Lewis Orford celebrates his winner

Highlights & Reaction: U21s into the last four of Premier League International Cup

West Ham United U21s 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion U21s (AET)
Premier League International Cup, Rush Green Stadium, Friday 23 February 2024, 7pm GMT

West Ham United U21s booked their place in the Premier League International Cup semi-finals following a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Friday evening.

Steve Potts’ side needed extra time to force a winner, with Lewis Orford’s late header coming after an enthralling 90 minutes, and a real battle with the visiting Seagulls, finished 1-1.

Indeed, the Hammers looked on the verge of an exit after Brighton’s Cameron Peupion struck a first-half goal to leave the U21s with plenty of work to do by the interval.

The Brighton No7 was sent free and finished into the bottom left corner past Joseph Anang on 16 minutes, although the U21s showed great character to fight back in the second half.

Ollie Scarles’ free-kick – curled into the bottom corner with a neat swish of his left foot – brought extra time, with both sides threatening to net a winner in an exciting extra 30 minutes in east London.

Alongside chances for the visitors, Orford, Scarles, and Kamarai Swyer all went close in extra time before the final big moment of the fixture fell to those in Claret and Blue.

Brilliant throughout alongside midfielder partner Patrick Kelly, the No4 headed home the winner to avoid spot-kicks, meeting Junior Robinson’s cross with a perfectly timed run eight minutes from the end of extra time.

West Ham United U21s: Anang, Robinson, Laing, Casey © (Tarima 109), Luizao, Scarles (Battrum 100), Kelly, Orford, Moore (Swyer 46), Mubama (Clayton 91), Earthy
Subs: Knightbridge (GK), Rigge, Sowunmi

Goals: Scarles 16 Orford 112

Bookings: Robinson, Kelly


Potts praises Hammers’ performance against Seagulls

The Premier League International Cup has served up some real tests for the young Hammers due to the calibre of the sides and a home quarter-final against Brighton & Hove Albion was no different.

Such a challenge was one warmly welcomed by Steve Potts, who saw his side come from behind to record an extra-time victory.

The lead coach stated: “I think in the first half, we had our problems, and we couldn’t hurt them enough, but I don’t think we opened them up with chances like we normally do.

Steve Potts watches the U21s vs Chelsea

“It was a good time to get in and re-group because we started to be the better team in the second half, create opportunities, and got a good goal to equalise too.

“It was then good to get to 90 minutes and re-focus again. I thought Tottenham on Saturday we went to the limit – and we did that again against Brighton and got on top with a really good goal to win it.

“We spoke about it after the Tottenham game: when you are really fatigued can you still produce a moment of quality? And we did that for the goal, and it was great play from Lewis Orford, George Earthy, and Junior Robison on the overlap.

“I think that’s why playing these tough games are so important for the group and the last few games [Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton] have been a real test and overall I have been really pleased with our performances.”


Orford winner caps stellar performance

Friday evening’s win was another impressive showing from midfielder Lewis Orford, who capped his first match after his 18th birthday with a delightful winner.

A second-year scholar - by age - Orford, who has played for both the U18s and U21s this year, showed his energy to battle through 120 minutes of action and still have the quality to make a well-timed run and decide the tie.

On reaching the last four Orford said: “I am pretty knackered right now, but the boys dug deep and put in another good performance to get over the line. We deserved to win in the end, and I was pleased to finish it with a goal.

“Brighton were a strong side and moved the ball quickly and they were hard to break down because they were so organised but in the end, we got two goals.

“We are really good at sticking together [even if we go a goal down]. We know we have the quality and that chances will come and once we got the equaliser, I think we dominated the game.”


Up Next

West Ham United U21s will travel to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday 2 March.

Kick-off is set for 1pm at Lancashire FA County Ground.