West Ham United reserves 2-0 Fulham reserves
West Ham United reserves maintained their fine run of form with an excellent home victory against Fulham at Bishop's Stortford.
Goals from Freddie Sears and Zavon Hines in the last seven minutes made it three straight wins for Kevin Keen's men and moved them up to second in the Barclays Premier Reserve League South. The club, who also owed a debt to fit-again Bobby Zamora's classy contribution in his second full game inside eight days, are four points behind Aston Villa, although the leaders do have two games in hand.
It was a competitive encounter throughout with the visitors fielding plenty of experienced performers - notably internationals Toni Kallio and Simon Elliott, of Finland and New Zealand, alongside young defender Eilliot Omozusi, US star striker Eddie Johnson and former Hammers centre-back Ian Pearce. West Ham United had a young side out, with goalkeeper Richard Wright and striker Zamora the only senior players on view.
In freezing conditions, West Ham United were the first to show with Junior Stanislas and Tony Stokes firing in efforts on goal in four minutes. It was to be a night of long-range shooting with Wright and Ricardo Baptista in the Fulham goal largely equal to everything that came their way. The next opportunities saw home forward Jack Jeffery and then visting defender Nathan Ashton both clear the crossbar when well placed.
Johnson was offering plenty of good movement for Fulham, as would be expected of a 23-year-old with 31 caps for the United States while Sears showed frequent bursts of electric pace and good crossing ability from his first-half role on the right wing. Fulham thought they had scored in the 21st minute when Michael Timlin curled a free-kick up and over the wall but Wright produced a superb one-handed save.
Timlin was soon to go into the book for a late challenge, and was followed by Ismael Ehui as Fulham underlined their determination to leapfrog West Ham United in the table, having began the day one point and one place behind. Ehui's 41st-minute caution came just moments after he had seen a header crash against the post - it was the closest either side had come to a first-half goal. Stanislas also had a good effort saved by Baptista just before the break, thanks to clever play from Zamora.
Encouragingly, the No9 grew in stature after the break - as he did in scoring a second-half hat-trick in last week's 4-1 reserves win against Birmingham City. On 50 minutes, he showed fantastic ability to trap a ball travelling out of the sky at speed before two minutes later, he beat substitute keeper Neil Etheridge to the ball only to see his goalbound header cleared off the line. Reserve-team regulars Tomkins and captain Jack Collison also began to dominate with some crunching challenges.
Keen made a change on the hour bringing on Hines for Jeffery and it was to pay dividends. The young replacement showed great attacking verve and in turn his arrival allowed Sears to assume his more natural position through the middle - alongside Zamora. Soon afterwards, Johnson made way for Fulham - taking with it their best attacking threat as West Ham United went close through Zamora, after he was picked out by Hines' precise pass.
Either side of that attempt, Fulham's Ashton and Tomkins both went into the referee's notebook with both sides showing full commitment - although largely the tackles were firm but fair. Against the run of play, Kallio thought he had opened the scoring in the 79th minute only for Tomkins to fling himself in the way. Two minutes later, Sears was set free superbly by Zamora and the young striker - who has 20 goals in 16 Under-18 games this campaign - raced away from Ian Pearce, only to be brought down in the box.
There was no doubt in Sears' mind that he would take the kick and he sent Etheridge the wrong way with a composed finish. Fulham tried to fight back with a period of sustained pressure but the hosts' rearguard stood firm and Hines always looked dangerous at the other end. Sears then set up Ashley Miller, only for the left-back to fire over and then also clear the bar with another speculative shot. No matter, in added time, Hines showed great persistence to force an initial chance and then slotted into the net after a mix-up in the Fulham defence. It sealed an excellent night's work all round.
West Ham United: Richard Wright, Jordan Spence, James Tomkins, Bondz 'Gala, Ashley Miller, Junior Stanislas, Tony Stokes, Jack Collison, Jack Jeffery (Zavon Hines 59), Bobby Zamora, Freddie Sears
Subs not used: Adam Street, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Tom Harvey, Ryan O'Neill, Anthony Edgar
Fulham: Ricardo Baptista (Neil Etheridge 46), Elliot Omozusi, Nathan Ashton, Ian Pearce, Toni Kallio, Simon Elliott, Wayne Brown, Michael Timlin, Joe Anderson, Eddie Johnson (Lewis Smith 64), Ismael Ehui
Subs not used: Lewis Cumber, Ashley Thompson