Late Harrison Ashby strike extends U18s' unbeaten run to ten games
A stoppage-time winner from Harrison Ashby ensured West Ham United U18s made it ten league games unbeaten with a 3-2 victory over Leicester City U18s on Saturday afternoon.
Kevin Keen’s side went ahead in both halves, but the visitors managed to level twice and thought they had salvaged a point when Shane Flynn capitalised on a defensive error in the 90th minute.
With mere seconds remaining however, a fine individual run from Ashby saw him break into the box, and the Scotland U19 International made no mistake in finding the bottom corner to seal all three points.
The win sees the young Hammers remain just three points behind league leaders Fulham in U18 Premier League South - setting up a top-of-the-table clash with the Cottagers at Little Heath next Saturday.
We’re absolutely delighted to be so many unbeaten. There have been games when we’ve been much better than today, but we’re so pleased with boy’s application and to cap that off with a victory is very satisfying
West Ham U18s were in the ascendancy from the off in east London and went deservedly in front in the 17th minute through Kai Corbett.
A well-worked team move saw Iyiola Adebayo feed Will Greenidge down the left-hand side, the defender then shrugging off his marker and firing the ball across the box for Corbett to finish from close range for the attacker's fifth of the season.
After going a goal, behind the visitors enjoyed much more of the possession and were level just before the break. Foxes midfielder Liam Loughlin took aim from the edge of the box and his low effort found the bottom right corner beyond an outstretched Krisztian Hegyi to equalise.
The Irons took the lead for a second time on the hour mark through a towering Harrison Ashby header. The defender rose highest to connect with an in-swinging Jayden Fevrier corner for his first goal of the season, and the junior Hammers' second of the afternoon.
Leicester continued to apply pressure as the game headed into the latter stages and took advantage of a miscommunication at the back to restore parity once more.
A chipped ball forward found Foxes substitute Terel Pennant one-on-one with Hegyi, and the winger's looped effort over the Hungarian stopper fell between both the West Ham centre backs. Shane Flynn reacted quickest for the away side to poke the ball into the empty net, leaving a share of the spoils looking seemingly inevitable.
Not to be deterred, Ashby seized possession from the resulting restart and powered into the Leicester box. The full-back rode one Leicester challenge and angled a low drive into the bottom-left corner to seal victory, complete with a warm embrace from his teammates.
Following the final whistle, Assistant Coach Mark Phillips was pleased to see the U18s' unbeaten run continue.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be so many unbeaten. There have been games when we’ve been much better than today, but we’re so pleased with boy’s application and to cap that off with a victory is very satisfying."
Midfielder Iyiola Adebayo returned to the starting line-up for the first time since October following his recovery from a shoulder injury.
“It was great to have Iyiola (Adebayo) back,” Phillips said. “He’s been out for a long time and hasn’t played since the Leasing.com Trophy game against Cheltenham, so we were really pleased to get him back out on the pitch and he did well.”
Phillips also took time to praise the togetherness of the U18s, after the Academy side showed great character to seal victory late on.
“The cohesion that we’ve shown this season and the shape of the team, it’s been excellent. We know exactly what our philosophy is, and I’ll give the boys a lot of credit, they stick to it and all do their jobs for the team.”
Next up for the Hammers U18s is a top-of-the-table clash with Fulham U18s at Little Heath on Saturday 14 April.
“We’re looking forward to a big game next week,” Phillips continued. “They’re obviously top of the table and it’ll be a tough test for us. If we get a positive result in that game then maybe, we can look at the league a bit more closely, but we’re really pleased with where we are and how the season has gone for us up to this point.”
West Ham United U18s: Hegyi, Ashby, Baptiste, Okotcha, Greenidge, Forson, Chesters (Baker-Boaitey 62), Fevrier (Caiger 68), Adebayo, Corbett, Simon-Swyer (Parkes 75)
Subs: Sanneh, Nebyla
Goals: Corbett 17, Ashby 60, 90+4
Booked: Okotcha, Adebayo