Head coach Matt Beard believes Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Reading was the performance his side needed to kickstart their campaign.
Three goals netted by three different scorers, combined with a highly-deserved clean-sheet, secured all three points for West Ham United over the Royals in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup group stages, putting the Irons top of Group D.
Alisha Lehmann, Emily van Egmond and Rachel Daly all found the net while goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold also made a series of good saves, denying Reading from the penalty spot in the first half and doing enough to see them put another spot-kick wide in the second.
Beard believes such an impressing outing from his side has been coming for a number of weeks and was delighted with the hard work and belief his team showed at Dagenham & Redbridge Stadium.
We said before the game that if we work hard, we’ll get the rewards. It’s an important win that can kick-start our season.
“This performance has been coming,” Beard told West Ham TV. “We’ve been inconsistent in the other performances that we’ve had, but we could have quite easily won here when we played Reading before. The difference tonight is when we’ve had our chances, we’ve taken our chances.
“The clean-sheet was really important. I thought the back four were fantastic. I thought Mackenzie Arnold was fantastic tonight. Even with the second penalty, she’s saving that. She’s got down there, although Dan has pulled it wide.
“I thought we showed great resilience, great character, and everyone worked for each other. We said before the game that if we work hard, we’ll get the rewards. It’s an important win that can kick-start our season.”
The result saw the Irons claim their first clean-sheet of the season, with Beard picking out the defence and goalkeeping coach Billy Stewart for their work on denying Reading from set-pieces during the match.
He continued: “We’ve been working incredibly hard. It’s difficult when there’s injuries or inconsistencies with the team selection, but we’ve worked so hard.
“We had conceded too many goals from crosses and set plays in other games, but we were excellent in those two areas tonight. Reading are really dangerous from their set plays, but I think we dealt with everything they threw at us.
“Billy Stewart, our goalkeeping coach, has also done some really good work with the defending group and the goalkeepers on defending set-pieces, and we’re starting to see the rewards.”
Martha Thomas made a huge impact on the game on only her second start of the season, providing the assists for all three of West Ham’s goals, giving Lehmann, Van Egmond and Daly tap-ins past Grace Maloney.
Head coach Beard was full of praise for the Scotland international, as well as his attacking players who looked to break past Reading’s press and cause problems.
“Martha is still getting there after her injury,” Beard said. “She’s physical, she’s quick, she’s got great feet and she’s difficult for centre-backs to deal with, because she can be unpredictable.
“She got great support tonight too. Alisha hadn’t been due to start but she took her chance. When we’ve got people like Alisha and Emily van Egmond making those runs, and with Reading playing with quite a high line, we knew if we could break the press and get in behind then we could cause them problems. If you look at the first goal, that’s exactly what we did.”