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Hammers keep Lewes at bay and hopes alive

Stalemate in Thurrock as both teams look to bigger days ahead

West Ham United fought hard to deny goal-hungry Lewes and claim a much-needed point in their struggle to remain in the FA WPL South.

With both teams facing big matches this week, the Hammers visit Spurs at White Hart Lane whilst Lewes contest the FAWPL Plate Final v Huddersfield on Sunday, this was never likely to be Match of the Day. Yet the tenacity and aggression shown by the home side against a team on an excellent run made for an intriguing contest.

Lewes rested defensive helmswoman Tammy Waine, playing a back four of Hayley West, Bex Thompson, Rachel Palmer and Claire Capon. Leeta Rutherford and skipper for the day Katie McIntyre patrolled midfield, flanked by Sian Heather and Georgia Bridges, with Dani Lane playing in behind Chewy Carter up top.

In the first few minutes Hayley West received a bad, raking challenge down her calf that saw her in need of lengthy treatment before continuing on in some discomfort. Lewes forced a succession of corners but, unusually, were unable to capitalise. The hosts, led at the back by Hannah Wheeler and Jasmine Auguste, set up well and cleared their lines.

Shannon Albury caught the eye with some neat passing and sly flicks to help relieve pressure. Demi Brown put in a series of thunderous challenges, one that had Rutherford cart-wheeling away from the impact. When Lewes did penetrate, at first through an all-too-rare Lane drive, latterly through cute passing from McIntyre, clearly relishing her captain’s role, and Rutherford, they found Lottie Ivison calm and reactive in the Wes Ham goal.

West Ham were well-drilled. They spread their defenders wide when winning the ball, finding each other with crips passes that whilst failing to unlock the robust Lewes defence, kept possession and relieved pressure. In midfield, Locke and Chong competed well with the Lewes play-makers, using all manner of nudges and pushes to upset their opponents, if not the officials. They snapped into tackles and showed great desire to be first to the loose ball, something Lewes struggled to match in the early stages.

Molly Peters, lively and watchful, saw the hosts’ best chance denied by a harsh-looking linesman’s flag moments before the break. HT 0-0.

Lewes returned from the break with a flea in their ears and a good deal more spring in their step. Waine took over from West, moving into central defence alongside Thompson. Waine’s ability to read and anticipate pushed Lewes forward and created pressure on the home side.

Carter and Heather combined to send Lane in behind, Ivison out smartly to smother the chance before taking a McIntyre free kick, destined for the top corner, in two hands. Lewes ramped up the pressure. Thompson, Waine-like, stepped in to steal from Peters, her first-time pass perfectly weighted for Heather who fired a delicious cross low through the six yard area. Bridges, arriving at pace with Cooper for company, missed her connection by inches.

Rutherford and Thompson saw shots blocked as Lewes racked up the corner-count. West Ham , in a dog fight and playing like it, got bodies in the line of fire and scrambled the ball away.

A Rachel Palmer corner was slashed back, her curled follow-up screaming wide. West Ham broke, Whitney Locke seeing her deflected effort spin into the arms of Dolbear. Lewes’s best chance came a minute later. Palmer delivered a free kick from 35 yards, dropping the ball right on the spot as McIntyre stole in to glance her header agonisingly wide.

Heather, released by Carter, found space to run at Ivison, only for the excellent Auguste to make ground to challenge. Burr, in a rare home attack in the half, saw her excellent turn and shot blocked. West Ham swapped Bent and Melfald for Cooper and the tiring Peters, whilst Lewes introduced Larkin for Carter and later Hyland for Lane, all to no avail. FT: 0-0

West Ham got their reward for a hard-working, disciplined display. For them, a vital point in the battle to avoid the drop. For Lewes, a frustrating afternoon that, despite a clean sheet, left them feeling like they’d dropped points. In fact, Lewes have taken four points off the Hammers this season. Manager John Donoghue was, none-the-less, disappointed.

‘We had too many not quite on it today. Right from the start, we took too long to get going, they had time to set up and nullify our attacking threat. They looked like they wanted it more than us at times, and that’s disappointing.

Of course you hope this is the calm before the storm. You can ask players to focus on the game at hand, but no doubt one or two are looking ahead to (the cup final) next week. We’ll address that in training and make sure they’re all ready for a big challenge.’

MvP: Katie McIntyre. Led from the front, covered every blade and came closest to breaking the deadlock. Attendance: 55

West Ham:

Ivison, Mackie, Auguste, Cooper, Wheeler, Brown, Locke, Chong, Peters, Albery,
Burr. Subs: Bent, Melfald, Dhimis, Bailey

Lewes:
Dolbear, Capon, Palmer, McIntyre, Thompson, West, Heather, Rutherford, Carter, Lane, Bridges. Subs: Larkin, Waine, Hyland, Apps