West Ham United U18s 4-1 Reading U18s
U18 Premier League South, Little Heath Sports Ground, Saturday 10 April 2021
West Ham United U18s produced an excellent final league performance ahead of their FA Youth Cup fifth-round tie, seeing off Reading U18s 4-1 at Little Heath Sports Ground on Saturday morning.
Forward Divin Mubama – a 16-year-old recently called up by England U17s – scored a second-half hat-trick as the young Hammers dominated the Royals after the interval.
Fellow West Ham U16s midfielder George Earthy also found the back of the net, one of seven schoolboy players to feature in the Claret and Blue matchday squad.
With numerous scholars playing for the U23s in their victory away at Manchester United on Friday night, lead coach Kevin Keen once again named a youthful-looking side for Saturday’s encounter, including a first youth team start for U16s midfielder Harry Titchmarsh.
The Hammers got off to a bright start in an evenly-matched first half which saw the home team carve out a handful of decent chances in east London.
That the two teams went in level at the break was a fair reflection on proceedings, however – but the young Irons made a statement of intent within a minute of the restart when Mubama gave West Ham the lead.
Keeping hold of possession from kick-off, captain Michael Forbes played a long ball forwards which the Reading defender could only head out to Earthy.
The No10 drove at the Royals’ defenders and, after skipping past one challenge, laid the ball off to winger Gael Kileba, who flashed it across the face of goal for Mubama to deflect in at waist height.
Nine minutes later, and Earthy himself was on the scoresheet. A cute ball around the corner from Sonny Perkins set the No10 running down the right and, after producing several stepovers, Earthy opted to smash the ball towards the far post, a near-post deflection diverting it in.
Reading were stunned and West Ham were dominant, adding a third goal just seven minutes later. An in-swinging Kileba corner-kick was headed by a defender high into the air – who then could only watch as the unmarked Mubama nodded the in from just inside the six-yard area.
Paying credit to the visitors, they gave themselves a lifeline in the game seven minutes later, a crisp passing move down the right allowing Harvey Maunder to drive the ball in with just over 20 minutes left to play.
But as West Ham continued to add to their shots tally – which totalled 21 by the end of play – Mubama was able to complete his first hat-trick at U18s level just before the final whistle.
After a foul inside the area on second-half substitute and fellow schoolboy Gideon Kadua – playing 35 minutes on his U18s debut – Mubama produced a confident effort from 12 yards, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way to complete a 4-1 rout for the boys in Claret and Blue.
It’s good because it stands us in good stead for next year’s U18 Premier League South. Our first years – the U16s now – will already have experience of that level
“We were a young team, but they all did very well. It was a very good performance,” assistant coach Mark Phillips told whufc.com. “I thought we started the game very well and were the better team in the first half.
“We’ve had two heavy defeats in the last couple of weeks, so we were pleased by our reaction to Reading getting a goal back against us. It could have been difficult, but instead of wobbling, we controlled the territorial game well in the second half.
“As our U18s like Kai Corbett, Freddie Potts and Jamal Baptiste have gone up and played for the U23s, we’ve had schoolboys come in and take their place in our age group, and they have all come up, done well and slotted in with us.
“It’s good because it stands us in good stead for next year’s U18 Premier League South. Our first years – the U16s now – will already have experience of that level. That’s what it’s about really.
“Next year, our second-year scholars will have quite a lot of experience already of playing at U23s level. Hopefully some can then push on from there to the first team. It’s been a good weekend for the Academy.”
Mubama’s hat-trick was the second completed by an U18s striker in the space of just 16 hours, following on from Ademipo Odubeko’s treble for the U23s against Manchester United on Friday evening.
Both forwards featured for the U18s in their FA Youth Cup fourth-round win over Norwich City last month, and will hope their form continues into Friday evening’s fifth-round match at home to Arsenal.
Phillips added: “We’ve got an uninterrupted week of training now. There’s not an U23s game until next week, which is nice, so the next match is our Youth Cup game.
"Hopefully we can have three or four days of good training, and keep our fingers crossed for Friday.”
West Ham United: Knightbridge; Robinson, Forbes (c), Thomas, Clayton (Evans 86), Titchmarsh, Earthy (Heal 70), Perkins, Kileba, Mubama, Swyer (Kadua 56)
Subs: Terry, Casey
Goals: Mubama 46, 62, 89 (pen), Earthy 55