Youngsters suffer FA Youth Cup defeat

West Ham United's FA Youth Cup campaign sadly ended at the first hurdle on Wednesday evening, as Charlton Athletic secured a 1-0 victory in extra-time to progress to the fourth round of the competition.

A goal from substitute Dane Springer in the 99th minute was all that separated the two sides in a closely-fought encounter at Upton Park that saw Tony Carr's under-18s end up on the losing side for only the third time this season

In a lively encounter at the Boleyn Ground, Hammers made the brighter start against their London rivals, and came close to opening the scoring no less than three times in the first 10 minutes.

First midfielder Jack Collison was presented with a free header at a corner, only to divert his effort wide of the target, then Jack Jeffery saw a close range volley deflected over the bar by the boot of a defender, before Freddie Sears fired just past the post from a narrow angle.

Having weathered the early storm, Charlton began to exert some influence on the game, but Hammers were well marshalled in defence by central defenders Jordan Spence and Bondz Ngala, and goalkeeper David Blackmore only had to deal with one long-range effort that was comfortably palmed wide.

On the half-hour mark, the impressive Junior Stanislas came within a whisker of giving Hammers the lead, when he curled a free-kick towards the top corner from 20 yards out, only for goalkeeper Mads Nielsen to superbly tip the ball over the bar.

Six minutes later, Stanislas showed his talent again, jinking his way past the full-back and racing into the penalty area before cutting an inviting pass back for Hales, whose low shot beat Nielsen but was cleared off the line by a defender. The ball was then immediately sent back into the danger area, but Jeffery headed wide of the target from six yards out.

Hammers may have been on top as the two sides went in at the break, but it was Charlton who created the first chance of the second half - a cross from the right finding Simmonds, who crashed a blistering volley against the bar.

The hosts soon regained their impetus, though, and Stanislas created another opening on 59 minutes, sending a searching cross to the far post, where Collison chested down and neatly turned inside, but then sliced his volley wide.

Moments later, Charlton made a double substitution, bringing on Springer and Harry Arter in place of Wagstaff and Kurrant, and 10 minutes later Tony Carr responded with a change of his own, replacing Lorcan Fizgerald with striker Ben Hunt in a move that saw Stanislas switch flanks to the left and Sears drop back on the right.

As both sides pushed men forward in search of a late winner, Blackmore had to be alert to tip away a looping header from Simmonds with just nine minutes remaining, while Hammers finished strongly and thought they had found the breakthrough in the 85th minute, when O'Neill clipped the ball back for Sears, whose fierce volley from 12 yards out was goalbound until Staunton somehow got his body in the way to block the effort and force extra-time.

Again, Hammers made the better start and looked sharper and fresher than their opponents, as Stanislas and then Hunt both sent efforts just wide of the target. However, nine minutes into the first period, the visitors struck the winner out of the blue. After Hammers had failed to clear their lines, the ball dropped on the edge of the box to Springer, who unleashed a left-foot rocket that gave Blackmore no chance as it flew into the top corner.

Three minutes into the second period of extra-time, the hosts almost produced an equaliser, when a corner dropped at the feet of Collison, but the Hammers skipper fired his shot just inches wide of the target.

That proved to be the final chance of the night for Carr's unfortunate youngsters, who were left to rue their missed opportunities in front of goal and will now look to pick up where they left off in the FA Premier Youth Academy, pushing Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of their group.

Hammers: Blackmore; O'Neill, Spence, Ngala, Widdowson; Stanislas, Hales, Collison, Fitzgerald (Hunt 71); Jeffery (Harvey 105), Sears (Miller 106). Subs unused: Stech, Bowes.

Charlton: Nielsen; Baxter, Staunton, Thomas, Basey; Harkin, Wright, Kurrant (Arter 59), Yussuff; Simmonds, Wagstaff (Springer 59). Subs unused: Woolley, Saunders, Uchechi.