Olli Harder: I’m delighted for the girls to get the win
West Ham United Women’s manager Olli Harder was delighted for his side after they smashed five past Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
A hat-trick from Martha Thomas and goals from Kenza Dali and Katerina Svitkova in the first half gave the Hammers a commanding lead at the break, and they saw it out in the second half with minimal fuss to claim their first Barclays FA Women’s Super League win of 2021.
“I’m delighted for the girls to get the win, to have scored the goals and played the way we did,” he began. “The girls played without fear today, which is what we had hoped for. It’s difficult to play that way, with that nothing-to-lose attitude, because every game between now and the end of the season is crucial.
“We have a talented squad here and they were able to show that today and I’m delighted for them.
“This is a group that has belief, and this result will inspire confidence. We’ve been on the wrong end of a few results in recent weeks, but I thought the performances have been relatively good in terms of what we’re trying to build. I thought this type of performance and result was coming and I’m delighted that it’s arrived today.”
The away side flew out of the traps in Berkshire, finding themselves 3-0 up inside eleven minutes, and looked a threat all afternoon. However, picking up a clean sheet was an added bonus, the Hammers’ first in the league this calendar year.
“The clean sheet is massive for us. It’s a huge confidence boost to go out and get a clean sheet against a good Reading side who have a lot of attacking weapons.
"I thought we defended the box extremely well today, which is something we’ve focused a lot on, getting the first contact on the ball and heading it away from danger.
“Reading are a dangerous team on set pieces, and we managed to negate that. To have a clean sheet is almost sweeter than scoring five goals - it’s difficult to say that, but the clean sheet is just fantastic,” he said.
Martha Thomas has been out of the goals of late, with her last coming in the 4-0 win over Bristol City back in December, but the forward was clinical at the Madejski, expertly taking all three of her goals, which Harder believes will be a major confidence boost for the forward.
“Martha took all of her goals really well with some great finishing to complement a really good all-round team performance. I’m delighted for Martha and I hope that she can continue with the scoring touch she showed today.
“As a striker, it’s been difficult for her in the last couple of matches because she really wants to get on the scoresheet, so I’m really pleased she was able to put the ones that came her way into the back of the net for her hat-trick.”
The New Zealander also praised 17-year-old Anouk Denton, who came on during the closing stages of the game for her West Ham United debut and didn’t look out of place amongst her more experienced team-mates.
“I thought Anouk was brilliant and handled herself really well. She had a couple of moments where someone of her age might have panicked with the ball, but she was calm and looked good.
“Part of our ethos at West Ham is to look after these players that are coming into us. Anouk is a young player that joined us a month ago and I think it’s important to give young players a chance to get on the pitch and feel what it’s like to be involved in a professional football match.
“It’s important for us to encourage those young players and Anouk stood out in those five or so minutes and didn’t look out of place. If she continues to work hard then hopefully those first minutes will turn into more as she progresses,” he said.
Finally, Harder reflected on what is his first league win as West Ham United boss - one that he has had to wait for, but is delighted that has finally arrived.
“It’s a great feeling to win a football match. It’s probably the longest drought I’ve had in my professional career, so it’s been a challenging few months to try and navigate the situations that we’ve had at hand.