By George Overhill

17th May, 2022 | 10:10pm

West Ham Women expert reviews final day as Hammers no match for title-chasing Arsenal and Gilly Flaherty bows out

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

It was a valiant effort but to no avail on the final day as our West Ham Women expert Michelle Irons looks back on the loss to Arsenal.

With the Gunners hoping to take advantage of any slip up from Chelsea to claim the title at the last, the Hammers had their work cut out to match them.

Ultimately two second-half goals from Stina Blackstenius and Steph Catley took the points, while club captain Gilly Flaherty played her last game in a West Ham shirt, and Irons reviewed the action.

Speaking exclusively to West Ham Zone she said: “So final day of the season against championship-chasing Arsenal. They were looking for a win here and definitely made the last day of the season exciting. 

West Ham made two changes with Lisa Evans and Katerina Svitkova out, Gilly Flaherty coming back in for what was her last game for the club, and Evans obviously not being able to play for her parent club as she was on loan.

“The fans of both home and away were in fine voice and it made a really good atmosphere. London derby games are always good and the tackles were flying in early, with Noelle Maritz making a strong challenge on Zaneta Wyne for the first booking of the game. 

Arsenal attacked down our right a handful of times to no effect, with Hawa Cissoko looking strong. She was having a real battle with Beth Mead.

“Adriana Leon was looking sharp and had the opportunity to send in a few dead balls which kept the Arsenal defence awake in what was a good opening from West Ham.

Noises around the ground indicated that Chelsea were currently losing which buoyed the away team and they started to control the game, having multiple chances in a short space of time.

“There was also a blatant dive in the box from Mead and she should have been booked for that. 

After 20 mins it was 74% possession in favour of Arsenal so it was going to be a long afternoon for the Hammers, but the home side were strong and stubborn. 

Arsenal came out with a job to do knowing that the Chelsea result was in the balance and having to win the game to be crowned Champions.

West Ham had some bright passing movements but Arsenal’s defence was as stubborn as ours.

The inevitable breakthrough came when Arsenal took charge and brought on their absolute Rolls Royce of a player Stina Blackstenius, who had been on the pitch for about 40 seconds before she rifled home.

“She was left completely open and had enough time to carefully slot past the impressive Mackenzie Arnold low and clean. 

Just a few minutes later Arsenal doubled their lead, which looked suspicious as the ball was picked up by Steph Catley after what looked like a foul.

“The referee ignored it and the ball was taken on and smashed into the net.

I could say that it’s unlucky but when Arsenal took it up a gear they are unstoppable.

For the remainder of the game after that West Ham had some nice touches, and the ball was swung in late for the departing Flaherty to hit the bar which would have been a wonderful parting gift, but sadly that was it as Arsenal cruised to the win. 

“Overall it was a good performance from West Ham but there was nothing to show for it in the end.” 

After a strong start to the season more might have been expected from the team in terms of league position, but a run of just one WSL win in the final six games left the Hammers squarely in mid-table.

Sixth place isn’t dreadful but their early-season form suggested they could start to challenge the top four, and at least be best of the rest ahead of Tottenham.

And with a number of players sent to leave it could be a very different looking squad next season as they look to improve on this season’s finish.

In other West Ham news, the men’s team are looking to tie a star player down to a “bumper” new contract that could “double his money” up level to the club’s highest-paid.

Be sure to follow West Ham Zone on Facebook for 24/7 updates on the Hammers plus more exclusive interviews with Frank McAvennie.