Dev Squad overcome Bolton

The Development Squad avenged their only defeat of the season by winning 1-0 at Bolton Wanderers 1-0 to maintain their place at the top of Barclays U21 Premier League Group 1.

With second-place Arsenal winning 2-1 at Everton earlier on Monday to draw level on points with the Hammers, Ian Hendon's side knew they needed to respond at the Lancashire FA County Ground in Leyland. Bolton had beaten West Ham 3-1 at the Boleyn Ground on 1 September, giving the visitors an added incentive to chalk up their sixth victory in eight league matches.

Fresh from his first-team appearance against Southampton on Saturday, Jordan Spence (pictured) scored the only goal of the encounter after 58 minutes, stooping low to convert Rob Hall's superb free kick.

The game began at a fractious pace, with both teams creating chances in the opening ten minutes. The Hammers were first to test their opponents when Frederic Piquionne latched onto Hall's through ball and left two Trotters defenders trailing in his wake before shooting just wide.

Just a minute later, the home side fired a warning shot of their own but Matthias Fanimo was in the right place, not for the final time in the game, to head the ball off the line.

After 14 minutes the Hammers went close again when Hall chested down goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel's long ball and lobbed Bolton stopper Rob Lainton, but the ball dropped just wide.

However, after an action-packed opening, the first half became an increasingly tense affair as both sides failed to maintain their early rhythm. The second-half could not have been more different, though, as both sides again came out brightly.

On 47 minutes Piquionne charged into the Bolton penalty area and exchanged passes Blair Turgott, but the Frenchman was unable to convert the opportunity. Eleven minutes later the Hammers' persistence paid off when Dan Potts won a free kick on the left touchline. Hall stepped up and delivered a perfect cross that dropped just in time for Spence to adjust and head the ball past Lainton.

Five minutes later the Trotters came close to levelling the scores when Sebastian Lletget's rash challenge on Marcos Alonso allowed the Spaniard to try his luck from a set piece. Alonso curled a superb effort against the post with Spiegel beaten and the Hammers escaped with their lead intact. Then, with 20 minutes remaining, Fanimo again cleared the ball off the line to deny Zat Knight an equaliser.

These close calls seemed to inject a new lease of life into Hendon's side and Hall almost made sure of the result, only to see his solo effort cannon back off the crossbar.

With just moments remaining Fanimo was again called into action as he cleared the ball off the line for the third time to ensure yet another three points for the Development Squad.

Next up for the table-toppers is a home fixture against Everton, who they beat 5-1 at Finch Farm in August, at Rush Green on Friday evening. Kick-off is at 7pm, with admission £3 for Adults, £1 for Under-16s and free for Season Ticket Holders.

Development Squad: Spiegel, Driver, Potts, Moncur, Wearen, Spence, Turgott, Lletget, Piquionne, Fanimo, Hall (Ruddock 85)
Subs not used: Larkins, Shaw, Powell, E,Lee

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