Resolve, character and quality were the key ingredients in West Ham United’s 3-2 comeback win over Manchester United, according to manager Matt Beard.
A fast-paced game started in thrilling fashion as the two teams traded headed goals inside three minutes at Rush Green Stadium, Laura Vetterlein’s improvised effort cancelling out Kirsty Hanson’s opener inside a minute.
The visitors look to have snatched the points in a combative contest when Lauren James found space to fire home with ten minutes to go, but two sweetly-struck free-kicks from Katharina Baunach – the latter coming as the clock ticked over into injury time – granted West Ham three memorable points.
The jubilant scenes prompted by the final whistle in east London were just reward for the team’s collective display, with Beard unable to hide his delight.
“I’m proud of the performance,” he declared. “We’ve shown immense character tonight because we’ve gone behind twice and got back in it, then got back in front and saw the game out.
“The girls deserve a lot of credit for the character that they’ve shown, and I felt from start to finish we put in a good team performance.
“We were brave with and without the ball, and it was a really pleasing performance because Man United are a good side, but I felt we deserved the win today.”
The visitors had only conceded three goals in seven Barclays FA Women’s Super League games prior to their trip to face West Ham.
Nevertheless, Beard and his coaching staff identified a susceptibility to set-pieces which West Ham trained around during the week, and the manager was pleased to see Baunach and her teammates put this into practice when it mattered.
“We knew that Man United were weak on set pieces and we’ve scored from two direct free-kicks and a second-phase corner, so from that perspective it’s really pleasing,” Beard said. “It’s something that we’ve worked on during the week.
“From our perspective we had to win because we haven’t won too many games here, so it was important to win here as well and, most importantly, climb the table with Bristol City and Liverpool both getting beaten, so it’s a big three points.”
We knew that Man United were weak on set pieces and we’ve scored from two direct free-kicks and a second-phase corner, so from that perspective it’s really pleasing
The Hammers’ next test sees them travel to Prenton Park to take on Liverpool, the second of three league matches that Beard has identified in a crucial pre-Christmas period for pushing up the table.
After today’s impressive win, the manager expressed his confidence that his team can perform at the highest level.
“We’ve identified these three games as must-win,” he explained. “We’ve said to the girls at the start of the week that we need to get seven points out of the three games as an absolute minimum, so that means going on a run and being consistent with our performances.
“If you look tonight we had Martha [Thomas] back fit again, and I think she caused Man United’s centre-halves a lot of problems. Not having her in the last few weeks has been a big blow for us, so it’s good that we’ve got bodies back.
“We know that once we’ve got our strongest squad and team out, we know we can compete with anyone in this division, and we’ve proved it so far this season as it’s gone on.”