A ruthless West Ham United Ladies side under Karen Ray demolished Queens Park Rangers Ladies in trademark style at Rush Green yesterday afternoon to end a ground-breaking FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division campaign on a high.
The Hammers, who have lost just once in 2018, romped to a 7-1 thrashing courtesy of goals from skipper Rosie Kmita, defender Jasmine August and substitute Rebecca Dunning, with American Ellie Zoepfl providing a hat-trick in between, Helen Ogle pulled back a solitary consolation for the visitors late on.
The result was nearly a repeat of the last time that these two clubs met earlier in the year, when the Irons triumphed 0-10 and was matching of the occasion for the home side as they hosted a Family Fun Day to celebrate their double cup winning achievements at Rush Green.
Fittingly, the three points were enough for Ray’s team to gain a place in the final standings, moving back above Chichester City, due to their final day defeat to Charlton Athletic, and into seventh, whilst the West London outfit finished 11th, eight points above bottom place Swindon Town, who have zero points.
From the start on a mild day in Romford, the hosts lined up with many of the stars that have been instrumental in them lifting both the Isthmian Women’s Cup and WPL Plate this season.
English goalkeeper Grace Staunton started between the sticks in the absence of regular ‘keeper Cara Connatser, with the outfield featuring the likes of Chantelle Mackie, Hannah Wheeler, Vyan Sampson, centre-back Chenise Austin, attack-minded full-back Jasmine August, midfielders captain Rose Kmita and Leanne Maybe and three attackers in teenage sensation Kelly Wealthall, Molly Clark and American and Players’ Player of the Year Ellie Zoepfl.
Meanwhile, Martino Chevannes’ visiting QPR side were looking to end what has largely been another disappointing season in the Southern Division on a positive note, against an opponent they had already lost twice to.
The R’s went with Laura Dolbear in goal and Amy Lynn, Laura Hennessy, new signing Steph Anes and Amanda Chimbima protecting her in defence, further forward, Hayley Peacock, Helen Ogle, Jeta Bytyqi, in her second spell in blue and white, Chontele Lawrence, Elly Maggs and Kasha Petit were out to cause the home defence some problems.
As the game got underway amid the party atmosphere at Rush Green, the training base of the club’s first-team, the added incentive of recovering from a first defeat in 13 against Lewes at the start of the month would have been in the minds of the players in Claret & Blue.
This was evident as the motivated Irons, expectedly, dominated the play from the off against the second-from-bottom strugglers, hoping to emulate the 0-10 of April and similar thrashings such as those against Swindon, Keynsham Town and Margate, in various competitions.
They threatened to do so early on but were left mainly frustrated in front of goal inside the first 30 minutes, names such as former Portsmouth star Molly Clark, youngster Wealthall and the award-winning Zoepfl all went close.
A bumper crowd of almost 1,500 were in attendance in East London and they got what they wanted, well the majority of them, on 30 minutes when the Hammers seized a deserved advantage.
Captain Kmita picked up the ball on the right side and drove at defenders, eventually trying her luck with an effort from long-range, which had enough accuracy and power to beat Dolbear, finding the back of the net.
The ever-present Kmita was in the thick of things once again just before the break, this time in doubling her side’s lead, she played in Wealthall to see her lofted effort come back off the post, the teenager then found herself in a crossing position, picking out her captain for a tap-in, Kmita at the double.
Somehow, West Ham would only take a two-goal lead into half-time, despite deserving plenty more than they had scored, but they still had time to get them, while it was clearly going to be a case of damage limitation from here on in for Chevannes’ men.
However, at only two goals down, the visitors still had a faint chance of staging a miraculous comeback, for how long though? The answer to that question was a mere 15 minutes of the second half.
Just after the hour mark, Auguste troubled the scorers to all but put the game to bed, having gone close already this side of half-time, seeing her cross from the left fly into the far top corner of the opposing goal, a rare strike for her.
While Auguste may have been watching Paul Konchesky in the 2006 FA Cup final for inspiration, another woman in inspired form was Zoepfl, who managed to get her name on the scoresheet twice in the space of just three minutes.
Both finishes were from close-range for the ex-University of East London star, the first of which she burst through the QPR defence to finish low past Dolbear in a composed manner.
The second would be a much simpler strike, rounding the opposing ‘keeper and slotting into an empty net from just yards out, eight minutes later, she was celebrating picking up her hat-trick.
Once more, defender Auguste was heavily involved, forcing Dolbear into saving her threatening effort, the shot-stopper only able to parry the ball into the path of Zoepfl, making no mistake in ensuring that she would take home the match ball.
However, Ray’s girls were brought back down to Earth a little inside the final ten minutes when the West London club made the scoreline look a tad bit more respectable by pulling a goal back, Ogle making the most of a Hannah Wheeler error to covert past Grace Staunton from close-range.
By stoppage time, the Hammers had used up all three of their substitutions, displaying great strength in depth when two of their introductions combined to provide an astounding seventh goal of the afternoon.
Dayna Chong was fouled in the box in the 91st minute with the referee pointing to the spot, fellow sub Becky Dunning stepped up to take and with ease, managed to get the better of Dolbear from 12 yards.
The spot-kick put the cherry on the cake of a memorable afternoon Rush Green for all involved with West Ham United Ladies after what has been a record-breaking year to savour, as for QPR, they will be in a hurry to forget about the 90 minutes, not for the first time this season.
Attention for the Hammers will now turn to a well-earned summer break and the 2018/2019 season, where there is the remote possibility they could be competing in the Women’s Super League after applying earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, the Hoops will now reflect on a second term in succession at the wrong end of the FA WPL Southern Division table and focus on coming back stronger for next term, able to compete better with the likes of the Irons and others above them in the end-of-season table.