West Ham United U18s forward Jayden Fevrier hailed the spirit shown by his side as they overcame Luton Town U18s in an epic FA Youth Cup third-round tie at Kenilworth Road.
The young Hammers went into the game as favourites and dominated the early spells accordingly, with a Kamarai Swyer header and a superb Fevrier free-kick putting them 2-0 up inside the opening stages.
The Hatters, to their credit, fought back well to level at 2-2 before half-time, but despite creating plenty of chances, West Ham could not quite find that all-important third goal in the in the second half, taking two committed teams to 30 minutes of extra-time.
Fevrier once again came racing out of the blocks, restoring West Ham’s lead with a well-taken goal two minutes after the restart, but Luton pulled out an equaliser midway through extra-time to take the tie to penalties.
Having made a superb save in the last minute of open play, the young Hammers’ keeper Krisztian Hegyi provided heroics with two saves in the penalty shoot-out to see his side through to the fourth round.
After overcoming such a gruelling test of their character and determination in Bedfordshire, two-goal Fevrier was pleased with the battling qualities the Hammers displayed in grinding out the result that matters in Cup football: progression.
He told whufc.com: “We made it harder than we should have done but it was good to come out with the result in the end. I thought the boys were excellent today.
“We controlled the game at the start, but just slipped up and it let them back into the game. It was the same again in extra-time, but we ground it out and took good penalties, and there were good saves by our ‘keeper to keep us in the game and then win it.
“We were playing good football, it’s just about working a bit more on killing the game off early. It’s something for us to work on.
“It’s always part of football. Not every game will go like you want it go you – you’re always going to have setbacks. Teams most of the time will have a chance to score, so we probably handled Luton’s fightback alright. We could have done better – but we came out on top in the end.”
Fevrier’s first was a picture-book free-kick – a superb curling effort from 25-yards which rippled the netting in the top corner – while his second was an emphatic rising drive inside the penalty area after his clever movement had made space for the shot.
As for his penalty, the 17-year-old – who became West Ham’s youngest-ever development squad player just two years ago – was similarly accurate in finding the bottom corner.
“I was practising in training yesterday going keeper’s side,” Fevrier revealed.
“I thought, ‘you know what? Let me just hit it.’ We had a free-kick routine to do but it wasn’t really on, so I felt confident to take it and just put it there – it was a great feeling.
“I thought my second goal was a good finish. I thought I had to be composed to take it, and that’s how you have to be if you want to be a top player.
“Taking a penalty is always nerve-wracking but I feel like you have to be confident in yourself. I was confident, took the first one, and felt I was going to score. As long as you pick your spot and take your time, you should be fine.”
As for the result, West Ham can now celebrate reaching the FA Youth Cup fourth round for the first time since the 2012/13 season.
Leading up to it, we knew we had the players to win it, and it was just about delivering on the night, which we did
The young Hammers have been hugely unfortunate in the third round in recent seasons – falling on penalties in three of the last four campaigns – but having reversed that luck with a display of endeavour and graft at Kenilworth Road, they can now look forward to the prospect of a fourth-round tie in January 2021.
“We were talking about it before the game and one of the players was talking about breaking this ‘curse’, as we call it,” Fevrier said.
“Leading up to it, we knew we had the players to win it, and it was just about delivering on the night, which we did. I feel like the all the past West Ham players, coaches and fans will be happy with what we achieved tonight.
“With the team that we have, and even players who weren’t here today, we feel like we have the squad to win it. I feel like we can. Every game is an obstacle to get past, and will be a challenge, but our ultimate goal is to win the competition.”