Another game, another ground another lanyard to break my mother’s heart. West Ham take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Just google Tevez and Sheffield United why there is so much rivalry amongst these seemingly unconnected teams.
But break my mother’s heart I must. Although whether I will be allowed back home for Christmas remains to be seen.
These two sides have not met before so it was a brand new challenge for both. The Hammers assistant coach taking the reigns due to Olli Harder having tested positive earlier in the week.
A note on the stadium itself. It was nice for the game to be moved to Bramall lane rather than Chesterfield. However, there was no score board, big screen. They cut off Annie’s song/Greasy Chip Butty song at the first two lines.
Plus the announcer couldn’t even name their goal scorer, so it was just silence when they scored. C- minus for effort there.
The first half started a little janky with both teams trying to settle into a groove. It was a Sheffield mistake that gifted West Ham their first goal. Svitkova playing a long ball on the left hand flank which missed Walker and deflected to Kitching. A palmed ball fell to Fillis’s feet and the striker tapped the ball in the bottom right corner. With that, the visitors lead for all of two minutes.
From the restart of play Sheffield’s came forward with a great run. West Ham seemed to be waiting for an offside call that never came.
A looping ball left Leat off balance and landed square back of the net. Nice footwork from Bex Rayner and the score was level. 1-1.
This seemed to wake both sides up and the game really began. Each side seemed to dominate in different ways. West Ham controlled the wings with both Svitkova and Joel pinging cross after cross for the two forwards. However, any attack from midfield was quickly snuffed out by Sheffield’s Sweetman-Kirk and captain Bradley-Auckland who managed to keep both Stringer and Houssein at bay.
It wasn’t until the 21st minute that another goal opportunity came. Again it came from the wing and Svitkova on the wing. A lovely cross/shot was saved. However in an almost identical set-up from the first goal the palmed ball fell to the feet of a West Ham player. This time Walker was able to toe poke it in the same bottom right hand corner.
The lead restored to the away side 2-1.
It was however the home side who should have taken the lead before half time. A miss pass by Stringer led Rayner to have a straight run at goal. Her shot however over hit and skimmed the top side of the bar.
Five minutes later another powerful shot forced a save over the bar. This time from Sweetman-Kirk from outside the box. Both skimming the bar, huge sigh of relief from the West Ham dugout.
That’s how the first half ended. A match stick between the two teams.
Second half started as the first one ended with Sheffield on top. They had found their stride against the West Ham midfield. Pushing West Ham to play wide rather than contract in the middle. Unfortunately for Sheffield this season that’s where West Ham have started to thrive.
For the third goal it came from another cross on the wing. This time Lois Joel firing into the box. Once again the final touch came from a deflection from the keeper. Once again Walker was in the right place at the right time. Smashing home the rebound. A two-goal cushion and it looked like the WSL had secured their place in the next round.
You couldn’t count Sheffield out as they seemed to have cracked West Ham’s lost. As all goals had come from close range they worked hard defensively to keep West Ham out. End to end football from sides abs again some crossbar rattling shots from the home side. Still very much to play for.
On the 60th minute the Hammers made two key substitutes. Parker and Houssein made way for the Longhurst and Brynjarsdottir respectively. Instantly they became the definition of impact subs. With one of her first touches and reverse of the Tottenham goal. Longhurst looped the ball over where it found Brynjarsdottir’s head. Raising up, the pinpoint header went over the keepers head.
4-1 and the game was signed sealed delivered for the Hammers. That’s how it ended with West Ham progressing to the 5th round.
Both sides have a very physical presence which lead to a lot of players on the floor, a lot of protestations and I am sure of a lot of eye-rolling from the referee. Many referees do get a lot of sticks from fans but credit to Abby Dearden who let play continue and ignored the player’s arguments. This led to a far better game in terms of fluidity and atmosphere.
The scoreline does not reflect the graft Sheffield put In. This was no walk in the park for the WSL side and they had to fight for every pass, shot and of course goal.
Assistant coach Paul Konchesky said that despite the equaliser coming so quickly the team bounced back quickly and ‘showed their true worth second half’. There was high praise for the youth players coming through the ranks. ‘It’s what West Ham are about producing young talent. Having four involved today can only be good for the club.
He went on to reassure fans that Hawa Cissoko who did not feature today. She had a knock in training but should be back for the league game against Aston Villa.
Player of the match Svitkova.