Spurs burst Hammers’ bubble in pre-season friendly curtain-raiser before the big FA WSL kick-off!
With just a week to go until the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League kicks off for a new season, the final pre-season friendly game for both clubs took place as both managers looked to get an idea of where their players are at in terms of fitness and to tweak final preparations before the first competitive ball is kicked. Not least, playing for pride in a London Derby! In the off-season, newly-promoted Spurs have recruited cleverly; adding experience with the likes of former Chelsea winger, Gemma Davison and former Chelsea and West Ham goalkeeper, Becky Spencer along with talented younger players Kit Graham and Rosella Ayane. West Ham had somewhat of an exodus of players from last season’s roster and added in players that, whilst un-tested in English football, come with a promising and talented reputation. French international, Kenza Dali was a particular transfer coup that West Ham manager, Matt Beard pulled off.
West Ham’s starting eleven included 5 of their new summer signings and an academy prospect, Wiktoria Kiszkis. West Ham fans would get the chance to see midfielder, Tessel Middag who was signed last summer from Manchester City but had her season halted early before a competitive ball had been kicked due to a knee injury. A familiar scenario from last season, however, was a substitute bench that was barely full with only Anna Moorhouse and Alisha Lehmann the only recognisable senior players with Janaye Beaufort and Wiktoria Fronc getting the nod from the Academy. There were several noticeable absentees through injury and international duty in the match-day squad.
An impressive crowd of 695 were present at Rush Green to welcome the 2018/19 FA Cup finalists back.
The Hammers started the game brightly winning the key battles in midfield. Brooke Hendrix started in an unfamiliar role at right back but showed good attacking intent throughout as she broke down the right flank at will. Academy player, Kiszkis almost had the debut of dreams inside 5 minutes as she unleashed an effort that was blocked on the goal line. The midfield pair of Middag and Cho were providing the engine in the middle and Middag showed exactly why West Ham signed her last summer as she looked for the attacking release ball to set the forwards on their way.
Cho had more attacking licence to get forward with the defensive cover that Middag was able to provide and she had a shot that was well saved by the Spurs ‘keeper after the West Ham front line hassled the Spurs defence when they tried to play the ball out from the back.
Spurs had a half chance when former Hammer, Ria Percival skipped free down the right flank and her cross found Lucy Quinn unmarked in the box but her shot flashed wide.
West Ham began to turn the screw and were unlucky not to score after 15 minutes when a well-struck free-kick from Katharina Baunach was deflected into the path of Middag who struck the post.
It was surely only a matter of time before the Hammers would score the goal. Indeed, it came on the 23rd minute courtesy of well struck finish from new number 9, Martha Thomas. Middag strode forward with the ball inside her own half and clipped a delightful raking pass over the top of the Spurs defence that Thomas latched on to. Thomas steadied herself and let fly on the half-volley to find the bottom corner of the net. A dream start for the new striker who demonstrated her killer instincts in-front of goal.
The goal sparked Spurs into life and they went close through a header that clipped the top of the bar from Lucy Quinn. The first half petered out as West Ham went into the break leading 1-0. West Ham will be pleased with how the new players that were selected had bedded in during the first 45 with Jacynta linking up well with Adriana Leon and academy player Kiszkis who impressed on her outting with the senior side and did not look out of place at all.
A half-time sub saw the Hammers change their goalkeeper, with Anna Moorhouse replacing Courtney Brosnan. The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, with West Ham dominating possession and chances. Canadian forward, Leon had a free-kick effort that went over the bar without troubling Morgan in the Tottenham goal.
It was a welcome return from injury for Alisha Lehmann as she was introduced on 70 minutes to get her first minutes of pre-season.
Martha Thomas showed her strength as well as her goal-scoring prowess by putting herself about and getting stuck in. Coral-Jade Haines got caught in possession by Thomas who strode clear and clipped a delightful ball out to Leon on the right wing, however, she shot straight at the ‘keeper from the angle when a cut-back might have been the better option with Jacynta and Lehmann free in the box. Thomas continued to show her strength as she tracked back on numerous occasions to win the ball and set the wide players on the counter attack.
The game should have been wrapped up for West Ham when a hooked shot came in from the right from Leon, which found Jacynta unmarked in the middle of the box but she could only fire straight at the ‘keeper who somehow managed to parry the ball away. This wastefulness would be West Ham’s un-doing when with less than 10 minutes to go, Spurs midfielder Sarah McClean launched a superb ball out to the left. The Tottenham winger, Angela Addison latched on to the ball and flicked it goal wards as Anna Moorhouse was caught in no-man’s land, in scenes reminiscent of the FA Cup final, when she unnecessarily decided to rush out off her line to take the ball, leaving Quinn with the easy task of toe-poking the ball into the back of net.
It got worse for West Ham when 7 minutes later they conceded to a goal scored by Lucia Leon. Ashley Neville evaded a sliding tackling by Baunach down the right wing and she drove into the box, squaring the ball back to Leon who was unmarked on the penalty spot and she tucked the ball away to cue celebrations from the Spurs players.
There was little time for West Ham to respond and the full time whilst blew with the game ending 1-2 to the visitors.