The Hammers travelled to Meadow Park, the home of National League side Boreham Wood FC and the youth and ladies teams of Arsenal, in their first Group 2 South match of the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup.
They had hoped to force a result against the defending champions and five-time winners of the competition but struggled against their now-fellow Women’s Super League 1 contenders.
Katie McCabe put the Gunners one-nil up in the early stages with Beth Mead extending that lead on the stroke of half-time, however, Matt Beard’s new-look Irons would mount an impressive fightback after the break.
Just three minutes into the second half, American Brianna Visalli, one of 15 summer arrivals to Rush Green, pulled one back, scoring the club’s first-ever competitive strike as professionals.
In spite of dictating the play in the second period, the side recently rebranded to West Ham United women’s team, couldn’t force an equaliser and eventually, succumbed to a late McCabe goal, which sealed the three points for the hosts.
After the match, Flaherty, the ex-Gunner who started and played the whole game at centre-back for her new team, spoke at length to the club’s official website WHUFC.com, having the following to say:
“We had a sloppy first 45 at Arsenal, but we went in and spoke about the things that were the issues and the problems and came out as a different team in the second half.
“We had a couple of chances which just fell short, or we didn’t put away, but we got a goal and came back into it.
“It was a great individual goal by the Arsenal girl for the third, but we can be impressed by the second half performance.
“We’ve got to remember that we have only been together for six weeks. It is hard and at times it might have looked like we haven’t played together for that long, we were up against an Arsenal side who have been consistently good for four, five years after the transition they had.
“It’s the same team that got to the FA Cup final last year. They know each other’s roles, they know how to play off each other. We will get there, it’s just a matter of time, but don’t judge us from the first game, let’s see how it goes this season and look at where we are come the end of it.
“We are getting more of a connection with every game. Any fans or family members who came to our first pre-season match against London Bees, would have seen a completely different team to the one which played against Arsenal.
“It’s how you learn the quickest – playing against the best teams in the league.”
The next step for the nine-cap England International and her squad, which contains an exciting balance of youth and experience, will be three further League Cup fixtures, after the opening loss saw them fall to fourth (second-bottom) in Group Two South.
Having jelled together as a team over an impressive unbeaten pre-season, the Irons will be hoping to record a first professional victory when Lewes, a team they clashed with last season, their final campaign in the WPL Southern Division, are the visitors to rush Green Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After that, Millwall Lionesses will travel to East London for a local derby, also a cup game, while they will have to wait until early-December for the final League Cup encounter, a trip to Oakwood to face Charlton Athletic.
By that stage, the club’s first-ever WSL season will be well and truly underway and it all begins on the evening of Wednesday 19 September with a home clash against Reading, after being the only team of the 11 to sit out the first weekend of action.