By Dean White

15th May, 2021 | 10:10am

West Ham Women Expert: How Olli Harder steadied the ship and won WSL survival

We’re delighted to welcome Michelle Irons as our exclusive West Ham Women’s expert. Each week she’ll be giving her views on the biggest talking points at Victoria Road…

Olli Harder may have won just one WSL fixture in charge of West Ham but he’s the man who’s owed a lot of credit for avoiding relegation this season.

Following Matt Beard’s exit in November, Harder was hired as West Ham’s manager on December 23 and had to wait until his eighth WSL match in charge to earn a win.

And what a win it was as the Hammers battered Reading 5-0 at the Madejski Stadium. That, along with a couple of decent draws and the ability to keep the goal difference respectable against the better teams, was crucial as the Irons finished ninth in the WSL with 15 points from 22 games.

Our West Ham Women expert Michelle Irons has paid tribute to Harder’s work at Victoria Road since December, hailing the manager for improving the defence and getting the team fighting harder in matches.

Speaking to West Ham Zone, she said: “In December, it was evident that we were going to be in a relegation fight and we had to acknowledge this.

“Olli Harder came in saw two first-teamers (Alisha Lehmann and Cho So-hyun) go on loan to other clubs, which was no shock to me as those players had hardly contributed to the season. January ended with West Ham again, winning zero points.

“Games were running out and West Ham had become accustomed to being in the bottom half and Olli really needed to get the team to graft and work much harder.

“I noticed that the team looked fitter, and the passing was a lot sharper but there were concerns about our defence and changes needed to be made.

“Personally, I called for Hawa Cissoko to come in and replace Grace Fisk and Olli implemented that change with a back-three with Mayumi Pacheco dropping out.

“Cissoko and Fisk played together and created a solid partnership. This was where our ethic changed, we played so much better and were unlucky at times, but our overall performances were a real positive.

“I had no doubt that we would survive, and this was going to be extremely hard but with the comfort of Bristol City conceding so many goals – and Cissoko going from strength to strength – it was putting the chances away that was a major concern.”

In other West Ham Women news, our expert has been raving about the potential of this young Irons loanee.

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