The lifelong West Ham fan Kate Longhurst’s looping header deep into injury time rescued a point against Tottenham, denying their London rivals the chance to move up to second in the WSL.
“You want to score against the teams you don’t like,” said Longhurst, who found the net from West Ham’s only on-target effort after they played the final 24 minutes with 10 players, the defender Hawa Cissoko having received two yellow cards, either side of conceding the penalty from which Tottenham scored.
Rosella Ayane scored that in a feisty and scrappy encounter, and although Rehanne Skinner’s side were denied a win they have surpassed last season’s points tally with half the season left to play.
“We’ve got to make sure we put games beyond teams,” said Skinner. “That’s the next stage; we’ve got to be better than that.”
Longhurst had done her best to boost the budding rivalry between the Tottenham’s and West Ham’s women’s teams before the game, with the French defender Cissoko telling Sky Sports that her teammate had left the coaches and players silent with a powerful talk before the reverse fixture. “We have to smash them because she’s going to kill us,” Cissoko said matter of factly of this game.
Dagny Brynjarsdottir had given the Hammers a first win over their London rivals in November and there was no love lost between the two teams from the off at Barnet.
Tottenham arguably edged the first half, with the forwards Jess Naz and Ayane particularly bright, but they struggled to test West Ham’s New Zealand goalkeeper Anna Leat, playing her first WSL game in the absence of the Asian Cup-bound Mackenzie Arnold.
Despite the Spurs pressure, Olli Harder’s West Ham looked relatively untroubled and had the best chance of the half when the unmarked centre-back Grace Fisk headed over from close range.
With West Ham struggling to hold on to the ball in the middle and Spurs lacking enough threat up front, both teams made changes for the second half, with Zaneta Wyne, who played under Harder at the Norwegian team Klepp IL, on in the middle and Tottenham’s top scorer Rachel Williams called upon.
Spurs reaped the rewards for their continued pressure in the second half. Cissoko, on a yellow card and perhaps too fired up by Longhurst, clattered into the back of on-loan Tang Jiali, conceding a penalty but staying out of the book, and Ayane fired the spot-kick into the bottom corner and just out of reach of the diving Leat.
Three minutes later and Cissoko was gone for the second time this season, receiving her second yellow for dissent, having booted away the ball after she felt she was unfairly penalised for a foul on Naz.
With injury time well under way though, Longhurst’s stunning header from Byrnjarsdottir’s cross ensured West Ham share the spoils and put the team one point shy of the 15 they accumulated last season.
“If anyone was going to do it, it was going to be her,” said Harder of his goalscorer. “It’s a great way to finish. I feel a bit sorry for Spurs – they did look to have played a game more – but it’s a point and I’ll take it.”