Thierry Nevers hits first goals for West Ham United U23s in convincing victory at Southend United
Southend United 1-5 West Ham United
Thierry Nevers scored his first goals in Claret and Blue as West Ham United U23s recovered from an early deficit to hit Southend United for five in pre-season.
The Hammers were off-key in their defeat to National League side Ebbsfleet United last week, and made a slow start in Essex when loose passing allowed Matthew Rush’s early shot across goal to find the bottom corner.
But rather than allow their heads to bow, the young Hammers rose to the challenge, equalising through Nevers’ smart header after Amadou Diallo had seen a shot from distance parried out.
Jamal Baptiste then headed the Hammers in front before half-time from an Emmanuel Longelo corner, before another Nevers header arrived prior to Mesaque Dju’s thunderbolt.
Nevers appeared, to supporters and journalists alike, to have netted a hat-trick goal in the closing stages, scrambling home Ashby's cross at the far post, but a later review of the footage revealed the final touch came off Seaden for an own-goal.
Kicking off in front of a noisy returning crowd at Roots Hall – a rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ was followed by ‘We’re All Going on a European Tour’ - but it was a trip to much nearer Essex which attracted a vocal band of Claret and Blue-clad supporters.
It was the home team, whoever, who had the first chance early doors, West Ham ceding possession on the halfway line and inviting a counter-attack which led to Southend’s Matt Rush striking the side-netting following a deflection off Will Greenidge.
The young Hammers were looking sharp in the tackle, but occasionally slack in their passing, and it was some loose distribution at the back which saw Southend win it high through James Dunne, who laid off for Rush to strike.
Although his initial effort was mishit, it still required clearing off the line by West Ham’s Harrison Ashby – yet the striker made no mistake with the rebound, tucking it low into Krisztian Hegyi’s far corner.
Moments later, and Southend ought to have doubled their lead. A swinging ball in from Jason Demetriou picked out Rush in plenty of space, but the striker got his head beneath it and the ball ballooned over.
Struggling to find their final ball, it took until a quarter of the game gone for the young Hammers to muster their first shooting opportunity.
A clever exchange of passes between Mesaque Dju and Thierry Nevers set Amadaou Diallo running down the left, and when he played it back to Pierre Ekwah on the edge of the area, the midfielder – on his weaker foot – blasted over.
That move seemed to inject more confidence – confidence enough for Diallo, perhaps unexpectedly, to hit a dipping shot from 25 yards which Southend goalkeeper Harry Seaden could only juggle into the air.
Thierry Nevers, wearing No9 for the first time, was on his toes, finding himself ahead of the trailing defenders and heading accurately back across goal for the equaliser.
A clever set-piece routine then gave Ekwah the chance goalwards from 30 yards, but his left-footed effort was always fading away from the top corner, rather than towards it.
Southend’s supporters got behind them as they looked to reassert their greater experience on the game, Jamal Baptiste and Emmanuel Longelo being called upon to make two timely interceptions from balls into the box.
And after the young duo – who both made first-team debuts last season – combined well defensively, a foray forward with the ball from Baptiste saw the duo combine to put West Ham ahead for the first time five minutes before the interval.
The goal was a simple one: a delightful in-swinging corner from Longelo, met by a free – but clean – header back across goal from Baptiste from the edge of the six-yard box.
Having finished the first half strongly, the young Hammers started the second equally brightly. A superb curling cross from Ashby picked out the stooping Nevers at the far post, and despite Seaden getting a hand to his header, the effort crashed over the line, much to the 19-year-old’s obvious delight.
Southend came close to pulling a goal back moments later through Louis Walsh’s piledriver, but the shot fizzed wide of Hegyi’s goal – the Hungarian looking to have it covered.
After 55 minutes gone, Nevers had a good opportunity to seal his hat-trick. Dan Chesters’ overlapping run ended with a deflected cross which fell invitingly into the No9’s path, but Nevers – perhaps put off by the ball’s deviance – miscued.
The Hammers’ tails were up, and Nevers soon after turned provider when Diallo intercepted a loose pass on the halfway line. Blessed with a three-on-three, the move concluded with Nevers passing along the edge of the box for Dju to side-foot goalwards – but Seaden produced a spectacular save to deny the Portuguese forward.
But he was not to be denied. Just moments after Southend manager Phil Brown had made a raft of eight changes at Roots Hall midway though the second half, one substitute’s slack pass set Diallo running at the heart of the defence.
Working the ball out to Chesters, the low cross deflected towards Dju at the far post who – twisting his body – produced a fine top-corner finish from a difficult position, making it four for the Hammers in Essex.
As is often the case, momentum slowed following Southend’s substitutions as West Ham enjoyed long spells of possession, capped off by what appeared at first glance to be Nevers' first West Ham hat-trick, only to later be credited to Seaden as an own-goal.
Regardless, a fifth goal was just reward for Nevers and West Ham's U23s, capping an impressive individual and collective performance all-round.
West Ham United: Hegyi; Ashby, Greenidge, Baptiste, Longelo, Rosa (Trialist 87), Ekwah, Chesters, Dju, Diallo, Nevers (Woods 83)
Subs: Trialist, Forbes, Coddington
Goals: Nevers 28, 49, Baptiste 39, Dju 66, Seaden (o.g.) 83