad have benefited from the former Manager of the Year's tactical mind-set.

"The gaffer is quite the tactician! He is very keen to introduce this to the girls and I really do believe that we have learnt a lot and are much better for it.

"In attack, we have how learnt about many dimensions which we can introduce to make it harder for our opposition to predict what we are going to do, which makes us much more dangerous going forward.

"We are definitely more of a team this year too. We are all fighting for each other rather than against one another and shows in our performances on the pitch."

Despite recent results, the Ladies have gained some impressive results so far this season. Merritt understands where the Hammers have slipped up this season, but knows that at times, they have shown an approach that is almost 'unplayable'.

"As I said before, we have been faced with injuries and other disruptions early on in the season which has meant we have not had a consistent starting eleven. The girls who have been brought in have done a really good job and will make it hard for the returning players when they get back.

"I feel that we have managed to grind out results and at times have looked unplayable. It is up to us as a team to ensure that this standard becomes consistent so we can really begin to push on and reach our true potential.

"On occasions we have been guilty of taking our foot of the gas or squandering chances but I know every single player is itching to get back on the pitch to correct this."

With Spurs coming to Ship Lane on Sunday afternoon, the Hammers have stepped up the tactical side to training in the hope of gaining all three points.

"Training has been stepped up this week in terms of the tactical information given to the squad. Other small changes in personnel and tweaks have also been implemented just to make sure we are 100 per cent ready.

"During the week, we also had a few strong words from the gaffer about last weekend's game in the hope that we react in a positive manner on Sunday and secure a good result."

Sunday's derby kicks-off at 2pm at Thurrock FC's Ship Lane stadium and supporters are welcome. Parking at Ship Lane is free and admission is just £3 for Adults and £1 for Under-16s.