Two goals to the good with one more player than the opposition, West Ham were cruising with 20 or so minutes to play against Reading but three quick-fire goals left the Irons empty-handed at the whistle. Following the match, we spoke to Hammers boss Matt Beard about the match and his mounting injury list.
Coming into the match, Reading had the best set piece conversion rate in the Women’s Super League, the danger they pose at set plays something Beard was well aware of and only served to leave even more of a bitter taste in his mouth after the surprising loss.
“It was a funny game… I thought we were excellent first half but as I said to the girls after the game, we shouldn’t be two-nil up and then lose the game in the way we did. Reading are dangerous on set plays and it’s frustrating to concede two goals from them.”
Having not looked at their best all game, the Royals sparked into life after Leanne Kiernan’s second goal of the week. For Beard there was frustration at the officiating but more broadly, he knows his side shouldn’t have let the game get away from them, marking yet another home loss for the Irons.
“We shouldn’t be losing the game, once we got two-nil in front, we just dropped off. With Reading, they can be direct; put you under pressure and get on second balls which we stopped in the first half. The sending off for them, got their tails up a little bit, I thought the ref’s performance in the second half… they were getting everything, any little fouls and a lot of them seemed harsh. It is what it is, we have to sort our home form out, we keep losing here and it’s not good enough and it’s frustrating when we’re in a great position with 25 minutes to go, they deserve credit for winning the game but it’s preventable.”
With all teams in midweek action in the league cup, injuries have become a decisive factor with the manager unable to rotate his squad and give much needed rest to a team that is getting increasingly more threadbare.
“Fatigue probably yes, I’ve got 12 fit senior players, my squad’s not big enough, we’ve played three games in seven days with the same 12 players. Unfortunately, it’s an issue, but we’re only a year and a half into being a professional team… I’ve got Julia Simic, Martha Thomas, Esmee de Graaf, Erin Simon and Cho [So-hyun] – who’s one of the first names on the team sheet – all siting on the sidelines, and from that perspective, it has hurt us over the last few weeks.”
He continued, “When you’re playing against the top sides, you don’t have your full quota available, it does have an impact. As I said to the girls this week, if you look at the Arsenal and Chelsea games, we were right in those games: they’re top, top teams and we pushed them all the way but where we’ve lost players, it’s having an impact.”
There will be a degree of respite with the WSL winter break on the horizon but Beard is weary of trying to rush any player back before they’re ready, each with a different prognosis.
“Some of them are just week by week, Martha has a bone edema which could lead to a stress fracture, so we have to adapt her loading for that. Cho sprained her ankle in training and hasn’t recovered from that; that was just a couple of day before the Man City game… Esmee is two to three weeks, Julia… I just don’t know right now, and Erin is going to be February-March so there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully we can get Cho and Martha available for next week but at the same time, I don’t want players to keep breaking down, so we’ve obviously got to do best by the player.”
As well as the break over the festive period, all clubs will be able to bring players in in the winter window, obviously, budget constraints play their part but would Beard be able to add any more depth?
“You’ve just answered your own question.”
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