Billy Stewart was pleased with the performance and attitude shown by West Ham United in defeat at Chelsea, with the Irons in the contest until the final whistle.
A positive showing from the Irons away to the reigning Barclays FA Women’s Super League champions did not get the deserved rewards, as a Sam Kerr hat-trick inflicted a 3-2 defeat on the Hammers.
Despite being on the losing end, the away side were more than game for the entertaining contest, with Rachel Daly levelling at 1-1 early in the second half and Emily van Egmond forcing a second for West Ham in the 88th minute.
And interim manager Stewart could take the positives from a hard-fought effort from the Hammers.
At half-time, we just told the players to keep believing in themselves and what they were doing on the pitch. We had a game plan and we stuck to that.
“I thought we were in the game right until the last seconds,” he said. “To still be in with a chance of getting a point, or a result, against Chelsea with the last kick of the game, that shows a massive plus to this football club, to every player and to every member of staff who works hard here.
“At half-time, we just told the players to keep believing in themselves and what they were doing on the pitch. We had a game plan and we stuck to that. We were unfortunate with a couple of the goals we gave away, just in terms of holding onto the ball for too long against Chelsea’s attack, because they’re really quick and close you down.”
Stewart pinned the positive performance on a strong period of training for the Irons, during which he says the side’s self-confidence has grown.
The interim manager’s hopes are that this time will be of benefit to the squad in the long run.
He continued: “I think the girls have trained really well, and the confidence has grown and grown as a squad of players. They are together.
“Even at the end of the game, the players have all gone out. The non-starting players have supported the starting XI at half-time and so, as a matter of respect, the players who started have gone out to support the non-starting players. We’re building foundations to get everything as strong as we can.”
Stewart also noted praise for goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, who made a string of impressive stops to deny the Blues in Sunday’s fixture, and goalscorer Daly, who netted on her 29th birthday.
With a lot to be proud of from the performance, and adjustments to make ahead of next weekend’s league contest away to Bristol City, Stewart is confident in the team’s ability.
“Mackenzie had a great game. She’s very critical of herself. We’ll look at all the goals and we’ll analyse it as a team, but Mackenzie is very critical of her own performance. I thought she had a fantastic game today.
“It was good for Rach to get a goal today too. It was a shame we didn’t have eleven birthdays today because we’d have won 11-3!”