West Ham United vs Brentford 'B'
West Ham United U23 twice came from behind to draw with Brentford ‘B’ in an entertaining friendly at Griffin Park.
An enthusiastic home crowd were in attendance to witness the young Hammers fall behind to a crisp strike by Brentford’s Jaden Brissett after eight minutes, his low finish from the edge of the area kissing goalkeeper David Martin’s far post on the way in.
The Irons would fight back, however, and the high intensity press pivotal to their impressive start to the season yielded the equaliser after 38 minutes, the ball breaking to Oladapo Afolayan, whose decision to shoot when West Ham had a 3-on-2 overload paid off when his low strike was palmed out to the onrushing Anthony Scully, who lofted over the stranded keeper.
The second half saw a raft of changes as the two sides continue to trade chances, but the match seemed to have slipped away from the Irons when the hosts caught the visitors in possession just outside the area; Jan Zamburek had plenty of time and space to tuck it away for Brentford B with 18 minutes remaining.
But true to the never-say-die spirit that courses through the U23 side this season, they would fight back once more, Holland collecting the ball on the left hand side of the penalty area, cutting inside and burying an unstoppable finish into the far corner to draw his side level with five minutes remaining.
On a balmy summer evening in West London, U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko had named a much-changed starting XI which saw summer signing David Martin make his first start as a West Ham goalkeeper, while Brentford B showed their respect for the opposition by starting several senior players in midfielders Dru Yearwood, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Joel Valencia.
West Ham U23s had started the brighter of the two teams, enjoying the first real opportunity of the game after six minutes; once again a high press saw the ball played through to Afolayan, but the striker was just unable to toe the ball past the onrushing home keeper Gunnarsson, who was out to clear his lines.
Although the hosts were to take the lead two minutes later, the visiting side continued to threaten, and minutes later, Dan Kemp and the instrumental Scully played a neat one-two to set the winger away down the right. He stood the ball up to find the incoming Scully in the centre, but the Brazilian’s header flashed just wide.
Beginning to pull the strings, Scully would then have the Hammers’ best chance of the half, another cross from the right finding him in space inside the area. Showing neat control to bring the ball down, his second touch whipped the ball towards the far corner, prompting a fine stretch from Gunnarsson to keep the home side in front – at least until Scully’s equaliser minutes later.
A double change at half-time saw U23 veterans Nathan Holland and Joe Powell take to the left side of midfield, and the duo began to dictate the game; 12 minutes after the restart, Holland’s in-swinging cross found Scully in space, but the midfielder was always stretching to reach it and couldn’t quite get the purchase required to trouble Gunnarsson.
The score remained level as substitutions began to break up the play, with the Hammers in particular introducing a number of players from across the Academy of Football including U18 stars Veron Parkes, Kai Corbett and Sam Caiger, but Brentford and Zamburek’s late sucker punch looked to have stolen the game for the home side.
Holland did not take the result lying down, however, and with the clock ticking down, he got the goal his fine display deserved, skipping inside the home side’s challenges, surging towards the centre of the goal and powering the ball into the far corner – a fitting end to an entertaining examination for Halajko’s young charges.
Brentford B: Gunnarsson; Titov, O’Connor, Mitchell, Tsaroulla; Yearwood (Read 49), Mokotjo (Oksaken 62), Zamburek; Brissett (Adams 45), Mogensen, Valencia
Subs: Shepperd, Carré, Tue Jensen
Goals: Brissett (8), Zamburek (72)
West Ham United U23: Martin; Ashby (Parkes 59), Ngakia (Parker 44), Alese, Hannam (Belic 80); Rosa (Corbett 82), Forson (Powell 45); Kemp (Holland 45), Scully (Baptiste 68), Dju (Caiger 59); Afolayan (Akande 59)
Subs: Anang, Parker
Goals: Scully (38), Holland (86)