Hammers Held By Palace

WEST Ham United Reserves have drawn 1-1 with Crystal Palace at the Glyn Hopkin Stadium, Hogan Ephraim's first-half goal securing Kevin Keen's men a point in their first home game of the season.

Changes from the advertised team saw Joe Widdowson start in place of Malky Mackay, with James Tomkins moving to the centre of defence to partner Elliott Ward. In midfield Ishmael Welsh replaced David Cowley, while Zavon Hines was included on the bench. Mark Noble was made captain of the side on his return to Reserve team action.

Palace fielded experience in their side, with Danny Granville, Tommy Black, Aki Riihilahti and Julian Speroni all boasting first-team appearances.

On a warm and sunny evening at Dagenham & Redbridge it was Palace making the early running, Tyrone Berry bursting down the right and testing the hands of goalkeeper Matt Reed with a fierce drive.

Hammers were quickly into their stride though and on five minutes the hard running of Tony Stokes produced an opening when he charged down a dithering Julian Speroni only for the Palace goalkeeper to recover to make a good low block.

From the resulting corner Hogan Ephraim picked out the imposing figure of Elliott Ward, but his header was well saved by Speroni.

Moments later a low drive from Aki Riihilahti was deflected just wide of Reed's post, before an eventful opening 10 minutes was completed with a booking for Palace midfielder Tom Welch for a cynical tackle on Kyel Reid.

With the quarter hour mark approaching a fine through ball from Ryan Hall released Tommy Black, but Reed got down well to make a fine save on the angle to keep the scores level.

The Hammers goalkeeper then did well to race from his line and force Berry to shoot wide when the Palace winger had broken the offside trap, and then held a shot from Berry after the player had cut inside Joe Widdowson.

West Ham were applying plenty of pressure of their own, wingers Ishmael Welsh and Kyel Reid looking dangerous.

But Palace forced Reed into another fine save on 23 minutes, as the Hammers goalkeeper plucked Riihilahti's long-range drive out of the top corner.

Two minutes later a wonderful piece of skill from Ephraim almost forced an opening for the Hammers, but the angled shot was wide of Speroni's goal.

With 10 minutes of the half remaining Palace came closest to breaking the deadlock so far when Riihilahti was left unmarked at the back post, but his header came back off the bar.

But five minutes later Hammers did what Palace had failed to do. Fittingly it was the lively Hogan Ephraim who gave the hosts the lead. Stokes flicked the ball through and Ephraim out-paced his marker before coolly flicking the ball past Speroni to make it 1-0.

Hammers looked certain to take the lead into half-time, but in the final minute of the half Ryan Hall's speculative long-range effort skidded under the otherwise excellent Matt Reed to make it 1-1 at the break.

HT: 1-1

Palace replaced Riihilahti at half-time with Nathan Simpson and were quickly pressing to reclaim the lead. Mark Noble's ball over the top released Kyel Reid and he forced a good block from Speroni.

On 53 minutes Stokes was replaced with Densal Davidson, no doubt feeling the effects of the youth team's recent trip to Japan. Hammers were piling on the pressure and on the hour mark Ephraim was very nearly in again, Speroni racing to the edge of his area and smothering the ball at the striker's feet.

Moments later Reed made a magnificent reaction save to deny Tommy Black from close range flinging an arm in the way of the shot and palming the ball away for a corner.

On 62 minutes Noble was replaced by young midfielder Jack Collison making his Reserve team debut, Ward taking over the captaincy. The big defender very nearly scored five minutes later, his volley from Ephraim's corner blocked on the line.

Kevin Keen's men were enjoying much of the attacking play, Ephraim and Reid linking to dangerous effect.

With 15 minutes of the game remaining Liam White replaced James Tomkins in the centre of defence, as Palace began to push forward in search of a winner. But Hammers defence held firm, Ward making three vital clearances inside his own penalty area.

With barely two minutes remaining Glenn Wilson found space at the back post for Palace but volleyed well over, before Ishmael Welsh went close with a well-struck drive from 20 yards that skipped wide of Speroni's right-hand post.

Despite three minutes of added time there was no way through for either side as the first Premiership Reserve League South game of the season at the Glyn Hopking Stadium finished 1-1.

WHU: Reed; Andrews, Widdowson, Ward, Tomkins (White 75), Noble (Collison 62), Welsh, Lomas, Stokes (Davidson 53), Ephraim, Reid. Subs Unused: Hines, Kemal (GK).
Bookings: Widdowson 90
Scorer: Ephraim 40