The Development Squad extended their lead at the top of Barclays U21 Premier League Group 1 with a narrow 1-0 win over Everton on a cold and blustery night at Rush Green.
It was yet another hard-fought contest on the back of Monday's win over Bolton Wanderers, but West Ham United thoroughly deserved the win earned through Elliot Lee's superb 69th-minute header. The teenage striker secured all three points when he met Blair Turgott's cross to send the ball looping over Toffees goalkeeper Mateus Taudel and into the roof of the net.
West Ham's win was their fifth in succession and extended their lead over second-place Arsenal to six points, although the Gunners now have a game in-hand on their London rivals.
The Hammers could have had a penalty within the opening 60 seconds when Shane Duffy's attempted clearance deflected onto his own hand, but referee Stuart Butler waved 'play on'.
The hosts settled well but struggled for creativity in the early stages as Everton again went close when Christopher Long shot straight at Jake Larkins following Tyias Browning's probing run. Larkins was called into action again a minute later, using his legs to block Duffy's volley from a Matthew Kennedy free-kick.
As the game opened up, the home side went close when Lee burst forward and unleashed a powerful shot on goal that Taudel was unable to hold. The final chance of the half was arguably the best as West Ham centre-back Eoin Wearen was denied a superb headed goal from Matthias Fanimo's corner by the fingertips of Poland Under-17 international goalkeeper Taudel.
The first chance of the second-half came in the 56th minute and in controversial fashion as Wearen was arguably fouled in the build up. As the Irishman lay on the floor, captain Driver's attempt to play the ball back to Larkins fell short and allowed Apostolos Vellios in one-on-one, but the Greek forward fired wide.
Wearen was in the thick of it at the other end eight minutes later, sending a beautiful cross-field ball to Fanimo. He found Lee, who tee-up Sebastien Lletget, but the American's shot was blocked. One minute later, Fanimo almost scored directly from a corner as Pennington inadvertently cleared the ball off the line with his back.
The Hammers finally took the lead after 69 minutes when Turgott's cross from a short corner found Lee, whose flicked header sailed into the top corner, much to the delight of the home fans among the 308-strong crowd.
Ten minutes from time the Hammers almost sealed it when McCallum brought the ball down and found George Moncur, but Taudel was able to repel the midfielder's fierce strike.
There was still time for plenty of late drama. First, with four minutes remaining, Everton went for broke and were almost rewarded when left-back Ibou Touray's 40-yard wind-assisted pile-driver flew inches past the post. Then, in the first minute of added-time, victory was almost snatched from Ian Hendon's side when Vellios' flick from Tyias Browning's cross bounced off the inside of the far post and into the hands of a grateful Larkins.
Next up for the table-topping Development Squad is a trip to Reading on Friday 2 November.
Development Squad: Larkins, Driver, Potts, Moncur, Wearen, Shaw, Turgott, Lletget, McCallum, Fanimo, Lee (Piquionne 79)
Subs not used: Guzman Rosique, Ruddock, Powell, Hunt
Everton: Taudel, Browning, Touray, Lundstram, Duffy, Pennington, Jones, Grant, Vellios, Long (Johns 72), Kennedy
Subs not used: Springthorpe, Forrester, Kelly, Hammar