West Ham United U23s return to Premier League 2 action on Monday for their penultimate league match of the season, away to Everton.
The Irons’ fixture against the Toffees will be played at the Finch Farm training facility on Monday 25 April, with a kick-off time of 7.00pm BST.
Read on for all you need to about Monday’s fixture…
The story so far
The race for the Premier League 2 title is over.
It was always going to be immensely difficult following defeat to Liverpool last time out in the league for the Hammers, with Mark Robson’s side trailing Manchester City by six points with both teams still to play two league matches.
City played their first of their final two league outings on Friday, away to Leeds United, and secured a 3-1 win, meaning the Division 1 title will be heading to Manchester.
Our U23s can still hold their heads high after a spirited race for the trophy and attention turns to ensuring a second-placed finish in the league. One win from the remaining two league outings will be enough to do exactly that.
The Hammers have 42 points from 24 games played, while Arsenal sit in third on 39 points from the same number of fixtures. With West Ham holding a superior goal difference, the single victory should do it.
Despite the season drawing to a conclusion, there is still so much to play for.
It wasn’t too long ago that Everton were leading the charge in Premier League 2.
Two-time winners of Premier League 2 Division 1, the Toffees lifted the league title in the 2016/17 season, and the 2018/19 campaign, while also claiming the Premier League Cup in 2019 as well.
One of English football’s most acclaimed Academies, Everton have boasted the development of some of British football’s stand-out names, including the likes of former Hammer David Unsworth, Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley and England’s all-time highest goalscorer – Wayne Rooney.
The current crop of talent therefore have big boots to fill in their quest to reach the promised land of first-team football, with a win over Chelsea last time out helping the Toffees to consolidate themselves in eleventh in the league table.
Thomas Cannon opened the scoring for the Blues against Chelsea, marking his seventh goal of the season for the U23s. The 19-year-old striker has been one of the side’s in-form players this campaign, while midfield duo Lewis Dobbin and Charlie Whitaker have also been in amongst the goals with five each this season.
Centre-midfielder Rhys Hughes leads the way in terms of assists, with five for the campaign, while a pair of 18-year-olds in winger Stanley Mills and midfielder Isaac Price lead the way for most appearances; each has made 25 in all competition this season.
The Toffees have an Everton man born and bred at the helm of both their U23s and the Academy in John Ebbrell. The Bromborough-born midfielder made over 200 league appearances for his boyhood club after signing at 12-years-old, and helped the first-team to win the 1995 FA Cup.
After retiring, he returned to the set-up in 2015 and was promoted to the role of Head Of Academy Coaching. With David Unsworth departing the Toffees earlier this month, Ebbrell has also taken on U23s lead coach responsibilities.
Last time out
An early October outing at Rush Green Stadium saw the Hammers play host to Everton, with the home side running out 3-1 winners amid soggy conditions in east London.
The Irons enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and got a deserved reward on 25 minutes when Kamarai Swyer struck, heading Harrison Ashby’s chipped cross into the bottom corner for his first goal at development squad level.
The second came on the half-an-hour mark when Ajibola Alese rattled the woodwork with a header, following a Manny Longelo corner, only for Jamal Baptiste to follow in and nod home.
Just moments later, Everton had halved the deficit as Stan Mills volleyed an effort across goal and into the net, meaning a 2-1 score-line at half-time.
Just after the hour, Alese got a goal of his own. The centre-back initially headed an effort on goal which was blocked, but was in the right place to tap home after some pinball in the Everton penalty area.
What they’re saying
U23s lead coach Mark Robson: "There are still two games to play and a lot to play for. We need to try and find some decent performances individually and as a team.
"The two games we’ve got coming up are really important. We want to go out and win them if we can and hopefully, from that, one or two can put in performances where they can get themselves in and around the first team. That’s always the aim for what we’re doing here.”
How can I follow?
Monday's Premier League 2 match between West Ham United U23s and Everton will be played at Everton's Academy.
Supporters will be able to follow the action with our live blog at whufc.com, which will begin an hour before kick-off, at 6.00pm BST on Monday 25 April 2022.
Significant match updates will also be available via Twitter.
Full highlights and reaction from the lead coach and players will be available on whufc.com on Monday evening and throughout Tuesday.