West Ham Ladies started life at their new AFC Hornchurch home by scoring a 3-0 FA Women’s Premier League Cup Determining Round victory over Crystal Palace Ladies.
The Hammers set themselves firmly on their way to victory after just 15 minutes when Shirvae Edwards’ powerful drive from 20 yards found the top corner of the net, before captain Stacey Little rattled in an unbelievable shot from over 30 yards.
Palace tried to find a way back into the game, but centre-half Danica Revell diverted Emma Sherwood’s late corner into the top corner to guide the Hammers into the next round.
Ladies boss Marc Nurse made five changes to the team that suffered a 5-0 league defeat at Coventry United a fortnight previously. April Bowers, Aleah Headley, Georgia Miller, Latoya Bailey and Kayleigh Xidhas were replaced by Sherwood, Edwards, Danni Ritson, Lily Mellors and Hannah Wheeler.
After the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada during the summer, the Hammers were hoping to break their attendance record by introducing some pre-match entertainment.
Local all-girl marching band The Haverettes learnt and performed ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ as the players made their way onto the pitch, while mascot Bubbles The Bear took pictures with the fans.
A club record of 248 spectators also enjoyed watching the Hammers open the game brightly, dominating possession and looking extremely dangerous in attack.
After just 15 minutes, the Hammers smashed themselves into an early lead when Sherwood laid the ball perfectly into the path of Edwards, who casually fired the ball firmly into the top left corner of the net.
Down the other end of the pitch, former Hammer Alma Donohoe and speedy striker Nicha Dyett looked the biggest threat for the Eagles, although India international goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan marshalled her defence extremely well and was quick off her line to sweep up and clear when necessary.
As the ticked over the half-hour mark, Little doubled the hosts’ lead with one of the finest goals of her career. It was Edwards that squared the ball to her captain 30 yards out and Little decided to rocket her shot into the top corner of the net, giving the Palace ‘keeper no chance of saving.
If a two-goal lead was not good enough for the break, the Hammers almost extended their lead to three when Edwards was again involved, firing a shot at goal that was spilled to Sherwood to finish. Unfortunately for the former Millwall striker, her goal was disallowed for offside.
Palace again tried to fight back and get themselves back into the game, but winger Jade Davenport failed to keep her shot down from 18 yards as she blazed the ball high and wide of the target.
Into the second half and West Ham gradually took control again. With 78 minutes of the clock and after having to defend a number of Palace attacks, the Hammers sealed their path into the next round when Revell inadvertently looped Sherwood’s corner over the Palace goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The result gave manager Nurse his first competitive victory as West Ham Ladies manager, and he will hope to follow that with a first FA Women’s Premier League South victory when the squad travel to Slimbridge AFC to take on Forest Green Rovers on Sunday 6 September, kick-off 2pm.
Ladies: Chauhan, Stimson, Wheeler, Revell, Bottom, Edwards (Anderson-James), Little (c), Blanchflower, Ritson (Miller), Mellors, Sherwood (Locke)
Subs not used: Xidhas, Sammons.