West Ham United Under-18s picked up their third win in four league games after seeing off a second-half fightback from Reading to win 2-1 on Saturday morning.
A proverbial game of two halves took place at Bearwood Park Training Ground, with the Irons fully deserving of a 2-0 half-time lead given to them by England youth internationals Divin Mubama and Sonny Perkins.
The hosts came roaring back in the second half, however, netting early on through Michael Stickland, before drawing a fine penalty save from West Ham goalkeeper – and fellow Young Lion – Serine Sanneh, later on.
The three points move West Ham up to eighth in the U18 Premier League table.
More significant, perhaps, was the quality of the performance, in keeping with the steady improvement that lead coach Kevin Keen’s players have exhibited as the season has gone on.
The Hammers were particularly impressive in the first half, zipping the ball about with pace and purpose, and could have gone ahead early on through Jayden Fevrier’s well-struck effort.
Good chances came and went for both Perkins and Fevrier – captain for the day – but when the breakthrough arrived on 38 minutes, it was from a finish of real quality.
Picking the ball up 30 yards from goal, Fevrier drove towards the Reading defence and slipped a pass through to 16-year-old striker Mubama, who allowed the ball to run across his body before spinning and firing high past the hosts’ ‘keeper.
A similar move led to the Hammers doubling their lead just before the half-time whistle, some neat interplay around the Reading area allowing Perkins time and space to swivel and strike into the corner with his right foot.
Reading came out with a point to prove, however, and after making three substitutions in the opening minutes of the second half, went direct in search of a route back into the match.
They got it just before the hour mark when Stickland bundled the ball home inside the six-yard box, before having a huge opportunity to draw themselves level when West Ham defender Regan Clayton conceded a penalty late on.
Sanneh – who celebrated his 18th birthday on Friday – provided the heroics, however, producing an impressive diving save which ultimately proved crucial as the Hammers saw out the closing waves of attacks.
At the end of the day, it’s testament to the quality of our Academy players that U15s and U16s are getting used to youth team football. For development, that’s exactly what you need
There was still time for West Ham U15s midfielder Liam Jones – son of former striker Steve, who represented the Club over two spells during the 1990s – to make his debut at youth team level, coming off the bench in injury time.
“I think we deserved to win for our dominance in the first half,” U18s assistant coach Mark Phillips reflected afterwards.
“We could have been four or five up quite comfortably, but fair dues to Reading – they changed the way it was and brought themselves back into the game.
“We were a really young side again today and only had three players on our bench. At the end of the day, it’s testament to the quality of our Academy players that U15s and U16s are getting used to youth team football. For development, that’s exactly what you need.
“Every game’s a good game to win, of course, but this was a particularly good win today. We’re climbing the table a little bit now, which is great.”
The U18s’ next fixture will see them travel to West Bromwich on Saturday 28 November.
West Ham United: Sanneh; Robinson, Thomas, Forbes, Clayton, Potts, Woods, Perkins (Jones 90+1), Fevrier, Mubama, Coddington (Earthy 75)
Goals: Mubama 38, Perkins 45