West Ham United Under-18s were unfortunate to concede a late goal against Fulham Under-18s on Saturday afternoon, condemning them to a 2-1 loss and a third straight league defeat to start of the season.
The young Irons went into the match against last season’s U18 Premier League South champions looking to build on a promising second half against Chelsea last time around, and they successfully carried that momentum into the early stages at Little Heath.
Fulham ‘keeper Damian Las was much the busier custodian in the opening exchanges, with the Hammers testing him from long range and generally having the better of the play as they pushed for a first lead this season.
When West Ham’s goal did arrive, it did so in admittedly fortuitous circumstances: on 20 minutes, Kai Corbett floated a free-kick towards goal and Las allowed the ball to squirm through his legs, sliding beneath his grasp and into the net.
Disappointingly, however, Fulham were level within two minutes, a well-worked goal seeing Luke Harris clinically converting after a powerful cross made its way through to the back post.
A bitty, but even, game ensued in east London, with clear-cut chances largely at a premium.
Following the interval, West Ham made another strong start to the half and Michael Forbes, Kamarai Simon-Swyer and Christian Veliky all came close before the hour mark, only to be denied by last-ditch Fulham defending.
The game could have changed when with 15 minutes remaining when a counter-attack led by Fulham’s Ibane Bowat led to a penalty being awarded, but West Ham shot-stopper Krisztian Hegyi made a good save down the middle of the goal to deny Mika Biereth.
The Irons’ reprieve proved only temporary, however, as Fulham snatched a goal eight minutes from time from a corner, Kayden Harrick getting the final touch to divert a Harris volley into the net.
In my eyes, a point apiece would have been a fair result today. It wasn’t a great game of football or a great game for the purists, but unfortunately, they snatched the spoils
The visitors then saw out the closing minutes to leave West Ham without a point from their opening games of the season, all three being fiercely-contested London derbies.
“We started off very well, which we haven’t been doing so far this year,” U18s assistant coach Mark Phillips told whufc.com.
“It was the first time this season we’d been in front, but unfortunately we only held the lead for less than two minutes, so we didn’t get to really see how the players would react.
“In my eyes, a point apiece would have been a fair result today. It wasn’t a great game of football or a great game for the purists, but unfortunately, they snatched the spoils.
“Compared to previous weeks, it was more of an even game, and a game we should have got something out of. I don’t think it was a great advert for Academy football from either side, but if we’d have played to the same standard that we did in the second half at Chelsea, I’m confident we’d have ran out winners.
“Now, it’s about having a consistency over 90 minutes. If you look at how the Under-23s played against Southampton, they had a poor start in the first half but came good in the second half. We want to have a good 90 minutes.
“That could come in any game. We’ve got Arsenal next week, who are a tough team, but if we pull ourselves together, we could well get a positive result against them. At the moment, we’re just being inconsistent in games, which is costing us.”
West Ham United: Hegyi; Robinson (Fevrier 61), Adebayo, Forbes, Woods, Corbett, Potts, Perkins (Clarke 79), Kileba, Veliky (Coddington 71), Simon-Swyer
Subs: Knightbridge, Mubama
Goal: Corbett 20