West Ham United U18s 1-1 Aston Villa U18s
U18 Premier League South
Rush Green Stadium
Kai Corbett netted on the stroke of half-time as West Ham United U18s recovered from an early goal to claim a well-earned point against Aston Villa on Saturday morning.
Corbett’s fifth Academy goal of the season arrived courtesy of some strong work from teammate Jayden Fevrier at Rush Green Stadium.
With his side pressing high, Fevrier won the ball back, drove at the defence and slipped in the perfect pass for Corbett, who kept his composure to sidefoot through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net.
That strike cancelled out an early opener from Taylor Jay-Hart which could have damaged the Hammers’ confidence as they sought to recover from a heavy loss to West Bromwich Albion the weekend before.
Following a run on the outside from Villa’s Hayden Lindley, the left-back produced an accurate cross for Jay-Hart to volley home from inside the area.
But West Ham were not bowed by the early setback and only grew into the game from there, forcing Villa ‘keeper Oliwer Zych into some good stops in the first half.
Kevin Keen’s U18s continued to create chances throughout the half with Corbett, Fevrier and Kamarai Swyer – all of whom had featured for the U23s in their defeat at Brighton the previous evening – playing influential roles.
Neither side were able to add to their tally in an open and entertaining second period, with Villa defender Paul Appiah collecting a second yellow card as the game ticked into injury time.
Keen was pleased by the attitude on display from his players, who fought to the last and – were they a bit more efficient in front of goal – could have earned victory.
Keen reflected: “It was a fantastic U18s youth team game, very competitive, and our lads stood up for themselves and performed very well against a very good Aston Villa team.
“I’m pleased, especially after we went 1-0 down inside ten minutes and they were on top. I felt we really got hold of the game in the middle of the first half and some of our senior players really took the game to them.
“Then, it was just as competitive a second half, with just as many chances, but it finished 1-1 and I think overall it was a fair result.
“We’ve had a run of results since just before Christmas that hasn’t been that good in the league. I feel like we’ve played better than that, but perhaps haven’t defended well enough.
“On Saturday, we certainly put that right and we defended really well as a team. Our central midfield players were outstanding with their work ethic – two first-year scholars in Freddie Potts and Archie Woods.
"Full credit to them, I think they played the game with fantastic spirit against some very talented players as well in a good game at Rush Green.”
Keen also took time to hail the influence of Corbett, Swyer and Fevrier, with the former having played 45 minutes for the U23s on the south coast the night before, and the latter two featuring in the extremely early and closing stages of Friday's match respectively.
“All three of them are very talented players, and they bring a maturity to the team which certainly makes a difference in U18 football,” Keen added.
“It’s a tough league. It’s not schoolboy football – it’s a proper competitive league. You saw that at Luton in the FA Youth Cup – this isn’t a walk in the park, it’s a proper game.”
As for next weekend, a trip to Arsenal awaits for Keen’s youth team in U18 Premier League South, having remained in tenth spot in the table.
He summarised: “I just want us to keep doing what we did on Saturday: showing the attitude and hard-working togetherness that was there.
“At the same time, we want to try and get a little run of results going. We did that earlier in the season after we lost our opening games, and we went on a super run.
“It would be nice to get back on another run and get a little bit of confidence and momentum. I think on another day, with a few wins behind us, we might’ve won today’s game, but at this moment in time we need one of those runs to boost our confidence.”
West Ham United: Hegyi, Robinson, Adebayo, Trialist, Clayton (Adu 84), Potts, Woods, Fevrier (Perkins 73), Swyer, Trialist, Corbett (Mubama 66)
Goal: Corbett 45