Gilly Flaherty has had to wait a long time for her first West Ham United goal, but it was written in the stars that the women’s captain would score on Sunday.
Honoured by Chelsea fans prior to kick-off for her four years with the Blues, Flaherty was on hand to head home her first finish for the Irons to level the tie on her first return to her old side.
The finish ensured West Ham left with a 1-1 draw, and the captain admitted that her teammates have been telling her for a while that her first goal would come against Chelsea.
“All the girls have been saying for the last week that I was going to get my first goal against Chelsea,” the 27-year-old told West Ham TV. “I spent many years with Chelsea and I had some good times, but I’m a West Ham player and I was so relieved to see the ball hit the back of the net.
“You put pressure on yourself to get that first goal and you want to be a threat from set-pieces. Luckily, I stayed up and put the ball in the back of the net.”
All the girls have been saying for the last week that I was going to get my first goal against Chelsea.
Flaherty’s goal capped a fine second half that may have seen West Ham leave Kingsmeadow with even more than one point. Jane Ross saw a fine effort saved, although a point was a fair prize for the Irons.
The defender confessed that West Ham struggled a bit in the first period but feels Matt Beard’s decision to bring on experienced duo Kate Longhurst and Claire Rafferty for the second 45 minutes helped get the Hammers back in the game.
She continued: “Obviously the first half was hard, and they got through a couple of times and they had a couple of chances to score. We were disappointed that we conceded from a set-piece, but we went in at half-time and had a good chat.
“We remained positive and knew, if we stuck to our game plan, our chance would come. I think Kate and Claire managed to settle us down a bit when they came on.
“I personally love playing behind Kate when she’s in midfield, because you know exactly what you’re going to get from her; she’s organised and she’s a leader. She’s calm on the ball, she always wants the ball and she knows the right decisions to make.
“Both her and Raff, coming in, and credit to Lucienne [Reichardt] and Erin [Simon]. They battled hard in the first half. Beardy made some great changes and it paid off.”
Chelsea away was always going to be a tough test, with the Blues the reigning FA WSL Champions and also securing their place in the Champions League semi-finals earlier this week, but Flaherty says West Ham are thriving off their current standing.
She added: “I think no one expects us to be where we are, but to be honest we buzz off that. We thrive off it. No one expects us to do this well. We’ll keep fighting and I’m so proud to be here at West Ham.
“Today every single player stood up. They stood up for the team and put their bodies on the line. I’m proud of everyone.”