U18s return to winning ways

West Ham United ended a run of four straight Barclays U18 Premier League defeats by coming from behind to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at Little Heath on Wednesday.

Despite this fixture being heavily one-sided in the Hammers favour throughout, West Brom took the lead after just ten minutes when Philip Gannon's free-kick went straight through the wall and into the corner of Tim Brown's goal. However, West Ham recovered and dominated throughout, grabbing an equaliser through the returning Ben Marlow on 51 minutes, before Marcio Martins buried the winner just after the hour mark.

Victory took West Ham back within three points of leaders Tottenham Hotspur at the top of Barclays U18 Premier League South, although Spurs have two games in hand and a superior goal difference.

U18s assistant manager Mark Phillips felt the Hammers deserved to take all three points against West Brom.

"I think we deserved to win, whereas we've played games this season that we've won when we haven't deserved it," said Phillips. "There were stages when I thought we weren't going to get the result, but we created a lot of chances and kept going.

"I thought that the midfield were brilliant. Even when we lost possession in the middle, everyone worked hard to win in back quickly. The defence were tight and the attack had so many chances in the final third, but struggled with the important part of putting the ball in the back of the net, which we will have to work on."

U18s manager Steve Potts again made do without a number of Academy players who are part of the Development Squad team travelling up to Sunderland for Thursday's Barclays U21 Premier League fixture.

With skipper and leading scorer Kieran Bywater among those promoted, central midfielder Amos Nasha captained the team, where he was joined by Marlow, who returned to action after being out injured for three months.

The match actually started on a positive note for the Hammers, with an attacking move that ended with the Baggies' Shaun Donnellan head against his own crossbar. West Brom fought back strongly, though, and went ahead after ten minutes when Gannon's free-kick found a hole in the West Ham wall and flew past the grasp of Brown and into the net.

After that, West Ham learnt from their mistakes and worked hard to find an equaliser, although Marlow, Martins and Djair Parfitt-Williams all rushed good chances to level the scores.

Just before the half-time break, the Hammers had a glorious chance handed to them on a plate, but defender Manny Onariase mistimed his free header from six yards out.

Marcio Martins

Marcio Martins celebrates scoring the Hammers' winning goal

As the Hammers came out for the second half, it was clear that some half-time words of encouragement from Potts had given them some belief after a disappointing run of four straight defeats and falling behind early to West Brom.

West Ham continued to push and dominate and were rewarded for their persistence when Marlow received the ball in the penalty box before finishing coolly into the net.

The hosts were not going to settle for the draw and immediately set about turning the game on its head by grabbing a second. Left-back Kyle Knoyle's long run and shot was cleared by goalkeeper Alex Palmer, before the post came to West Brom's aid to keep out Parfitt-Williams' left wing free-kick.

After 66 minutes, West Brom were unable to withstand the pressure any longer as Martins received the ball and finished well into the corner to put West Ham ahead.

With the Hammers now ahead, the hosts decided to continue their positive attacking play and tried to net a third goal, although on three occasions Portuguese striker Martins failed to beat Palmer.

The win keeps the Hammers within touching distance of the Play-Offs, with the top two teams in the North and South divisions qualifying, although they will have to hope that third-place Fulham slip up if they are to make it into the semi-finals.

U18s: Brown, Pike, Knoyle, Onariase, Pask (Borg), Amoo, Marlow, Nasha, Diangana (Bailey), Martins, Parfitt-Williams
Subs not used: Guzman, Sheriff