Young Hammers' stirring comeback falls just short
West Ham United’s scholars came close to pulling off a remarkable comeback before being edged out 5-3 by Tottenham Hotspur in U18 Premier League South.
The Hammers went in four goals down at half-time, raising fears of a repeat of the 9-0 thrashing the U18s took in the reverse fixture back in September, only for a stirring second half performance to see them close within a single goal with 21 minutes remaining.
A late strike secured all three points for the unbeaten hosts at the Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre in Chigwell, but lead U18s coach Mark Phillips was proud of the way his players responded in the second 45 minutes.
“We had a right go second half, having played pretty poorly in the first,” said Phillips. “I must admit I thought ‘here we go again when they went 4-0 up, but I’m really proud of the boys’ reaction.
“We got back in the game and actually had a fair shout for a penalty at 4-3 but ultimately we ran out of steam in the closing stages and they got a fifth goal late on.
“Tactically, we were out-manoeuvred in the first half, but we made a couple of changes and altered the system at half-time, went to three at the back and it worked.
“We got two goals in the first few minutes after the break and that saw our confidence levels rise, with Jake Giddings and Louie Watson in midfield really getting control of the game for us, but ultimately we just couldn’t quite get ourselves level.”
We gave a really good account of ourselves and could have got something from the game on another day
Tottenham first-team manager Mauricio Pochettino’s son Maurizio put Spurs in front early on, before Rayan Clarke doubled the lead and two goals from Kion Ete made it 4-0 within 35 minutes.
Phillips introduced Josh Wilson-Esbrand and Harrison Ashby at half-time and changed the Irons’ formation, with immediate results.
Emmanuel Longelo teed up Bernardo Rosa (pictured) to net his eighth U18 Premier League goal of the season before Amadou Diallo fired home to make if 4-2 on 52 minutes.
When substitute Sebastian Nebyla scored West Ham’s third on 69 minutes, there were real hopes of securing at least a point, only for Tarrelle Whittaker to dash them by scoring Spurs’ fifth six minutes from full-time.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, we were poor in the first half, but we were really good in the second against a very good Spurs side,” Phillips continued.
“Tottenham are unbeaten in the league this season and are challenging for the title, but we gave a really good account of ourselves and could have got something from the game on another day.”
The young Hammers will seek to return to winning ways when they welcome Arsenal to Little Heath on Saturday 16 March at 11am.
West Ham United U18s: Sanneh, Stroud (Wilson-Esbrand 46), Hannam (Ashby 46), Appiah-Forson, Okotcha ©, Baptiste, Rosa, Giddings, Longelo, Watson, Diallo (Nebyla 68)
Subs not used: Roach (GK), Parkes