A strong second-half display by a "top-quality" Arsenal saw Tony Carr's side go down to a 6-1 defeat at Little Heath today.
It was the youth team's second reverse in a week against London rivals, having previously gone six matches unbeaten and scored 26 goals in that run before last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Charlton Athletic. "We were outplayed by a very good side," said Carr. "We were beaten by a top-quality side but are very disappointed in our own performance of course. They have been set a very high standard today."
Despite the home side being on top at the time, Arsenal opened the scoring against the run of play in the first half. The young Hammers then got the chance to draw level when Zavon Hines was fouled in the penalty area. Junior Stanislas - who like Hines and Jack Jeffrey has recently made his mark at reserve-team level - converted the spot-kick and, with half-time fast approaching, it seemed likely to be all-square at the break.
However, the home side conceded a free-kick just two minutes later and the resulting ball in from the left saw Arsenal convert from close range and take the interval initiative. Despite that setback, West Ham United nearly drew level after the restart when Oliver Lee's header from Anthony Edgar's cross forced the visiting goalkeeper to make a fine save. Buoyed by that, Arsenal moved up a gear and soon doubled their advantage.
A "purple patch" of possession then saw them add another couple of goals before Carr's side showed their fighting spirit with two good chances that led to Ben Hunt and Josh Payne both hitting the post. Arsenal had the last word though and added a sixth. Despite naturally wanting to win every game played, Carr still had reasons for optimism.
He said: "We must never lose sight of the fact our league is about the development of the individual player. It is not about winning the league or winning the cup. We still feel we have got players in our team that can go on to be good professional players in the future.
"Today is part of the learning curve. Results like this we have to take on the chin and move on now to the next game but as long as players are developing we are doing the job." The U18s return to action a week today when they go to Norwich City.
West Ham United: Stech, Miller, Blackwell, 'Gala, Spence, Harvey (Payne 70), Stanislas, Lee, Hunt, Hines (Jeffrey 78), Edgar (Fry 75).