Olli Harder: I thought we were excellent
West Ham United Women's manager Olli Harder was pleased with his side's professional victory over Chichester & Selsey Ladies in the Vitality Women's FA Cup fourth round.
The Hammers were too strong for the third-tier FA National League side, winning 11-0. Emily van Egmond scored four in the rout, along with goals from Kateřina Svitková, Kenza Dali, Gilly Flaherty, Nor Mustafa, Cecilie Redisch, Kate Longhurst and Anouk Denton.
The match also saw three members of the West Ham United Academy play on the pitch at the same time, as Maisy Barker and Denton were joined by 17-year-old midfielder Janaye Beaufort at the break.
The head coach hopes his squad will take the confidence gained from scoring 16 goals without reply in their last two matches, having previously won 5-0 at Reading in the FA Women's Super League, into Tuesday evening's WSL match at home to Aston Villa.
Harder said: "I thought we were excellent. I’m really pleased with the performance. We made a lot of changes for this afternoon with the game on Tuesday in mind, but it was really nice to see a lot of our young players coming out and performing well, which is fantastic for us.
"The big point for me was the professionalism of my team, from that standpoint we were brilliant. We made sure that we approached the game in a professional manner and worked for the full 90 minutes. At the same time, we tried to save some legs for Tuesday because of how important that game is, which also gave the young ones that opportunity to get some minutes and impress.
"We wanted to keep the confidence high from our win against Reading last time out and I think we’ve done that. That we’ve scored 16 goals in our last two games with two clean sheets is positive, so we’re hoping to move forward and carry some of that form on into Tuesday. It’s a really positive way to start what is a big week for us."
This was Denton's first start for West Ham since joining from Arsenal last month, as the 17-year-old played in two different positions throughout the 90 minutes and grabbed the final goal of the game.
"I thought that Anouk was terrific," Harder observed. "She started out playing as a number six and then moved her out wide into her more natural position. She had a lot of composure on the ball and it was really nice for her to grab a goal and contribute to the scoreline.
"I believe that was her first full game in over a year, so that shows how much COVID-19 has affected things, especially for the young players in the professional setup. It was great for her to put in that good of a performance considering it was her first 90 minutes for over a year."
Another 17-year-old, Beaufort came off the bench for her West Ham debut, and the midfielder didn't look out of place, with Harder complimentary of her performance at Victoria Road.
"Janaye was terrific as well when she came off the bench at half-time," he said. "I had a little chat with her on the way off and I think her nerves were settled, she found some space and had some nice little touches; she showed some great confidence for a young player.
"For us to be able to promote her from the academy for a game like this is really important for our ethos as a football club, and I thought the older girls really made her feel welcome and it was important to me that she got that opportunity," he said.
Another player who came off the bench was Mackenze Arnold, as the goalkeeper came on outfield to replace Laura Vetterlein, with Harder explaining the decision was down to rotation and keeping players fresh for Tuesday's must win WSL tie against Aston Villa.
"It was more needs must to be honest, we have five subs and I thought that we needed to use those to keep as many people fresh as possible," he explained. "Macca was fit enough to go out there and do a job and the scoreline allowed us to do that. In saying that I thought she did quite well in the middle of the park."
Despite what the scoreline may suggest, Chichester can hold their heads high after a fantastic FA Cup run this season. Harder gave his thoughts on their performance on Sunday afternoon.
He said: "It was a long trip for Chichester up to London today and we’ve all been on the end of scorelines we don’t like. I appreciated the way they went about their business and they were very courteous and professional, as well as working hard out on the pitch. Full credit to them and I wish them well."
Finally, Harder spoke about the prospect of facing Aston Villa in two days' time: "Villa is a big game; we know the importance of picking up points against them to secure our position in the league. As we’ve talked about, things are moving in the right direction for us and it’s about carrying this performance over on Tuesday."
That crucial clash against Aston Villa will be played at Victoria Road on Tuesday 20 April, 6pm kick-off. You can watch the match live on BT Sport.
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