West Ham United U18s returned to winning ways on with a superb 5-0 victory away to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Favour Fawunmi scored either side of the interval, and goals from Billy Bates, Daniel Rigge and Blaise Unwandji capped off a superb outing for the young Hammers in their first competitive match in three weeks.
The victory ensured that the Irons continued their perfect start to their league campaign, with Kevin Keen’s side now recording six wins in their opening six league matches. The Hammers also continued their superb run of goalscoring form with the young side having scored 24 goals across their opening six league matches.
U18s coach Mark Phillips was delighted with the performance of his side.
“We scored five goals and kept a clean sheet. it was a perfect performance from the boys,” Phillips told whufc.com.
“There was a period when we struggled a little bit in the first half after we took the lead. Brighton had a lot of the ball and Mason Terry made a big save, but on the whole we controlled the game superbly, especially the second half.
“The clean sheet is always massive for us and that’s now two clean sheets in a row in the league which is a sign of progress. We scored some really nice goals too so it’s been a good day for us.”
The first chance of Saturday's match fell the way of the hosts. Bailey Smith raced to the byline and put a dangerous cross into the box. Kaelan Casey was on hand to clear but the defender could only poke the ball away to the edge of the box, where Harry Mills unleashed an effort which dragged wide of the post.
West Ham took the lead on 12 minutes. Casey’s header ending up causing confusion in the Brighton back line and the Hammers’ high press proved to be incredibly effective as Fawunmi overturned possession before finishing smartly with his left foot from close range.
Brighton came close to finding an equaliser not long after as the home side worked the ball out to the left nicely. Remiero Moulton cut in and curled an effort towards goal. Fortunately for the Hammers, the shot rebounded off the post and behind for a corner.
The hosts continued to push for an equaliser and a deep corner found its way to Charlie Tasker, who volleyed the ball towards goal. Terry was on hand to make an important save at his front post to preserve his clean sheet, and his side’s lead.
West Ham started the second half full of intensity and the Hammers doubled their lead just three minutes in. Lewis Orford’s inswinging corner was met at the back post by Bates, and the centre half’s towering header flew into the back of the net.
The Irons continued to dominate and Rigge gave his side a three goal margin minutes later. Fawunmi drove down the right flank before cutting the ball back to Asher Falase on the edge of the box. The full back’s strike travelled across the face of goal, and Rigge was on hand at the back post to tap the ball into the net.
Fawunmi secured his second and the Hammers’ fourth goal of the match on 68 minutes.. Once again, the West Ham No9 pounced on a defensive error before slotting the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, thereby putting the result beyond all doubt.
Substitute Uwandji scored West Ham’s fifth and final goal in a five star performance for the away side. Once again, Keen’s side saw their high pressure rewarded as Uwandji raced onto a poor defensive header. The substitute smartly volleyed the ball into the bottom left corner from the edge of the area, capping off an excellent day for the Irons.
The Hammers fell to their first defeat of the season in their last outing, in what was a disappointing 3-0 loss in the Premier League Cup, and coach Phillips was delighted to see his side respond in such a positive manner after a couple of weeks without a competitive match.
“It was a great response from the lads today,” Phillips smiled. “We’ve looked at the Forest game a lot in the last couple of weeks and we used that to prepare for today’s game.
“Brighton and Forest look to play in a similar way, and we looked at how we could counter act their style of football. We were poor against Forest but today we’ve showed that we can counter act that style of football.”
Three of the Irons five goals came as a result of a high press, and Phillips was full of praise for his side’s intensity throughout the match.
“Our press worked really well. A lot of Academy sides like to play out from the back and Brighton are no different. Our mindset today was to press them and to punish any mistakes that they made.
“Whenever Brighton weren’t perfect, one of our players was there to overturn the ball and it led to three of our goals. Both of Favour’s goals came from us overturning possession, so it was really pleasing.”
With six wins out of six in the league, the young Hammers are currently at the summit of the Premier League U18 South division. West Ham are now the only top flight U18 side in the country to maintain a 100 per cent league record so far.
Phillips reflected: “We’re delighted with our start to the season. We’ve changed personnel a lot in this team, whether players are coming up from the U16s or whether they’re coming back from the U21s, they always give their all and put in performances.
“I’m especially pleased for Mason Terry today, he was captain today and he’s been fantastic so far this season. He made a couple of important saves at 1-0, so I’m delighted he got a clean sheet today.”
West Ham United U18s: Terry, Tamina (Brigg 60), Casey, Falase, Bates, Orford, Scarles, Akpata, Rigge (Mukasa 69), Battrum (Uwandji 71), Falase (Umolu 71)
Subs not used: Abraham
Goals: Fawunmi 11, 68, Bates 48, Rigge 53, Uwandji 83