Ladies lose home opener

West Ham United Ladies 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
FA Women's Premier League Southern Division

West Ham United Ladies suffered their first FA Women's Premier League Southern Division defeat of the season, losing 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur Ladies in Julian Dicks' maiden home game in charge.

The Hammers were looking to get back to winning ways after their FA Women's Premier League Cup first-round defeat at Keynsham Town, but found themselves 2-0 down at half-time through Jess Barling's own-goal and Wendy Martin's finish just before the break.

After some words of encouragement and a change of formation from manager Dicks during the break, Sarah McCrea popped up with a goal on the hour-mark, but the hosts could not fashion an equaliser.

"The second half was better than we played at Keynsham, but the first half wasn't," Dicks confirmed. "I gave them a bit of a talking to at half-time and they came out and gave me a reaction, but again it shouldn't be like that. They are good girls and we've got some good players, but they've got to believe in themselves. In the second half, Tottenham had two, three chances maximum, so that was a lot, lot better.

"I changed the formation and went with 4-4-2 but the problem was the same in that people panic on the ball. We're trying to get them to relax and play, but Tottenham were good in the first half. if we could have held it to 1-0 at half-time, it would have been a different game, but they scored in the last 25 seconds of the first half, which made things difficult at 2-0.

"I said to the girls to go out and give me a reaction in the second half and they did, which is all I can ask for."

Captain Stacey Little shared the manager's sentiments: "I'm really disappointed and gutted because had we have played the first half the way we played the second half, we would not be feeling so low. For me, the most frustrating thing is that they didn't even score their goals, but we gave them two stupid goals and we let ourselves down.

"We weren't quick enough all over the pitch in the first half. It wasn't any particular individual, but all over the pitch. The second half can be taken as a positive, but we can't think of ifs, buts and maybes because a football match is 90 minutes, not 45. We can't just have a 45-minute game, it needs to be from start to finish and it wasn't like that on Thursday."

Dicks again named an unchanged side as he looked for a response from the Keynsham defeat, with the only change coming on the substitutes' bench, where Sasha Kelly stepped in to replace the unavailable Ellen Powles.

The opening 15 minutes saw little action in front of goal as the majority of play being a battle for possession in the midfield.

West Ham launched an attack and forced a corner after Kelley Blanchflower's cross just evaded Emma Sherwood in the middle. From that corner, former Hammers goalkeeper Toni-Anne Wayne rose highest to punch clear.

Spurs had their fair share of attacking play too, mostly involving attacker Bianca Baptiste, who was causing the West Ham back line several problems down the right wing.

The opening goal came from a cross from the other side of the pitch, as Barling unfortunately sliced Wendy Martin's cross straight into the top corner of her own goal.

Shortly after, both goalkeepers were called into action to save acrobatically from long-range shots. Firstly, Sherwood forced Wayne into a one handed stop, before Nikita Runnacles got a hand to the ball from Baptiste's shot to tip the ball over the bar.

On the stroke of half-time, Spurs doubled their lead. After the Hammers failed to clear the danger from their penalty area, Martin's shot was already going in despite another sliced clearance from Barling on the line.

During the break, Dicks made a double substitution that saw Zoe Lipley-Hinton and Katie Bottom replace Barling and Blanchflower, whilst he also changed from a 4-2-2 formation to a more attacking 4-3-3 as he searched for a way back into the game.

The changes helped the Hammers become stronger in the middle, with Lipley-Hinton joining forces with Lindsey Morgan and captain Stacey Little.

Just past the hour-mark and the Hammers were rewarded when McCrea timed her run perfectly to get through on goal, before sliding the ball under the onrushing Wayne.

The Hammers stepped up and began working hard to search for the all-important equaliser, although neither shots from Little nor Morgan forced Wayne into a save.

In the 94th minute, the Hammers had their final chance to grab a point, but McCrea's shot ended up the wrong side of the post.

The result leaves the Hammers fifth in the table, with the Hammers' next league fixture away at Lewes Ladies on Sunday 7 September. Kick-off at the Dripping Pan is at 2pm.

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