West Ham United manager Matt Beard believes his side’s performance in the 4-2 win over Liverpool on Sunday evening perfectly reflected their endeavour, energy and exploits on the training ground.
Going into the game seeking their first Barclays FA Women’s Super League win in three games, both sides initially struggled to impose themselves at a blustery Rush Green Stadium – but once the floodgates opened, Beard’s team were emphatic.
Adriana Leon’s low shot from range and Martha Thomas’ sweeping finish granted the Hammers some degree of comfort inside two minutes, and further chances followed in an action-packed end to the half.
Shortly into the second period, the duo’s roles were reversed, Thomas turning smartly outside the area before powering in a low shot, before Leon met her fellow attacker’s low ball in and guided it into the corner of the net.
I'm really pleased. We’ve focused on just being positive in our play this week, especially with our forward passes
Two late Liverpool set pieces reduced the margin of the victory, but West Ham played with guile, gusto and, much to Beard’s delight on his 50th game in charge of the Club, real positivity throughout.
“I’m really pleased,” the manager told West Ham TV. “We’ve focused on just being positive in our play this week, especially with our forward passes because we feel we’ve been getting into some good positions but we’ve gone back rather than go forward.
“We identified certain areas where we felt we could exploit Liverpool and two of the goals came from that today, so for us, that’s really pleasing. As I said, for 70, 75 minutes of football, I thought we were excellent.
“I’m frustrated to concede from two set plays but I’m not going to focus on that, I’m going to focus on the 75 minutes before that, because I felt we were excellent. We could’ve had maybe five or six as well with some of the chances we were creating.”
At the forefront of the performance was the Irons’ clinical attacking outlet, led by Thomas in the No9 role and ably supported by the pace and piercing runs of Alisha Lehmann and Leon out wide.
Reflecting afterwards, Beard was uplifted by the trio’s performances, but even more so by his entire team’s determination in difficult conditions.
“The front three were unplayable today I felt. Alisha, Dri and Martha were all excellent,” Beard reflected.
“Like I said, we just want to be more positive. Obviously we’ve been on a tough run and you could see that we were low on confidence, you could see that in the Reading game, and I felt the first five minutes we looked nervous, we turned the ball over a little too much, but the conditions were really tough today.
“The wind was tough for both sides but I felt we dealt with that excellent after the first five, ten minutes. The one thing we’ve just said all along is focus on ourselves, focus on our game. That’s what we’ve done this week and I felt we’ve done it today and got the rewards for that.”
Beard also reserved special words of praise for Thomas, whose campaign has been disrupted by injuries, but whose brace on Sunday proved both her current goalscoring ability and exciting potential.
“Her season’s been a bit up and down due to the injuries that she’s had, but we know what a good player Martha is,” he noted. “We see it day in, day out.
“That’s probably a 75 per cent Martha Thomas today, by the way. Once she’s 100 per cent and fully fit she’s going to cause a lot of teams problems, because she’s so good with her back to play.
“She’s going to be a great player for this football club and she’s going to have a great future in the game.”
After the forthcoming international break, West Ham United’s next fixture will be away to Manchester United on Sunday 22 March at Leigh Sports Village, kick-off 12pm.