West Ham United U18s continued their impressive form with an excellent 5-0 victory over Birmingham City.
The young Irons put the Blues to the sword with a resounding showing at Little Heath on Saturday as George Earthy scored twice, while Gideon Kodua, Regan Clayton and Lewis Orford also found the net.
The Hammers came into the game full of confidence after defeating Birmingham in their previous Premier League South fixture.
Kevin Keen’s side were extremely successful with their high press, with four of the five goals coming immediately after winning possession back.
West Ham took the lead after just nine minutes. Orford cleverly cut out Birmingham’s defensive clearance on the edge of the box, before the West Ham midfielder slid the ball through to Earthy. From there, Earthy smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Birmingham registered their first meaningful attack after 20 minutes as Harry Manton received the ball on the left flank and cut inside. The left back found the target, but his shot lacked any real power and was comfortably saved by Jacob Knightbridge.
The Hammers thought that they had doubled their lead 15 minutes later when Earthy placed the ball into the net after a well worked move, including Junior Robinson and Callum Marshall. However, the linesman’s flag was raised, and the goal was disallowed.
Kodua was unfortunate not to get his name on the scoresheet just before half time when the West Ham striker charged down the Birmingham goalkeepers’ clearance and the ball rebounded just wide of the post.
Kodua was not deterred, however, and he doubled the Irons’ lead shortly after the interval. Alfie Brooks’ clearance was picked up by Archie Woods and the West Ham captain drove into the box and fired the ball across the box with his left foot. Kodua met the ball and slotted it into the bottom right corner.
The visitors almost hit back moments later as Rico Patterson unleashed a rocket from distance. The powerful strike was heading for the top left corner, but for an outstanding save from Knightbridge.
The save proved to be a key moment in the match as, just seconds later, Clayton passed the ball into an empty net as Earthy unselfishly squared the ball to his teammate, after regaining possession.
The result was beyond all doubt in the 66th minute as Orford volleyed the ball into the bottom left corner after a scramble in the box, giving the 16-year-old two goals in his last two games.
Earthy secured his brace, and the 5-0 win, just 10 minutes from the final whistle by tapping the ball into the net/
West Ham United U18s assistant coach Mark Phillips was delighted with the performance of the team in their outstanding victory.
“We played really well, especially in the second half, not just because we scored four goals but also because of the way we controlled the game. I thought we were excellent,” he told whufc.com.
“They did exactly what we asked them to do at half-time and they put our plan into practice. It was really good”.
Phillips was also pleased with the way the Hammers pressed Birmingham, causing the away team problems.
He evaluated: “Pressing is something that we have worked on. We knew that Birmingham like to play a lot of passes in their own third of the pitch and we picked our times to go and press, we didn’t do it every time we picked our moments.
“We had a lot of joy and also missed a few more chances from winning the ball back”.
Phillips also noted how much the U18s have improved in front of goal as the season has gone on.
“Our results weren’t so consistent in the opening three or four months of the season and that’s because we weren’t being clinical enough.
“We were playing well and creating chances, but we weren’t taking them whereas today, especially in the second half, we were very clinical.
“Goals do change games and we dominated the second half and controlled the game because we took our chances.”
Phillips was very pleased with another clean sheet and noted the importance of Knightbridge’s save in the second half:
“The result all stems from the clean sheet. I’m very pleased for the goalkeeper. Let’s not forget you made a vital save at 2-0, tipping it over the bar.
“We had a lot of players with the U23s and we have a young side. Two U16s have played almost every game this season and that’s quite an achievement”.
West Ham United U18s: Knightbridge; Robinson (Uwandji 74), Casey, Scarles, Clayton (Evans 73); Falase, Earthy, Woods, Kodua, Orford (Battrum 67); Marshall
Subs not used: Terry, Rigge
Goals: Earthy 6, 81, Kodua 51, Clayton 55, Orford 66
Birmingham City U18s: Brooks; Browne, Fogarty, Ogor, Manton, Patterson, Rushton, Home, Oni, Beresford, Williams (Dance 65)
Subs not used: Brooks, Ellis, Pendleton