Young Hammers five unbeaten
West Ham United U18s opened their Group One Play-Off campaign with a 2-2 draw with Fulham at Little Heath on Saturday 27 February.
Cottagers’ midfielder Luca de la Torre put the visitors ahead after 15 minutes, before England youth international striker Jahmal Hector-Ingram headed level twenty minutes later.
The hosts took the lead when Tunji Akinola shinned home captain Noha Sylvestre’s free-kick on 81 minutes, however Fulham stole a share of the points late on through Ryan Sessegnon’s outstanding volley.
U16 midfielder Alfie Lewis started in the middle of the park, while fellow U16 Mason Barrett stepped in at the back.
Further forward, Anthony Scully started, while Tim Brown replaced Rihards Matrevics between the sticks.
On the bench, defender Reece Hammam was hoping to make his first competitive U18 appearance, as was U13 goalkeeper Serine Sanneh.
The game was very competitive, as both teams looked to secure a good start to the play-offs.
Fulham pushed themselves into an early lead after quarter of an hour when full back Sessegnon found a route past Barrett down the wing and cut back to de la Torre, whose shot just managed to beat Brown and Akinola.
The visitors almost found a second goal in similar fashion to their first, although Brown made a strong save.
West Ham tried to bring themselves level on a number of occasions, Scully’s free-kick travelled just wide of the bottom corner and Hector-Ingram was denied by a fantastic last-ditch covering tackle.
West Ham’s equaliser came ten minutes before the break as a pass into Grady Diangana was dummied, allowing the ball to travel into the path of Danny Kemp, who whipped in a cross that was headed home powerfully by Hector-Ingram.
Into the second half and clear-cut chances on goal were limited until the 68th minute when Hector-Ingram was tripped when he was through on goal, Kemp fired his free-kick from 18 yards just over the crossbar.
Six minutes later and Hector-Ingram was at the centre of the action again as he was felled inside the box yet the referee was unmoved.
West Ham’s attacking pressure finally told with nine minutes left when a free-kick from Sylvestre on the left found Akinola in the box, who managed to divert it into the far corner.
Into the third and final minute of stoppage time Cottagers’ left back Sessegnon fired an unstoppable volley into the top corner of the net, giving Brown no chance of saving.
The Hammers next play-off fixture is away to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday 5 March at Rovers’ Brockhall Training Ground.
U18: T Brown, Barrett (Hammam), Akinola, Rice, Eggleton, Lewis, Sylvestre, Kemp, Scully (Kanu), Diangana, Hector-Ingram (Coventry).
Subs not used: Sanneh, Johnson.