West Ham United came from behind to earn a 1-1 Barclays U18 Premier League draw with Southampton at Little Heath on Wednesday afternoon.
Saints striker Marcus Barnes put the visitors ahead against the run of play just after the half-hour mark, latching onto a long ball forward from defender Tom Leggett before beating Vit Nemrava in the West Ham goal.
U16s manager Mark Phillips took the U18 team for the first time in the absence of Steve Potts and, after seeing his side miss a host of presentable chances, he was able to celebrate an equaliser on 67 minutes.
It was then that Kieran Bywater (pictured) converted a controversial penalty to draw the sides level. Despite appeals from the visitors against claims, the assistant referee confirmed that the spot-kick had been given for a handball, rather than a foul by the centre-back, as was initially suspected by the Saints. It was a confident finish from the penalty spot from captain Bywater, who scored for the second consecutive league game, having also netted in the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday.
Academy Director Tony Carr MBE, who assisted Phillips, was impressed with the team's performance, but believed at West Ham could have been well ahead by half-time, instead of a goal behind.
"I think I was pleased with the performance in terms of that we dominated the majority of the match and created the most chances," said Carr. "In all fairness, we could have come in at half-time 4-0 up.
"Southampton got one chance in the first half when our young centre-back made a mistake and they finished it. One shot on goal and we found ourselves behind."
Carr also admitted that although he had not seen why West Ham's penalty was given, but was not complaining about the spot-kick that allowed the hosts a path back to parity.
"I didn't really see what happened," he conceded. "All I saw was the two players fall over in the box, but the linesman was adamant that the centre-back handled it.
"I think that their defender was trying to manhandle our player and get in front of him and when your arms are flailing around in the penalty area, that's where it must have hit his hand.
"I'll be honest by saying that I didn't really see it but that was the linesman's explanation and we will gratefully take it."
West Ham travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, having collected a win over Manchester United, defeat by Chelsea and draw with Southampton from their opening three Barclays U18 Premier League matches.
After facing three of the country's top Academy sides to start 2013/14, the Hammers will be hopeful of gaining a second victory of the season in the West Midlands.
West Ham United U18s: Nemrava, Knoyle, Harney, Burke, Page, Cullen (Makasi), Bywater, Nasha, Amoo (Parfitt-Williams), Brown (Martins), Mavila
Subs not used: Howes, Girdlestone