Ladies make winning start

Queens Park Rangers 1-2 West Ham United Ladies
FA Women's Premier League Southern Division

Julian Dicks' West Ham United Ladies got their season off to the perfect start by defeating Queens Park Rangers Ladies 2-1 at Uxbridge FC on Sunday afternoon.

West Ham dominated the opening 20 minutes, only for QPR to take the lead through Kasha Petit before midfielder Lindsey Morgan's second-half header drew the Hammers level. With just seconds remaining, winger Kelley Blanchflower popped up at the far post to give West Ham all three points.

New manager Dicks prepared for his first competitive league match by making two changes to the team that was defeated 2-1 by Coventry Ladies in their final pre-season fixture.

Jess Barling returned to the club last week to start at left-back in place of the unavailable Katie Bottom, whilst Danica Revell shook off a niggling injury to partner new signing Ruby Baxter in the heart of defence. There were also competitive debuts for attacking pair Vicky Kinsman and Emma Sherwood, along with former Millwall Lionesses goalkeeper Nikita Runnacles.

The Hammers started on a positive note, getting the ball down and creating some nice attacking moves, although some hard work in defence from the home side restricted the visitors to long-range strikes that did not trouble Rangers goalkeeper Joanna Ayre.

Against the run of play, QPR led after 24 minutes when Petit retrieved the ball on the edge of the box before beating Runnacles at her near post. The goal galvanised the Hammers and they immediately pushed back for an equaliser, with Sarah McCrea, Kinsman and Blanchflower all having shots on goal.

After the break, the visitors came out with a similar determination to grab the equaliser. On two occasions, Kinsman found herself through on goal, seeing her first effort saved well by Ayre, before squaring to Sherwood who also saw her effort saved by the home goalkeeper.

Just over an hour played and the Hammers were level. After the ball was worked out well to the experienced Vicky King on the right, her cross was met by a beautifully timed looping header from Morgan, which caught Ayre out and ended up in the back of the net.

This gave the Hammers even more inspiration to push forward as they searched for a winning goal. From a Blanchflower corner, captain Stacey Little rose highest to head narrowly wide. Minutes later, another Blanchflower corner caused the Rangers defence all sorts of problems as it appeared there was a handball on the line to stop the ball heading straight in, although the official denied any penalty claims.

In the closing minutes, it seemed like West Ham were going to be denied all three points as Ayre was beaten by Blanchflower's lobbed effort, but after it rebounded off the crossbar, before the busy home goalkeeper composed herself to stop further shots from both McCrea and Kinsman.

The Hammers were not to be denied, however, as they continued to push for the winner. With the final touch of the game, Blanchflower ran unmarked to get onto the end of Kinsman's sliced shot inside the penalty area to stab the ball into the waiting net. West Ham's opening day victory gives Dicks three points from his first competitive fixture as Ladies manager.

The Ladies travel away to Keynsham Town Ladies on Sunday 31 August 2014 for a League Cup clash before their home opener against Tottenham Hotspur Ladies at Aveley FC on Thursday 4 September 2014. Kick-off against Spurs is at 7.45pm with admission only £4 for Adults and £2 for Under-16s.

Ladies: Runnacles, King, Baxter, Revell, Barling, Morgan, Little (c), McCrea, Blanchflower, Kinsman, Sherwood (Mellors)
Subs not used:
Lipley-Hinton, Donohoe, Powles, Bowers