Captain's column: West Ham have made most of WSL international break

West Ham United's Gilly Flaherty (left) and Durham's Emily Roberts battle for the ball during the FA

West Ham United's Gilly Flaherty (left) and Durham's Emily Roberts battle for the ball during the FA Continental Tyres League Cup quarter-final match at Chigwell Construction Stadium, London. Picture date: Thursday January 21, 2021. - Credit: PA

West Ham United women’s captain Gilly Flaherty discusses how she and her team-mates made the most of the Women’s international break – and how they intend to turn their season around.

We had a difficult four games before the international break. The weather certainly didn’t help us, especially in the last two against Bristol City and Brighton & Hove Albion, when there was snow on the pitch.

We’ve not been having much luck, especially with the goals that we’re conceding. I really think the international break came at a good time for us. 

We only had two players travel away for international duty, so we’ve had a really, really hard – but good – two weeks together as a team since then.

Even though it was the hardest two weeks’ training we’ve had this season, I’ve never laughed or enjoyed it so much. It was tough, but it was enjoyable, and we’ve had a lot of positive outcomes from it.

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We’ve grown closer together as a group. There’s no denying that we’ve got a small squad, but I think now it’s about us getting through the upcoming nine games not only as a team, but as friends and family too. 

That’s what’s going to get us through it. It’s not always going to be rosy. There will be ups and downs, but I think the way this team has come together, especially in the last two weeks, has been fantastic. 

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Now, it’s a clean slate. We’ve got nine games left in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. We know what we need to do.

This weekend, we face Chelsea. When we played them in the Continental League Cup semi-finals recently, we let them in too easily. We did exactly what our manager, Olli Harder, said not to do. 

We were much better in the second half of that game, but we can’t afford to wait to be two or three goals down before we react. We have to play like that from the first minute.

In the last two weeks, we’ve worked on defending crosses and our defensive work, and then also our combination play, trying to create more opportunities for us to put away.

Chelsea are up there in the top two or three teams in the world, probably. You have to respect them and be disciplined against them. You have to stay compact and frustrate them.

We have to be savvy with it, defensively hard to break down and then, when we do get our chances, it’s about taking them.

Looking at it, we’ve got nine cup finals. We need to take each game as it comes. This is the first time in my whole career I’ve been in this position in the league, and it’s not a nice position to be in, but now you’ll see our true character. 

We have to step up. We can’t afford to fumble. We will pull each other through them, fight until the end, and pick up as many points as we can along the way.

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