West Ham United Under-18s 1-0 Cardiff City Under-18s
Sebastian Lletget was an impressive performer as the young Hammers battled to a well-deserved victory at Little Heath on Saturday morning.
While the American youth international dominated in midfield, the only goal came from Robert Hall's second-half penalty. The England U17 striker - who now has eight goals in 16 league starts this season - stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way with 20 minutes left after fellow Young Lions star Matthias Fanimo's cross was handled by a visiting defender.
It was no more than the home side deserved, but Academy Director Tony Carr admitted they had needed to fight for all three points right to the final whistle.
"It was a difficult game, a very physical game against a very strong side," Carr told whufc.com. "It was a different game to our 3-0 win at Arsenal last month but no less satisfying. We had to compete with them to stay in the game and finally we managed to carve out a goal."
It was United States Under-20 midfielder Lletget, still only 18, who earned special mention. "Seb played very well. He was influential and controlled things. He is known for his technique and astuteness but this time he had to dig in and I was really pleased."
The Hammers also saw substitute striker Paul McCallum have a header saved on the line, while Australia Under-18 forward Dylan Tombides - who has been training with the first team in Portugal this week - hit the post. Tombides and Hall had also gone close in the first half and Carr admitted he had thought it might be one of those days where the breakthrough would not come.
"Chances were few and far between. They were difficult to break down and got numbers behind the ball. They were big and physical. It was a different game and we had to win it by battling and doing it ugly. I thought they might break and nick a goal off us. Maybe early in the season we wouldn't have had the resilience but we were able to hang in there.
"The last five minutes they threw everything at us but overall we had the bigger threat going forward and the most attempts at goals. You have to win games in all sorts of ways, sometimes you can outpass them and other days you have to stand tall. We did that very well."
The victory ended a run of two defeats - both away from home at Crystal Palace and Ipswich Town - and was the perfect platform for next Saturday's trip to Tottenham Hotspur, on the same day as the senior sides meet. "That will be as tough but a different game all together," Carr said. His mood was also brightened by a 3-1 win for the U16s that saw Elliott Lee register twice.
West Ham United: Wooton, Young, Potts, Hunt, Craig, Vose (Hurley 75), Turgott (McCallum 65), Lletget, Tombides, Hall, Fanimo
Subs not used: Powell, Purdy