West Ham United vs Reading
West Ham United Under-18s were forced to settle for a point against Reading on Saturday morning, having fought back from a goal behind at Little Heath.
Kevin Keen’s U18s side went into the fixture off the back of a morale-boosting win against U18 Premier League South leaders Chelsea last weekend.
The confidence garnered from that result was evident initially as the Hammers began their game against the Royals at a high tempo, creating three excellent chances inside the first 20 minutes of the match.
Failing to capitalise on those turned the early tide, however, as Reading’s defender Nelson Abbey converted Imari Samuels’ corner kick on 28 minutes.
The visitors were buoyed by their lead and went on to create several presentable opportunities themselves, only to fail to extend that early advantage.
After half-time, the Hammers rallied, deservedly grabbing an equaliser with a quarter of the game to go when the ball was whipped across to Dan Chesters.
The 17-year-old attacking midfielder initially looked to be set to shoot from a tight angle, but instead played a cute ball back for top scorer Veron Parkes, who gleefully converted his third goal in three games.
From then on, it was anybody’s game, with both teams showing plenty of attacking intent, but ultimately the game finished honours even at 1-1.
The point moves West Ham – for the time being, at least – into second position in U18 Premier League South, two away from table-toppers Chelsea, who lost again this weekend.
Both teams could be overtaken by Fulham, however, who sit third, a point behind the Hammers but with two games in hand on both sides.
“It wasn’t a game for the purists, I’ve got to be honest!” Assistant Coach Mark Phillips reflected afterwards. “It was a gritty team effort from everyone to get something from the game.
“In both games we’ve played against Reading – we drew 3-3 away earlier this season – they’ve made it quite tough for us, really. We didn’t take it likely, because Reading always offer a tough, competitive game.
“The main thing we spoke to the boys about beforehand was not getting complacent and not focusing on the league table after beating Chelsea last week. Football isn’t like that – nobody’s going to roll over – and that proved to be exactly the case today."
West Ham United U18s' next U18 Premier League South game takes place at the Arsenal Training Ground on Saturday 1 February.
West Ham United: Jinadu; Ashby (Fevrier 64), Okotcha (c), Baptiste, Greenidge, Baker-Boatiey (Simon-Swyer 65), Stroud, Chesters, Appiah-Forson, Nebyla (Veliky 72), Parkes
Subs: Sanneh; Kileba
Goal: Parkes 66'