West Ham United U18s unfortunate to draw with Fulham
West Ham United U18s 0-0 Fulham U18s
U18 Premier League South
West Ham United U18s could consider themselves unfortunate to only emerge with a point against reigning U18 Premier League South champions Fulham on Saturday morning.
The Hammers’ youth team were the dominant team in a 0-0 draw at Little Heath Sports Ground and had an early goal contentiously ruled out, impressing throughout against a side who have won the competition in both of the last two years.
Having had their game against Birmingham last week postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Kevin Keen’s U18s were looking to build off the back of a rampant 5-0 win over Aston Villa a week prior.
The lead coach made two changes to his side from that dominant display, with Archie Woods and a midfield Trialist replaced by U16s midfielders Lewis Orford and Ollie Scarles.
After having a penalty shout turned down for handball inside the opening minute, West Ham pressed from the front and could have taken the lead when Orford’s free-kick swung right across the face of goal.
And the Hammers ought to have taken an early lead after 25 minutes when 17-year-old Divin Mubama – fresh from signing his first professional contract at the Club – saw his driven free-kick deflect off the back of fellow forward Gideon Kodua.
Fulham goalkeeper Alex Borto got down to make a good low save but could only beat the ball out to the onrushing George Earthy, who duly tucked it away from five yards – only to see an offside flag raised when the No8 had appeared to be well onside.
Earthy was soon after denied by covering defender Imani Lanquedoc, having been played through by Gideon Kodua and rounded Borto, only to see his shot blocked on the line – West Ham having the majority of chances against the champions.
Another inventive set-piece from Orford gave Kaelan Casey the chance to produce a diving header towards goal, finding the side-netting, while Junior Robinson – after an outstanding piece of skill to beat Fulham’s Delano McCoy-Splatt on the right flank – saw his flashed cross hit the thigh of the unsighted Kodua and clear the bar from six yards out.
A similar instance occurred early in the second half as Mubama beat a Fulham defender before smashing the ball across the face of goal, but Kodua had precious little time to react and could not guide his finish goalwards from close range.
Fulham did eventually create a clear opportunity of their own in the 66th minute, McCoy-Splatt’s deep cross finding Luke Harris at the back post, but the Wales youth international nodded wide of the mark when he perhaps should have done better.
West Ham ‘keeper Jacob Knightbridge then produced a strong low save to deny Harris’ low shot from 25 yards as Fulham finished the stronger of the two sides, but given the nature of the Irons’ performance and chances, they could consider themselves unfortunate to only claim a point from the goalless encounter.
“The first half, we dominated the game and were definitely the better side,” U18s assistant coach Mark Phillips told whufc.com.
“They changed their tactics in the second half, and anyone could have won the game in that period, really.
“You have to bear in mind that Fulham have won this league for the last two years, and they always set their stall out to win it, so I was really happy with the result and performance, although we should have won it.
“Ollie Scarles played really well for us in midfield, and Junior Robinson at right-back was outstanding. He produced some really good crosses which maybe we should have capitalised on.
“We had two U16s in midfield, which reflects our desire to bring players on and push players through, and you can see the benefit of that when you look at Sonny Perkins, who scored two goals for the U23s on Saturday while still technically being an U18s player.
“The U18s are in a good state of affairs, rather like the U23s and rather like the first team. There’s a really good feeling throughout the whole Club.
“We keep saying to the players ‘we’re in good form this season – now let’s see if we can win something’, whether that’s the league or the FA Youth Cup. We’re in a good place.”
The draw sees West Ham U18s sit eighth in the U18 Premier League South table after nine games, but only six points behind league leaders Chelsea.
A league trip to Arsenal is next up on Saturday 20 November following the international break.
West Ham United: Knightbridge; Robinson, Tarima, Casey, Forbes (c) (Falase 56), Clayton, Orford, Scarles, Earthy (Trialist 74), Kodua, Mubama