Reserves lose out against Villa

It was an unfortunate score-line for the Hammers reserves as they lost 2-0 to Aston Villa at the Bescot Stadium, but it meant 90 minutes of competitive, fast-paced football for several senior players.

James Collins played his first full game in over two months, while Luis Boa Morte returned from the illness that had ruled him out of first-team action for the last two games and they took on a Villa side also brimming with senior talent.

Hammers created plenty of chances but were beaten by two clinical finishes. Young striker Freddie Sears curled in an effort from the edge of the box in the seventh minute but it crept past the post.

Hammers regained possession and Kepa Blanco played the ball out wide to Shaun Newton but Liam Ridgewell stuck his foot in and played the ball forward. Zoltan Stieber angled in excellent cross and Aaron Hughes headed over Jimmy Walker to put Villa in the lead after 9 minutes.

Hammers pushed forward in response as Kepa laid the ball off to Jonathan Spector, who was darting up the left wing. Spector played in Boa Morte but his fierce drive flew wide of the target.

In the 20th minute, Villa midfielder Steven Davis saw his low drive edge wide after neat link-up play between Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore.

Three minutes later Boa Morte swung in a corner from the left but James Collins' header sailed over the bar.

Hammers continued to press forward as Boa Morte played the ball inside to Kepa, who threaded it through to Sears but Ridgewell was again on hand to clear and concede a corner. Boa Morte delivered another dangerous ball into the box, but Kepa's header appeared to ricochet off the hand of Collins and the referee awarded a free-kick to the home side.

In the 35th minute Craig Gardner slid in late on Walker and was booked, despite the Hammers' keeper's sporting insistence that the caution was unnecessary.

Two minutes later Gardner was fortunate to escape a second booking after a far more dangerous-looking lunge at Lee Hales and Villa took their 1-0 lead into half-time.

On the hour mark Hammers were on the end of an unfortunate piece of officiating when Sears was clean through with only the keeper to beat, but the referee pulled play back to inside the centre circle to award a free-kick for a foul on Boa Morte.

Steve Brown brought Junior Stanislas on for Shaun Newton and moments later Villa had a shout for a penalty as James Tomkins appeared to upend Moore in the box.

Brown made another substitution, bringing Jack Jeffery on for Sears, and minutes later Ridgewell misheaded the ball into the path of Boa Morte but his snap shot scraped wide.

Villa doubled their lead through Moore in the 71st minute as the young forward found space in the box and fired the ball beyond Walker's reach.

Kepa tested Taylor minutes later after latching onto a pass from Boa Morte, but the Villa keeper produced a good diving save.

Hammers pushed forward in search of a goal and Taylor produced another excellent save to keep out Boa Morte's low drive in the 84th minute.

Collins again showed his ability in the air from Jeffery's corner as the match drew to a close, but his header missed the target by a whisker.

Reserve coach Steve Brown said: "I can't complain, I thought the performance was half-decent. I thought we were lively and passed the ball around well. They got an early goal, which always changes the game a bit. We created a lot of chances tonight but we didn't find the back of the net.

"Kepa's had a chance, Sears has had a decent shot, we've had Boa Morte through twice - so it's not like we've come here, lost 2-0 and not created anything. We have and we've played decent football.

"We've created a fair few chances and the seven or eight seniors that have played have all got ninety minutes under their belt, apart from Shaun Newton - he's come off with a bit of a dead leg - but for the rest it was a good exercise for them."

Aston Villa: Stuart Taylor, Aaron Hughes, Jlloyd Samuel, Isaiah Osbourne, Liam Ridgewell, Stephen O'Halloran, Craig Gardner, Steven Davis (Substitute: Christopher Herd, 87mins), Juan Pablo Angel (Substitute: Adam McGurk 75mins), Luke Moore (Substitute: Yago Bellon, 79mins), Zoltan Stieber
Subs not used: Robert Olejnik, Shane Lowry.

West Ham United: Jimmy Walker, John Pantsil, Jonathan Spector, Hayden Mullins, James Tomkins, James Collins, Shaun Newton (Substitute: Junior Stanislas, 61 mins), Lee Hales (Substitute: Tom Harvey, 81 mins), Kepa Blanco, Freddie Sears (Substitute: Jack Jeffrey, 66mins), Luis Boa Morte.
Subs not used: David Blackmore, Joe Widdowson.