Elisha Sowunmi

Highlights & Reaction: U18s return to winning ways at Leicester City

Leicester City U18s 0-3 West Ham United U18s
U18 Premier League South Division, King Power Performance Centre, Saturday 20 April 2024, 12noon BST


West Ham United U18s returned to winning ways in the U18 Premier League South Division by convincingly seeing off Leicester City 3-0 on Saturday lunchtime.

A bizarre own goal by Bobby Amartey gave the visitors the lead four minutes after half-time, before Elisha Sowunmi doubled West Ham's advantage just one minute later. 

With just over quarter-of-an-hour remaining, Josh Ajala netted from close range to seal an important victory for Kevin Keen's outfit.

West Ham started on the front foot and should have been ahead after 14 minutes when Emeka Adiele’s pinpoint cut-back found Sowunmi, but he hit the crossbar from point-blank range with an open goal gaping.

The Irons kept probing and went close once more, but Ryan Battrum’s goalbound strike was kept out by a sensational block by Kevon Gray, while at the other end, Kirsten Otchere prodded a weak effort straight at Fin Herrick. 

Tyron Akpata then channelled his inner James Ward-Prowse soon after the half-hour mark with a deep, back-post corner, though it was just about scrambled off the line by the hosts. 

Two more gilt-edged opportunities were spurned by the Hammers as Ajala missed a one-on-one and Sowunmi failed to test Leicester goalkeeper Harry French from a promising position. 

However, the visitors finally got their just rewards after 49 minutes, albeit in fortunate circumstances, as Akpata’s speculative effort took a wicked deflection off the unfortunate Amartey, hit the base of the post, and trickled over the line. 

Leicester had barely caught their breath before Sowunmi notched the Irons’ second of the afternoon a little over a minute later. The 16-year-old produced some great skill to create space before drilling into the net. 

Hammers goalkeeper Herrick was finally called into action on 53 minutes when he was forced to produce a smart save to deny Otchere, while Jayden Joseph shaped an effort narrowly wide moments later. 

The Foxes should have halved the deficit after 70 minutes, but Laolu Omobolaji could not steer home Olabade Aluko’s low-driven cross. 

And they were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as West Ham sealed all three points when Josh Briggs headed a corner back to Ajala, who tapped home unmarked from underneath the crossbar.


West Ham United U18s: Herrick, Battrum, Briggs, Mayers, Adiele (Dike 75), Golambeckis (Brown 75), Akpata (Caliste 66), Rigge, Medine, Sowunmi (Jonyla 84), Ajala
Sub not used: Abraham (GK)

Goals: Amartey (OG) 49, Sowunmi 50, Ajala 73

Booked: Mayers 90+4


Hines: It was important to bounce back

A controlled, confident and convincing performance against Leicester City after defeat to Arsenal last weekend was the perfect response from the U18s.

Former West Ham United forward Zavon Hines, now part of the coaching set-up for the Club’s U18s, was delighted with the young Hammers’ strong reaction. 

“I thought it was a good game overall," he stated. "Our main focus was to get back to winning ways after last week and the boys did that.

“I said to them after the game that the way we prepared and our focus during the week leading up to this game showed on the pitch today. 

“They showed a great reaction. I thought we were dominant today, created a lot of good opportunities, and should’ve probably scored earlier."


Ajala continues goal-scoring form

Striker Josh Ajala has been in scintillating form for the U18s this season, with an instinctive finish against Leicester marking his 14th league goal of the campaign.

The 17-year-old, who signed his first pro contract earlier this season, echoed the thoughts of his assistant coach and was delighted to get on the scoresheet.

Josh Ajala
Josh Ajala penned professional terms with the Club in November

He said: “Last week’s performance was nowhere near the standards we set, so we were working hard the whole week trying to put things right. 

"I thought it was a really strong performance from the team, especially in the second half where we scored three goals and managed to kill the game.

“The first goal gave us a lot more confidence to push on and put more pressure on them [Leicester City] and I felt that was a real catalyst that set us up for success. 

“It’s always important to get on the scoresheet as a striker, so I’m delighted to get another goal. Josh [Briggs] did well to head it across for me and it was a simple finish for me.”


Up next

West Ham United U18s continue their league campaign against Crystal Palace on Tuesday 7 May. 

Kick-off is set for 12noon at the Eagles' training ground in Beckenham.