West Ham United Under-18s 1-3 Portsmouth Under-18s
A youthful West Ham United Under-18 side went down to a battling 3-1 FA Premier Academy League defeat by Portsmouth at Little Heath on Saturday.
With the club's second-year Academy professionals being rested ahead of Monday's reserve team fixture at Arsenal, Tony Carr named a lineup containing a host of first-year professionals and schoolboys. Ahmed Abdulla put the home side in front but the visitors were to battle back and score three unanswered goals in the second half.
Despite their relative inexperience, however, the Hammers took the lead through Abdulla on 16 minutes. The striker completed a sweeping move involving Nick Barrett and Jack Werndly by slotting the ball past Pompey goalkeeper Liam O'Brien.
The goal was no more than West Ham deserved for dominating much of the opening half-hour against their older, bigger opponents from the south coast. Christian Montano fired two shots off-target before Portsmouth spurned a fantastic opportunity to level matters on 32 minutes.
A fine turn took Gael Nlundulu clear of his marker before he slotted the ball through to Parcs Cowan Hall, but the striker could only slice his shot wide after rounding home goalkeeper Peter Loveday.
West Ham United went into the half-time break a goal to the good, but it would not be long after the interval before the visitors were back on level terms. Less than 90 seconds after the restart, to be exact.
The equaliser came at the end of a flowing move involving Pompey captain Marlon Pack, left-winger Pablo Navas and Cowan Hall, whose clipped cross was headed in powerfully by the highly-rated Tom Kilbey from close range.
Two minutes later, an almost identical move saw Kilbey through on goal again, only for Loveday to block well with his legs. West Ham hit back themselves immediately, but Danny Subuola could only fire a bouncing shot against the outside of the post after latching on to Callum Driver's lofted free-kick.
Subuola was made to rue his miss on 54 minutes when Portsmouth took the lead in fortunate circumstances, Navas' cross flying over the head of Loveday before bouncing back off the inside of the far post and into the net via the unlucky goalkeeper.
Having gone ahead, Portsmouth took control of proceedings and only the bravery of Loveday and a perfectly-timed challenge from left-back Driver prevented Hall from adding to the visitors' tally.
West Ham continued to battle, however, and could easily have levelled the scores at 2-2 had O'Brien not done brilliantly to keep out two Callum McNaughton headers from Conor Okus corners.
As the young home side tired in the closing stages, Portsmouth added the rubber stamp to their victory when Kilbey nodded in Pack's header with ten minutes remaining.
Despite the final result, Carr and his staff will take great encouragement by the performance of his team against a Portsmouth side with considerable more experience than his own.
West Ham United: Loveday, Smith (Craig 57), McNaughton, Sanchez, Driver, Werndly (Moncur 62), Barrett, Okus, Montano, Abdulla, Subuola
Subs not used: Mehmet, Hall