U18s end the year with a win

West Ham United U18s got over their disappointing FA Youth Cup exit by beating Leicester City 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Little Heath

After being in control for the opening period, Djair Parfitt-Williams rose highest to head home Kieran Bywater's cross, before a defensive mistake Emmanual Onariase allowed Eddy Samba to equalise.

The Hammers were not to be denied the chance to take their unbeaten Barclays U18 Premier League run to ten games as captain Bywater scored his 14th goal in 16 games to give Steve Potts' men all three points.

Going into Saturday's fixture, Potts made two changes to the team that were defeated at Accrington Stanley in the FA Youth Cup third round, with Ben Marlow, who missed out after picking up an injury earlier in the week in training, and Jamie Harney being replaced by Onariase and Moses Makasi in the starting line-up.

It was West Ham who had the better chances in the early stages, with Bermurda-born Parfitt-Williams cutting in from the left before firing a shot wide of the right-hand post.

Leicester improved as the first half continued, with Matt Miles going close with a shot from 18 yards before the crossbar came to the Hammers' rescue.

Into the second half and the Hammers put pressure on the visiting Foxes. They were rewarded with the opening goal on 67 minutes when Bywater was released down the right wing before floating a cross into the box for Parfitt-Williams to head home.

The Hammers held onto their lead until the closing ten minutes, when a mistake in the defensive ranks allowed Samba to run through unchallenged before slotting the ball past Sam Howes to equalise.

Just five minutes later however, captain Bywater secured the result that the Hammers deserved when he finished well from the edge of the penalty area.

It was an impressive all-round performance from the Hammers in the wind and rain at Little Heath. U18s manager Potts believed that although the early stages were difficult, his side improved as the game went on.

"I'm really pleased with how the team worked through those conditions to get the result," said Potts. "It was fairly hard at the start of the game because Leicester are a very solid team but as we started passing the ball around more and opening up space, we looked threatening.

"We were looking for someone to just come up with that pass or cross that would give up an opportunity to score and it wasn't happening in the first half, but it did in the second half."

When Samba equalised with less than ten minutes to play, Potts admitted that he began to think that the Hammers had thrown away the points, but it showed the character of his team to retake the lead.

"It was an avoidable goal and it left us thinking that, being level at 1-1 when you've been so dominant throughout the match, you've thrown it all away. Fair play to the boys, though, for working hard to get back into the game and getting the winner towards the end."

Saturday's result will help the Hammers to forget about their recent cup defeat at Accrington.

"Results like that are a part of football," said Potts. "You are always going to get unexpected results that shock you. We had to make sure that we dealt with that result in the best way possible and move on to the Leicester game in the right frame of mind.

"It was good for the lads to go out and get a good result before Christmas because they have been excellent in the league over the past few months and even in this game, they were the better team and deserved to win."

Saturday's result keeps Potts' side in the top three of the league and within five points of league leaders Fulham, who have played one game more than the Hammers. West Ham return to action in the New Year with a trip to Southampton on Saturday 11th January for an 11am kick-off.

U18s: Howes, Knoyle, Burke, Onariase, Page, Nasha (Mavila), Makasi, Cullen, Parfitt-Williams, J.Brown, Bywater
Subs not used: Amoo, Martins, Oxford