Holland returns as young Hammers edged out by Chelsea
West Ham United were edged out 1-0 by Chelsea in a competitive Premier League 2 Division 1 fixture at Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday.
Terry Westley’s side fashioned more than enough opportunities to beat the Blues, only to be beaten by a solitary first-half strike from Scotland U19 international winger Harvey St Clair.
While defeat is never welcome, Westley will have been encouraged by the performance of his team, and in particular with the return of Nathan Holland (pictured, above) after four months out with a hamstring injury.
With Holland lively down the left wing, the Hammers created at least a dozen decent chances in the opening 45 minutes, but could not find a way past the Blues’ Polish goalkeeper Marcin Bulka.
With captain Marcus Browne also in influential form in the No10 position, West Ham repeatedly passed and dribbled their way through the Chelsea rearguard, only to find Bulka and his defenders in the way when it mattered most.
It was centre-back Josh Pask who went close first, seeing his deflected 25-yard shot pushed aside by Bulka, but by that time Chelsea had taken the lead.
Nathan Trott had already made two superb saves, diving full-length to tip Joseph Colley’s curler onto the crossbar before doing likewise to divert St Clair’s low shot around the post.
However, it was from the England U19 goalkeeper’s short clearance that the visitors went ahead on 19 minutes, as Kyle Scott intercepted and played in St Clair, who cut inside and slammed a right-foot shot low past Trott’s right hand.
Having gone behind, West Ham took control, with Pask’s shot being followed by a succession of near-misses.
The returning Nathan Holland saw a powerful strike blocked, Grady Diangana and Oladapo Afolayan both fired wide, before Browne’s fine run set up Diangana, whose deflected shot was well held by the busy Bulka.
The impressive Diangana was involved twice more before half-time, seeing a shot blocked by Chelsea captain Ruben Sammut, before teeing up Afolayan, whose powerful effort was clawed away from the top corner.
While there were far fewer chances to score at both ends in the second half, each team hit the woodwork in what was a generally even 45 minutes.
After the willing Browne had twice fired high and wide from range, Chelsea substitute Reece James got in behind the West Ham defence. His shot was parried by Trott and diverted onto the underside of the crossbar by Tunji Akinola before the goalkeeper recovered to punch clear.
Then, Hammers replacement Jahmal Hector-Ingram latched onto a Diangana pass at the end of a flowing move involving Akinola and Ben Johnson, only to fire his shot across Bulka and against the base of the far post.
West Ham continued to press in the closing stages, with Browne volleying into the side-netting. Akinola seeing a close-range header deflected over and Diangana driving wide from 25 yards, but it was Chelsea who took the spoils from a keenly-contested London derby.
West Ham United: Trott, Johnson, Neufville, Coventry, Pask, Akinola, Diangana, Quina (Powell 86), Afolayan (Hector-Ingram 55), Browne ©, Holland (Haksabanovic 59)
Subs not used: Matrevics (GK), Alese
Chelsea: Bulka, Sterling (James 62), Colley, Nartey, Dasilva, Sammut ©, McCormick, Colkett, Taylor Crossdale, Scott (Maddox 86), St Clair (Grant 62)
Subs not used: Cumming (GK), Castillo
Referee: Christopher O’Connell