Under-23s strike late to win at Maidenhead
Maidenhead United 2-3 West Ham United U23s
West Ham United Under-23s won their fourth consecutive – and final – pre-season match with an entertaining 3-2 victory at Maidenhead United on Friday afternoon.
Coming up against more experienced and physically developed opponents in the form of the National League outfit, the young Hammers were forced to dig in for long stretches of the first half, but scored twice through Mesaque Dju in the second before a late own-goal secured victory.
Lead coach Dmitri Halajko will be pleased that the fixture provided the sort of test he had anticipated from the home side, ahead of the Under-23s’ opening game of the season at League Two team Southend United in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday evening.
The Hammers had a good shout for a penalty turned down after ten minutes when, following a mazy run between full-back and central defender, Emmanuel Longelo went over an outstretched leg – but nothing doing from the referee.
Moments later, and the National League team really should have been ahead, Maidenhead United’s trialist unmarked from a corner – but somehow volleying over inside the six-yard area.
Maidenhead kicked on from there, however, playing some sharp football to force a succession of corners which led to several presentable chances, the best of them a close-range header which Parry sent over the bar under pressure from Josh Okotcha.
West Ham were struggling for a foothold in the game in blustery conditions at York Road, and Maidenhead came close once again when Dadomo-Orsi showed neat feet to step inside Gonçalo Cardoso, firing low past the far post.
The Irons did eventually create an opening after half-an-hour. After Sean Adarkwa was picked out running the channel by Longelo, the striker laid off to Alfie Lewis, 25 yards from goal, who curled over on his weaker foot.
That gave West Ham greater confidence, and they nearly took the lead on the counter-attack when Adarkwa squared for Mipo Odubeko. The striker, seeking two add to his two goals against Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday, saw his effort well smothered by Maidenhead keeper Ashby-Hammond.
Maidenhead did eventually take the first-half lead their play had merited. A cute ball over the top from Smile found winger Kelly with too much time in behind the back line, and he cut it back for Dadomo-Orsi to convert from close range.
The goal sparked the Irons into life, and they could have been level a minute later when Louie Watson managed to pick out Odubeko in the area, but with his body angled away from goal, the 18-year-old couldn’t quite direct his finish between the posts.
Moments later, and a well-measured pass from Watson put Longelo in down the left. The wing-back stood the ball up high towards the far stick where Adarkwa was able to volley it cleanly goalwards, but Ashby-Hammond was well positioned to block with his feet.
The Hammers came out after half-time with a new shape – and a renewed sense of purpose.
Within minutes of the restart, they had an equaliser, a clever ball over the top picking out substitute Mesaque Dju. The Portuguese forward took one touch to set himself inside his marker before curling a beautifully arcing finish into the top corner.
Moments after that, a fine Harrison Ashby pass found Adarkwa on the inside right channel, who squared the ball for Odubeko. The forward took a moment to dig it out from under his feet before firing fiercely towards goal, but Ashby-Hammond plunged to his right to beat the ball away.
The home team employed all their experience to reassert themselves in the contest and take the lead once more. A well-worked throw-in saw the ball find Sparkes on the penalty spot, and the Maidenhead man had too much time to find the bottom corner.
The Hammers were not deterred, however, and emphasising the end-to-end nature of the contest, drew themselves level within moments of the restart. Another swift move put Dju in on goal down the left channel, and the West Ham man gave the keeper the eyes before sliding it past his legs at the near post.
The game was well and truly open and both teams could have taken the lead as the game ticked towards the final 20 minutes; Ashley came within inches of getting a toe onto Longelo’s driven cross, before Daniel Jinadu produced two fine reflex saves at his near post to deny Sparkes on the stretch.
After such an exhilarating period, the game settled in its closing stages, but the Hammers still had time to find a winner with four minutes remaining when Bernardo Rosa’s fine long ball set Will Greenidge away in space down the right flank.
His pull-back looked for all the world like it would be converted by Dju for the hat-trick, but a Maidenhead trialist – attempting to clear – tapped the ball into his own net instead, giving West Ham U23s a hard-fought victory - their fourth pre-season win in four.
West Ham United: Jinadu; Ashby (Greenidge 67), Akinola (Baptiste 45), Okotcha (Dju 45), Cardoso, Longelo, Lewis (Rosa 60), Forson (Ashley 45), Watson, Odubeko (Trialist 63), Adarkwa
Goals: Dju 51, 64, Trialist (o.g.) 86
Maidenhead United: Ashby-Hammond; Sheckleford, Parry, Trialist (Trialist 45), Wells (Twumasi 45), Donnellan, Smile (Keetch 61), Kelly (Smith 70), Upward, Sparkes, Dadomo-Orsi
Subs: Coley, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist
Goals: Dadomo-Orsi 38, Sparkes 63