West Ham United missed out on a third successive Barclays U18 Premier League Tier One stage victory with a 2-0 home defeat to Sunderland at Little Heath on Saturday.
A strong Hammers performance in both halves should have been enough for Steve Potts' team to grab a result, yet late goals in the first half from Michael Ledger and Tom Robson gave the visiting Black Cats all three points.
The early stages of the game were uneventful, with both teams using the pitch to move the ball into space to try and open up opportunities on goal.
It was Sunderland who had the first real chance against the run of play. The Black Cats used their speed to launch a counter attack, with the ball finding Ethan Robson, who saw his shot deflected wide.
As Sunderland begun to have chances, West Ham stepped up their game and a trialist Joe Ward had the best Hammers chance of the first half. Left-back Lewis Page received the ball and slotted it in behind the Sunderland back four, giving Ward a one on one with the goalkeeper, but unfortunately his shot beat both the 'keeper and the right-hand post.
The Hammers were left regretting not taking their chances in the first half when Ledger put the visitors ahead after 38 minutes. As the ball was played forward, Ledger found himself beating Hammers goalkeeper Vit Nemrava to the ball on the edge on the penalty area. Ledger stabbed the ball under the onrushing goalkeeper and into the net, despite the best efforts of Hammers captain Jamie Harney to keep it out.
Just four minutes later, Sunderland doubled their lead. Another quick attack left young Hammers full-back Kyle Knoyle up against both Ross Holland and Robson, with the former laying the ball across to the latter to smash the ball into the far corner of the net. Both goals came against the run of play.
Going into the second half, the Hammers began pushing on and looking for a potential comeback.
West Ham's young Irish striker Kieran Sadlier, who scored two goals in a recent 3-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, looked the most likely to find the net in this match, linking up well with skilful schoolboy Djair Parfitt-Williams, but Sadlier's efforts were not accurate enough to test Peter Burke in the visitors' goal.
The Black Cats also had their opportunities in the second half to increase their lead, but most of Sunderland's efforts were caught in the strong wind at Little Heath and flew over the crossbar.
It was West Ham who had the final effort of goal in the closing minutes. Ward had a shot on goal blocked inside the Sunderland box, with the ball falling back to the same player. He tried again to find a consolation goal, although his second effort was parried clear by goalkeeper Burke.
Saturday's defeat ends a two-match winning streak which had picked Potts' team off the bottom of the table, with the Hammers now sitting in fourth place.
West Ham's next fixture is their final home match before the Barclays U18 Premier League Tier One Play-Offs begin, with Liverpool the visitors to Little Heath on Saturday 27 April.
West Ham United U18s: Nemrava, Knoyle, Page, Makasi (Pike), Harney, Girdlestone (Burke), Mavila, Marlow (Miles), Ward, Parfitt and Sadlier
Subs not used: Brown, Boakye-Yiadom