West Ham United 4-3 West Bromwich Albion
Freddie Sears struck all four goals as West Ham United edged a seven-goal thriller in Barclays Premier Reserve League action on Tuesday night.
Before his late winner, the 18-year-old striker equalised three times against a lively West Bromwich Albion team that more than contributed to a hugely entertaining evening at a chilly Woodside Park. The night was also notable for the return of captain James Collins, for his first competitive match since suffering a knee injury in a January reserve outing, and Lee Bowyer, who had not played since the Carling Cup second round last month.
Sebastian Lake-Gaskin put the visitors in front on 19 minutes with a deflected shot but Sears struck for the first time just after the half-hour mark. Bartosz Slusarski then restored the advantage for West Brom from the penalty spot after Collins was harshly deemed to have fouled the No9 before Sears tapped in a quickfire equaliser when a firm Bowyer shot was spilled. Lateef Alliyu added a long-range third for the visitors just before the interval.
The second half continued in the same lively fashion with Jack Collison, himself back after a knee problem, his usual marauding self in midfield. Sears finally got his treble just before the hour when the referee pointed to the spot after a handball. Sears stepped up and made no mistake. He could have had a fourth soon afterwards only to fire over when well-placed to the right of goal. Sears then set Junior Stanislas away but this time the post saved the visitors.
After a solid 70 minutes, coach Alex Dyer had sent on Bondz N'Gala and Balint Bajner - making his reserve-team debut - for Collins and Bowyer. Meanwhile, Sears kept going and struck a last-gasp winner after Walter Lopez's flicked header was not cleared by the visiting defence.
Along with Sears, the return of Collins and Bowyer with all-action displays will have given the watching Gianfranco Zola, Steve Clarke and Kevin Keen plenty of food for thought on a night that also saw several of the club's younger players in attendance. Among them were Zavon Hines, who is a couple of weeks away from a return to training after a knee injury in a practice match on 9 September. Meanwhile, James Tomkins is back in full training after his own knee problems.
West Ham United: Stech, Miller, Collins (N'Gala 69), Davenport, Lopez, Stanislas, Collison, Bowyer (Bajner 69), Reid, Stokes, Sears
Subs not used: Street, Spence, O'Neill
West Bromwich Albion: Allsop, Pike, Saied, Samuels (Clarke 71), Pele, Martis, Knight, Lake-Gaskin, Slusarski (Brown 71), Alliyu, Teixeira (Sawyers 64)
Sub not used: Mantom