Divin Mubama 74
David Omilabu 52 (pen)
Fionn Mooney 80
West Ham United vs Crystal Palace
West Ham United U18s 1-2 Crystal Palace U18s
U18 Premier League South
A late goal condemned West Ham United Under-18s to an unfortunate and arguably undeserved 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday morning.
The young Hammers gave as good as they got at Little Heath Sports Ground in an open and entertaining affair, which was goalless at half-time despite a number of presentable chances for both sides.
Crystal Palace had been in fine form in U18 Premier League South, going into the game in search of a fifth consecutive win, but came up against a spirited West Ham side who themselves were seeking a third win on the bounce under lead coach Kevin Keen.
The sides exchanged early half-chances before West Ham goalkeeper Serine Sanneh produced an outstanding stop after a quarter-of-an-hour, diving across to his far post to bravely block Dylan Thisleton’s finish from point-blank range.
Shorlty after, Kai Corbett came close for West Ham with a low strike from outside the area, but his shot hit the post and bounced wide of the goal.
Jayden Fevrier then came close with a powerful run and short which stung the palms of Palace shot-stopper Owen Goodman, before Sanneh again displayed excellent reflexes to turn away a crisp shot from David Omilabu.
It was the visitors who made the breakthrough seven minutes into the second half, however, when Omilabu, bursting into the area, was brought down by Sanneh, with the Hammers’ custodian being cautioned. The Palace striker converted the subsequent penalty.
Both sides traded opportunities in the period of the game which followed, with Corbett particularly lively for West Ham and Junior Robinson having one promising chance closed down inside the area.
The Irons’ reward for their perseverance arrived after 72 minutes when 16-year-old forward Divin Mubama – who scored a hat-trick for England U16s in the recent international break – netted his first goal in Claret and Blue at U18s level.
The second-half substitute was typically clinical in pouncing on a short back-pass from Thisleton, prodding it between Goodman’s legs to equalise for Keen’s side.
Unfortunately, however, parity did not last long. On the counter-attack, Fionn Mooney curling the ball in off the post with ten minutes remaining to tip a balanced game in the visitors’ favour with ten minutes to go.
There was still time for an injury-time West Ham corner to force a scramble which led to the visitors clearing the ball off their own line, but the points ultimately evaded the home side on the day.
“It was a really good Academy game and very competitive, with two good teams having a right go at each other,” Keen reflected.
“Unfortunately we just came out on the wrong side of the result, which is a little bit disappointing because I think our performance deserved at least a draw.
“Overall, it was a really good team performance. We did a lot of things right today against a good team. There were more things we did right today than the couple of things we did wrong and we got caught, so we just want to keep building on all the work we’ve done throughout the season.
“We want to gain confidence as a team and build on our professional elements, having gone from schoolboy football into a professional environment.
“It’s about understanding those elements where different decisions have got to be made in terms of the game scenario, but I’ve got no doubt we will win many more games than we’re going to lose this season.
“We’ve certainly got better so far this season – we’re more organised, stronger, technically better, and if we can keep improving week-on-week, I think we can have some sort of success throughout the season.”
The result leaves West Ham in ninth place in U18 Premier League South, with their next game at home to Reading in a fortnight’s time.
West Ham United: Sanneh; Robinson, Adebayo, Forbes, Clayton (Earthy 73), Potts, Woods, Perkins (Thomas 79), Corbett, Fevrier, Kileba (Mubama 45)
Subs: Knightbridge, Coddington
Goal: Mubama 74