U18s frozen out of cup

Nottingham Forest 3-1 West Ham United

West Ham United will have to wait at least another year to lift their fourth FA Youth Cup after going down to a 3-1 third round defeat at Nottingham Forest.

Two goals from striker Tim Hopkinson and a long-range special from Kieron Freeman were enough to send the FA Premier Academy League Group D side through on a freezing night at the City Ground.

Left-back Freeman, 16, opened the scoring with an opportunist 30-yard strike on 20 minutes, lashing home the bouncing ball after the visitors had only half-cleared George Thomson's left-wing corner.  18-year-old Hopkinson doubled the hosts' advantage 10 minutes after the break, stooping to nod past Adam Street via the inside of the post.

Substitute Ahmed Abdulla did pull a goal back for the Hammers on 77 minutes with a neat lob, only for Hopkinson to make the tie safe for Forest just two minutes later.

Defeat was harsh on Tony Carr's youngsters, who had dominated the early stages but failed to turn their possession and threat into an all-important opening goal. The Hammers forced no fewer than six corners in the opening 15 minutes, but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was when Christian Montano's snap-shot deflected off Max Wright and kissed the top of the crossbar on its way over.

Central defenders Tony Brookes, with a header, and Matthew Fry, with a rising long-range shot, also tested home goalkeeper Karl Darlow, only for Freeman's strike to take the wind out of the Hammers' sails.

Forest striker Nialle Rodney, a lively presence all evening, twice went close to doubling the home side's advantage before the interval, firing one effort over and a second that Street did well to push aside for a corner. Just before half-time, United had a chance of their own, but Oliver Lee could only head Jordan Brown's left-wing cross on to the roof of Darlow's net.

It was as close as Carr's side would come to forcing an equaliser as, on 55 minutes, Hopkinson doubled Forest's advantage with a stooping header that seemed to take an age to loop past Street. The frustration proved too much for Brown, who was booked for a challenge on Thomson soon afterwards.

Having fallen further behind, Carr replaced Kearns with a third striker in Ahmed Abdulla. The change had the desired effect as the Hammers laid siege to the home goal in the closing half-hour.

Twice, Darlow had to be at his best to turn aside powerful efforts from the impressive Lee - son of former England midfielder Robert- but the goalkeeper could do nothing to stop Abdulla halving the deficit with a neat finish with 13 minutes remaining.

However, the visitors' hopes were short-lived as Hopkinson dashed through the heart of the visitors' rearguard before coolly rolling the ball past Street.

Montano came close to clawing a goal back in stoppage-time, only for Darlow to dive full-length and keep out his goal-bound header.

Academy director Carr will have been pleased by the fact that his players battled to the last, but that will be no consolation after they were knocked out of the competition at the first attempt for the second consecutive season.

West Ham United: Street, Modelski, Brown, Brookes (McNaughton 81), Fry, Kearns (Abdulla 62), Okus (Grasser 71), Lee, Montano, Edgar, Bajner.
Subs not used: Loveday, Hall

Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Fairclough, Freeman, McCashin, Diagne, Thomson, Elliott, Sykes, Rodney, Hopkinson
Subs not used: Mullen, O'Brien, Mishra, Sibson, Watson.