West Ham United v Derby County
West Ham United U23s missed their opportunity to rise to second place in Premier League 2 Division 1 as Derby County proved too strong under the Friday night lights at London Stadium.
Terry Westley’s youngsters began the evening in fourth and could have closed the gap on leaders Liverpool to just a single point, only for three first-half goals to set the rampant Rams on their way to a shock 5-1 victory.
With new first-team manager David Moyes and his assistants watching on among the 1,208-strong crowd, a disappointing evening for the Hammers looked on the cards after just 28 seconds, when striker Offrande Zanzala held off Tunji Akinola before finishing across Nathan Trott and inside the far post.
The home side then looked to have settled and gained some sort of control, with Sead Haksabanovic forcing Josh Barnes into a smart save, only for Luke Thomas to sweep past Trott to double Derby’s lead on 21 minutes.
West Ham again briefly threatened as Alex Pike, Toni Martinez and Martin Samuelsen all went close from three Haksabanovic corners, but it was 0-3 eight minutes before the break when Thomas’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar and the fortunate Zanzala before rolling past the helpless Trott.
And the England U20 goalkeeper was exposed again twice within six minutes at the start of the second half, saving well from Alex Babos and Thomas, only for Charles Vernam and Jayden Bogle to follow up on each occasion to score.
Despite being five goals down, the shell-shocked Hammers tried to give the scoreline some respectability, with Dan Kemp, Akinola and Haksabanovic all testing Barnes and Toni Martinez clipping the crossbar with a rasping 25-yarder.
Samuelsen was then denied by a superb save by the Derby goalkeeper before substitute Grady Diangana finally got the home side on the scoresheet with a spectacular flying volley from Domingos Quina’s pass.
Martinez then flashed one shot narrowly over and saw another deflected inches wide, before Barnes again superbly denied Haksabanovic and Anthony Scully and Diangana clipped a shot against the woodwork, but Derby ultimately condemned Westley’s side to their third Premier League 2 defeat of the season.
West Ham’s young professionals, who were only promoted to Division 1 via the Play-Offs in the spring, have now won five of their ten league games this season and will seek win number six and a much-improved defensive display when they travel to Arsenal next Friday evening.
In the meantime, however, the U23s’ attentions will turn to the Premier League International Cup and a mouth-watering clash with Portuguese giants Benfica, which will take place at Billericay Town’s AGP Arena on Tuesday 21 November at 7pm. Tickets for that tie are available directly from the Essex club here.
West Ham United: Trott, Johnson (Scully 64), Akinola, Pike (Coventry 50), Powell, Quina, Makasi, Kemp (Diangana 56), Samuelsen, Haksabanovic, Martinez.
Subs not used: Matrevics (GK), Wells.
Goals: Diangana 69
Bookings: Martinez 50
Derby County: Barnes, Bogle, Lowe, Thorne, Bateman, Wassall, Thomas (Walker 85), Guy, Zanzala, Vernam (Bird 75), Babos (MacDonald 69).
Subs not used: Ravas (GK), Jakobsen.
Goals: Zanzala 1, 37, Thomas 21, Vernam 48, Bogle 51
Bookings: Barnes 69