Mikolanda Edges Hammers Past Norwich

A SPECTACULAR diving header by Petr Mikolanda was the difference between West Ham United Reserves and Norwich in a tight game at Upton Park, as Hammers ran out 1-0 winners in this FA Premier Reserve League clash.

The 21st minute goal was enough to see an experienced Hammers side home, who boasted nine players with first-team experience.

It was a less than familiar formation for Kevin Keen, playing a back three of James Collins, Elliott Ward and Carl Fletcher with Clive Clarke and Jemel Henry operating as wing-backs.

Mark Noble got the opportunity to play in a central midfield position alongside Christian Dailly and the more advanced David Bellion, while Jeremie Aliadiere and Mikolanda were paired in attack.

On a wet night at Upton Park it was the visitors with the first effort, a 25 yard free-kick saved comfortably by Hammers goalkeeper Stephen Bywater on his return to action in the claret and blue.

As the half wore on Hammers began to take a firm grip on the game, but were struggling to find a way through the stubborn Norwich rearguard.

On 20 minutes a fine interchange of passes between Bellion and Jeremie Aliadiere almost released Petr Mikolanda, but the Czech Republic striker just failed to get on the end of it.

A minute later though and the striker, fresh from a loan spell at Northampton Town, made the perfect connection to put West Ham 1-0 up.

Henry swung in a brilliant cross from the right and Mikolanda planted a magnificent diving header past Joe Lewis in the Norwich goal to put Kevin Keen's men ahead.

Norwich looked to respond with Rossi Jarvis who drilled a shot from the edge of the area just wide of Bywater's left-hand post.

There was plenty of toil from both teams, but the defences remained very much on top for the remainder of the half and Hammers went in leading 1-0 at the break.

HT: 1-0

The second-half saw Hammers boss Kevin Keen introduce Tony Stokes to replace Arsenal loanee Jeremie Aliadiere.

West Ham started the second-half well, Clive Clarke testing the hands of England Under-19 goalkeeper Lewis with a stinging 30 yard shot.

But a sloppy piece of play from Jemel Henry very nearly let in Norwich when his under-hit backpass was intercepted by Jarvis, but his first touch was heavy allowing Bywater to save well at the player's feet.

With an hour gone James Collins had to make a brilliant last-ditch tackle to prevent the marauding Asmat El Ouargui a run on goal.

Seven minutes later El Ouargui went very close to grabbing an equaliser for the visitors, racing clear on the West Ham right and firing across Bywater, but the ball skipped wide of the far post.

On 73 minutes West Ham introduced Ryan Andrews in place of Jemel Henry at right-back.

With both teams using their full quota of subs the game struggled for any rhythm as it entered the final 15 minutes.

Fletcher did force an excellent block out of Lewis with eight minutes left though, exchanging passes with Mikolanda after good work from Stokes and thumping a shot which the Norwich keeper did well to beat away.

The home side retained a tight grip on the game and rarely looked like surrendering their advantage. The young Norwich team did press late on, but Hammers held on to claim the three points with a 1-0 victory at Upton Park.

WHU: Bywater; Henry (Andrews 73), Clarke, Collins, Ward, Fletcher, Noble, Dailly (Cohen 67), Mikolanda, Aliadiere (Stokes 45), Bellion. Subs unused: Reed (GK), White, Ephraim.
Scorer: Mikolanda 21

NORWICH: Lewis; Cave-Brown, Gusterson, Howlett, Spillane, Halliday, Smart (Muddel 73), Martin (Eames 60), El Ouargui, Jarvis (Thrale 76), Eagle. Subs unused: Arnold (GK), Bexfield.