HAfter beating Everton in the quarter-finals, it was West Ham who now stood against Manchester City’s bid for a domestic cup double. Honors were even in the clubs’ WSL fixtures this season, with both sides winning their away game 2-0, so Hammers fans at Dagenham & Redbridge Stadium would be justified in dreaming of a trip to Wembley .
Match day cook and West Ham fan Jane, posing above with her boss outside the kitchen on a can of cooking oil, said: ‘I love working at the women’s games. It can sometimes be difficult, but it’s really good. They [the fans] are very different from the Dagenham & Redbridge games, but it’s fun, it’s all fun, all jokes, we laugh. Ooh, this is gonna be tough, hope the Hammers win. I think it will be around 3-1.
John Chapman, who runs the program and gift shop at Dagenham & Redbridge as a volunteer, said: “We are seeing what we can do to help the club financially and provide a service to supporters. We chose to open here before the game and received donations from many fans, including items for West Ham women’s and men’s games. We have shirts and photographs, loads and loads of programs and other West Ham memorabilia. Shirts are always popular, there’s no doubt! England and West Ham shirts. We have a variety of others – Spanish, Brazilian and even non-league clubs are popular because they are unusual and rare.
Jo Bailey, who is co-chairman of Pride of Irons, West Ham United’s official LGBTQIA+ sports group, an officer of Pride in Football Women and a member of West Ham’s Women’s Supporters Council, said: “We are here for every game at home and as many away games as we can. This is new ground here. It feels like the very first season even though we’ve been here for two seasons when the fans are just starting to come back. It gets really good. It’s extremely exciting to have them all back. The club works so hard with Dagenham & Redbridge because it’s not our club here, but it’s starting to feel like our home turf. Next season the main entrance will be full of West Ham signage and branding. As a women’s club we need to evolve – if we had stayed at Rush Green we wouldn’t have evolved.
When asked if women’s games create a better environment for LGBTQIA+ groups, she replied, “It’s inclusive, but I always say don’t be complacent. I don’t want to dwell on this, but the more you go in, the more likely you are to attract people from men’s football and you are likely to have examples of micro-misogyny and homophobia, but that’s the only negative. As it stands it’s a safe space for everyone and West Ham works so hard with a particular pride in inclusive irons and hammers to make sure it’s a safe space for everyone. .
The home side started brilliantly in front of their biggest crowd of the season with Manchester City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck (below) called into action to thwart the Hammers on several occasions.
However, it was the visitors who struck first in the 22nd minute when a thunderous strike from Keira Walsh hit the underside of the crossbar and Ellen White reacted first to duck and head into the opening goal.
City kicked into high gear and a quarter of an hour later doubled their lead when Chloe Kelly (below), making her first start since May 2021 following an ACL injury, pounced on a pass loose from Gilly Flaherty of West Ham and brought the ball home.
The home side came back into the game just before half-time thanks to a goal from Lisa Evans. Excellent play from Adriana Leon put Evans behind City’s back line. Coming in from the right, Evans took the ball past City keeper Roebuck and kept his composure to send the ball into an unguarded net.
West Ham fan Kelly, pictured above with Molly and Vicky, said: “We finished the first half strong, really strong. He dipped in the middle, but I don’t think the mood was quite right – it got very quiet in the stadium. I think we were a bit nervous after City’s two goals. The way the crowd gathered as the players entered the tunnel – they’ll hopefully come out strong and get going in the second half.
Despite the setback at the end of the first half, Gareth Taylor’s side were on top again after the restart and Ellen White believed they had restored City’s two-goal lead by heading in the middle floating from Keira Walsh, but was disallowed by an offside flag.
Shortly after the hour mark, Lauren Hemp put City back in full control with his 50th club goal when the winger weaved his way through the Hammers defense before shooting cleanly through the net and in the bottom corner.
During stoppage time, Hemp combined with substitute Georgia Stanway before finding the net in clinical fashion for the second time. City deserved it for their second-half display as West Ham ran out of steam.
The 4-1 victory means City have now reached the FA Cup final four times in the last six seasons and having won all the finals they have appeared in, Gareth Taylor’s side will be confident of continuing their record at 100%. After being beaten 3-1 by City in the League Cup final in March, Emma Hayes’ Chelsea will be looking for revenge, as well as a domestic double after winning the WSL title last weekend . Sunday’s final should be more modest.
Click here to see test pictures from previous rounds.