Diangana treble counts for nothing

Grady Diangana's hat-trick was not enough as West Ham United lost 4-3 to Norwich City in the Barclays U18 Premier League South
West Ham United suffered Barclays U18 Premier League South heartbreak as Norwich City grabbed a last-minute 4-3 at Little Heath.

The visitors took the lead through George Couzens’ free-kick, before West Ham midfielder Grady Diangana levelled with a fantastic effort from distance.

Before the break, Benny Ashley-Seal and Bilal Kamal fired the Canaries into a two-goal lead, but Diangana scored twice more either side of half-time as the Academy levelled late on.

However, Hammers winger Joe Powell gave away a free-kick deep in the home half, allowing Ashley-Seal to head home a last-gasp winner, before the scorer was shown a straight red card during his celebrations.

After last week’s impressive 2-0 win at Leicester, the Academy made three changes to their starting XI. U16 defender Ben Wells made his first U18 start, replacing U15 star Ajibola Alese, while schoolboy midfielder Alfie Lewis and new signing Dan Kemp replaced Idris Kanu and captain Noha Sylvestre in midfield.

Straight from kick-off, Powell slipped and allowed Norwich to open the game with an attacking move, but Ashley-Seal fired wide of the target from an acute angle.

After just eight minutes, the visitors got themselves in front after a defensive mix-up in the West Ham defence. Wells gave away possession on the edge of the box and bought down Ashley-Seal, allowing Couzens to step up and curl his free-kick past Hammers goalkeeper Tim Brown.

It did not take the hosts long to pull themselves level, though, as Diangana picked up the ball inside the Norwich half, shaped his body and bent a low shot inside the far corner.

Just minutes later, another defensive error from West Ham gave Ashley-Seal plenty of time and space inside the penalty area to fire low past Brown.

West Ham tried to get back into the game as quickly as they did after the Canaries first goal, but neither Powell nor Kemp could beat Norwich goalkeeper Aston Oxborough.

Norwich extended their lead shortly after the half-hour mark when a corner caught the wind and travelled all the way through to Kamal on the edge of the penalty area. He got his head over the ball and fired an unstoppable shot through a crowd and into the far corner of the net.

After the break and West Ham were a completely different team to the one that went in at half-time two goals behind.

On 51 minutes, former Chelsea winger Kemp cleverly found Diangana inside the penalty area and he cut back onto his left foot and buried the ball under Oxborough.

Despite losing Wells to injury, West Ham continued to push and defender Tunji Akinola thought he had scored his third goal in three games when he headed home from a Powell corner with just six minutes left, but the referee had deemed that Diangana had fouled goalkeeper Oxborough in the build-up.

The Hammers raised the pressure again and after Oxborough kept Norwich ahead with an outstanding reaction save, he was powerless to deny Diangana from close range as the Hammers attacker completed a sensational hat-trick.

It was a deserved equaliser based on the home side’s second half performance but Norwich had one last attack up their sleeve and it resulted in the winning goal from Ashley-Seal.

It was also the former Arsenal striker’s final contribution as he was shown a bizarre straight red card during his goal celebration.

The Hammers will be hoping to have a change of fortunes when they host Arsenal at Little Heath on Saturday 28 November 2015, with kick-off scheduled for 11am.

U18s: Brown, Eggleton, Akinola, Wells (Alese), Neufville, Lewis, Carter (c), Diangana, Powell, Kemp, Hector-Ingram
Subs not used: Matrevics (GK), Longelo, Coventry, Diallo