West Ham United reserves 2-1 Derby County reserves
West Ham United reserves made it eight home consecutive games unbeaten at Woodside Park with a solid performance on Wednesday that featured a run-out for Julien Faubert.
As planned before kick-off, Faubert got a valuable 45 minutes under his belt as he recovers from a calf muscle injury although it remains to be seen if he will return to first-team duty this campaign. The France midfielder added strength to a home side missing the rested Jack Collison, although in truth Derby were equally inexperienced and have not won a game at this level all season. Stand-in captain Tony Stokes, from the spot, and Junior Stanislas struck either side of a Paris Simmons stunner to seal the victory in the first half.
Having lost 3-0 to a strong Chelsea team in their last outing, there was a real determination to get back to winning ways at the home of Bishop's Stortford. Stokes led the way, firing in an effort inside the first minute and he was to be a constant menace up front all game. Although more used to a midfield role in recent times, the 21-year-old began his career as a striker and showed a good eye for goal with Stanislas in a supporting role.
Yet Derby could have been in front on three minutes when Simmons picked out centre-back Mark Dudley in front of goal, only for the No5 to inexplicably head over when unmarked. After that, the hosts took control with Faubert showing an excellent range of passing. None of his slide-rule efforts were better than the ball he fed through for Stokes to chase on nine minutes. The skipper burst into the box, only to be hauled down by Dudley. Stokes picked up the ball himself and duly dispatched the spot-kick.
Stokes and Stanislas would have further efforts over the next ten minutes before Aaron Dylan for the visitors had Jimmy Walker - the only other player with first-team experience on view - diving well to his left to save. It was a warning sign for Kevin Keen's men and on 27 minutes the visitors were level when the bright Simmons was given time and space to shoot, and curled the ball beautifully just out of Walker's reach.
After that the visitors failed to maintain their pressure and the likes of Jordan Spence and Tom Harvey helped the home side re-establish their superiority. At the other end, Stanislas went close from a free-kick and underlined why he is perhaps the next of Tony Carr's Academy to be talked about as having first-team potential with a few bright runs. His match-winning goal came seven minutes from the interval but it owed much to Joe Widdowson - recently returned from a loan at Rotherham United.
The pacey left-back surged down his flank before getting to the by-line. Showing good composure under pressure, Widdowson looked up before picking out Stanislas in a central position barely eight yards out. The England U19 international mis-controlled initially but recovered well to blast beyond Ben Hinchliffe. The goal drew a good response from the home crowd which, underlining the camaraderie in the camp, included the likes of Collison and Zavon Hines, on loan at Coventry City.
In truth, the second half was a largely uneventful affair with the referee's whistle producing cards for Derby duo Jack Booth and Greg Mills, while Stokes' all-action display also saw him cautioned for what looked an innocuous challenge. Before that Stokes had a dipping volley from distance, Harvey rattled one in from range and Stanislas twice made Hinchliffe save well in the run up to the hour mark.
Derby attacks were few and far between but Mills had a good go on 69 minutes, just before the away side had the ball in the net only to be penalised for a definite shove on Walker as substitute Tyron Amory's free-kick flew into the area. Faubert's half-time replacement Daniel Kearns could have made it 3-1 with six minutes to play after a delightful team move finished with him playing a one-two and then slotting goalwards. The ball seemed in, until diverting on to the post at the last second. Stokes followed up the rebound but was in an offside position.
Lee Hales also had a fine chance two minutes later after setting himself well for a strike from outside the penalty area before a last-ditch block got in the way. Into added time, Stanislas and Stokes underlined their superior fitness with a bright move as around them others tired. The former found room on the left before whipping in a precise cross that the latter did well to rise and meet but failed to direct on target. It did not matter in the end, as the final whistle soon followed.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa's 2-0 home win against Portsmouth means United will almost certainly not overhaul them at the top of the Barclays Premier Reserve League southern section with just the away trip to come for Kevin Keen's side at Arsenal on 21 April. Leaders Villa remain two points in front and still have three games left. The club have moved up to second though, a point ahead of Reading in third who have two left to play.
West Ham United: Jimmy Walker, Ryan O'Neill (Tony Brookes 81), Jordan Spence, Bondz 'Gala, Joe Widdowson, Julien Faubert (Daniel Kearns 46), Tom Harvey, Lee Hales, Junior Stanislas, Anthony Edgar, Tony Stokes
Subs not used: Ludek Miklosko, Anthony Ashman, Oliver Lee
Derby County: Ben Hinchliffe, Kallum Keane, Jason Beardsley, Jack Booth, Mark Dudley, Jermaine Johnson, Greg Mills (Aaron Cole 80), Luke Garton, Henrik Ojamaa, Paris Simmons (Anthony Robertson 63), Aaron Dylan (Tyron Amory 68)
Subs not used: Jake Kean, Aaron Cole