Positives for both sides as the dust settles on West Ham’s FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City

Manchester City’s triumph over West Ham United in the FA Cup final was ultimately deserved but the 3-0 scoreline was flattering. 

Matt Beard’s underdogs arrived at Wembley in search of a fairy-tale ending to their first season as a fully-professional team and had every chance of finding it after a battling first-half display. 

Gilly Flaherty was the epitome of fighting spirit as she demonstrated exactly why she is a seven-time winner of the competition by restricting Nikita Parris to half-chances and rash shots. 

While it was striker Jane Ross who had a gilt-edged opportunity to give the Hammers that all-important first goal but saw her header kept out by a flying Karen Bardsley. 

That was the moment for West Ham, that had to go in, because they were there and at the races, they just needed to get that goal.

And it was widely expected to be a record-breaking crowd at the home of English football but it wasn’t to be as the ticket sales did not match the attendance on the day. 

That could have been down to unsympathetic scheduling from the Premier League, an expensive train journey down south for Manchester City fans or the fact that it just hasn’t quite caught fire in this country as it has in Europe. 

But despite the disappointing turn out, West Ham were not short of support as choruses of songs rang out for the Claret and Blues in response to the fluttering of sky blue flags. 

When the Citizens re-emerged for the second half they looked more focussed and energised but Keira Walsh’s opener was totally avoidable. 

For everything that Bardsley did right in the first half with that stunning diving save, Anna Moorhouse did wrong after Walsh was allowed to aim a tame shot on target from 25 yards. 

As soon as Moorhouse took a step in the wrong direction, the ball was going to end up in the net, and mistakes happen, but it just seemed such a shame that the breakthrough in the game came in that way. 

Much was talked of Georgia Stanway in the build up to the game after the 20-year-old posted a picture of her younger self with then idol and now teammate Steph Houghton, and she grew into the game as it went on. 

So it felt like a coming of age when she danced around the by-now-exhausted West Ham defenders and buried the ball in the bottom corner.

Wind well and truly taken out of the Londoners’ sails and it seemed like those fluttering blue flags had won the war. 

Cushing must be given credit for his faith in youth and willingness to throw talented players into the big-game environment and testament to that was that his goalscorers kept getting younger and younger. 

Lauren Hemp, just 18 years of age, supplied the final nail for the coffin but the beauty of being the underdog is that defeat doesn’t necessarily leave you dead and buried. 

Manchester City added a second domestic cup of the season to their trophy cabinet, could still finish the FA WSL undefeated and have some of the finest young players in this country, that will score against you given the opportunity – there is no shame in losing to them. 

The wounds will still be fresh but an FA Cup final and a mid-table finish in the most competitive FA WSL season to date is not a bad way to finish your first season as a fully-professional team and there is no doubt much more to come from Matt Beard’s side in the future. 

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