- The young Hammers were in action against Reading in their opening league fixture
- A 2-0 victory was recorded with goals from Tunji Akinola and Alfie Lewis
- Boss Mark Phillips said his side improved after a poor first half
West Ham United opened their Barclays U18 Premier League South campaign with an entertaining 2-0 victory at Reading on Saturday.
The hosts came out strong in the first half but were unable to convert any of the succession of chances they created in the opening 45 minutes.
After the break, West Ham rallied and pushed themselves ahead when captain Tunji Akinola found space at the far post to head home from Anthony Scully’s cross.
Shortly after, Scully was again involved as the visitors doubled their lead, setting up midfielder Alfie Lewis, who swept home whilst laying on the floor in the penalty box.
U18s coach Mark Phillips admitted it had been a game of two halves, but insisted the right team had won come the final whistle.
“I’m pleased with the second half, but I wasn’t pleased with the opening 45 minutes,” admitted Phillips. “Our general passing of the ball and shape throughout the first half wasn’t good enough and we totally got it all wrong.
“We worked on it during training on Friday, making sure that our shape was right and how the midfield three would rotate out of possession, but from a defensive point of view, we got it all wrong in the first half.
“I have to say fair play to Reading though because they took advantage of our play and were finding routes through our defensive whilst creating opportunities.
“However, we rectified all of that at the break and I believe that we ran out deserved winners by the end. We were getting more of the ball and dominating territorially, whilst creating quite a few chances, some of which we missed that probably should’ve been taken.”
Reading, who defeated West Ham 3-0 in the same fixture last season, looked set to repeat that feat early on, with their sharp passing and quick movement causing all kinds of trouble for the visitors.
The visitors were chasing from the kick-off and really should have been 1-0 down on 23 minutes when a defensive slip-up allowed a number of home players to crowd the West Ham penalty area, although Rihad Matrevics made fabulous save to keep the ball out of the net.
West Ham tried to battle back and had their own efforts on target through Scully and Kristjian Belic, but neither were enough to cause any real panic.
After the break, the Hammers opened the scoring. After a Scully corner was cleared straight back to his feet, the young Irishman used his skills to open up some space before whipping a cross towards the far post, where Akinola finished with a precise header.
That goal shocked the hosts, and they were stunned again when the Hammers doubled their lead five minutes later.
The ball was worked out to Jahmal Hector-Ingram on the right of the penalty box, who clipped a cross to Scully at perfect head height. However, rather than go for goal himself, Scully knocked the ball down to Lewis, who though falling as his first shot was blocked, turned in from the floor at the second time of asking.
Reading had little to offer in front of goal during the second half and the Hammers secured an opening-day victory and three welcome points to kick-off their 2016/17 campaign.
Next up for Potts’ Academy side comes the visit of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Little Heath on Saturday 21 August, with kick-off at 11am.
U18s: Matrevics, Johnson, Akinola, Wells, Hannam (Henry), Belic, Lewis, Scully, Powell, Hector-Ingram (Constantinou), Longelo (Hamilton)
Subs not used: Hudson, Miller