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West Ham captain Gilly Flaherty believes the pain of SSE Women's FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City can spur the club on to bigger and better things.
Despite losing by an aggregate score of 10-2 in their two league encounters with Nick Cushing's high flying side, the Irons went toe-to-toe with their illustrious opponents for long spells at the Wembley before eventually succumbing to a trio of second half goals.
The showpiece occasion at the national stadium provided a bittersweet culmination to a fairy-tale run for West Ham in their first season as a professional club.
Skipper Flaherty, an SSE Women's FA Cup winner on no fewer than seven occasions, hopes the painful defeat can prove to be a catalyst for Matt Beard's young squad.
"I'm really proud," she said. "We had a fantastic first-half and defended really well. Going in 0-0 shocked a lot of people, especially City.
"I don't think anyone was phased by the occasion; they just took it in their stride.
"In the second half, City went up a gear and we just got tired. Gaps started to appear, and they took their chances.
"Regardless of the result, they've taken memories that will last them a lifetime and serve them going forward.
"They'll never forget that defeat, or the feel of it. It can spur them on for the rest of their careers.
"But it's been a fantastic first season, getting to the final and being in mid-table. We can be immensely proud of where we are."
Five places separated West Ham and second placed City in the FA WSL table heading into the clash, but it was the Hammers who had the clearest chance of a tight first half, striker Jane Ross seeing her header superbly saved by England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. From there, Cushing's team gradually grew in stature, with Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp giving the scoreline a slightly harsh look.
Former Arsenal and Chelsea defender Flaherty, though, thinks her teammates can take confidence from the way in which they troubled a star studded City outfit.
"I thought we surprised a few people because some probably thought we'd get absolutely spanked today," Flaherty added. "On another day that (Ross' header) would have gone in but Karen has made a great save and kept them in it. It's hard, and a game of what-ifs.
"I spoke to a City girl at the end of the game and she was like, ‘we were panicking at half-time'. Maybe they underestimated us as well, but we've done the whole club proud."
from what we did well."As the energy behind women's football, SSE's ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE's sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk.
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