West Ham United U18s 1-1 Southampton U18s (4-2 penalties)
Friday 8 December, FA Youth Cup round three, Rush Green Stadium, 7pm GMT
West Ham United U18s saw a dramatic penalty shootout book a place in the FA Youth Cup fourth round.
On a bitterly cold evening at Rush Green Stadium, an enthralling tie twisted and turned its way through 90 minutes, extra-time and finally a shootout.
Southampton started the brightest of the two sides and deservedly took the lead through Jay Robinson on 43 minutes.
But the Hammers showed immense quality and character to overturn the lead in the second half, as Favour Fawunmi, introduced at the break, struck the equaliser.
Ollie Scarles and Lewis Orford, who both featured as the U21s booked their place in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy last 16, played their part. The two combined before Fawumni volleyed home on 49 minutes.
Chances came and went for both sides with West Ham United indebted to a string of stunning saves from Finlay Herrick and an impressive showing from U16 Airidas Golambeckis to reach the shootout.
But here the Hammers stood the tallest, as Orford, Scarles, Liam Jones, and Josh Briggs all found the net in style from 12 yards, while Herrick made a superb save diving to his right to deny Aston Daley.
The U18s would progress via a 4-2 scoreline and set up a fourth-round tie against either Manchester City or Watford.
West Ham United starting XI: Herrick, Medine (Fawunmi 46), Golambeckis, Briggs, Mayers, Scarles, Akpata ©, Orford, Rigge (Caliste 86), Umolu (Sowunmi 46), Ajala (Jones 91)
Subs not used: Abraham, Nwosu, Oyebade, Caliste
Goals: Fawunmi 49
Penalties scored: Orford, Scarles, Jones, Briggs
Herrick plays part with crucial saves
Another home tie awaits the U18s, who will play either Watford or Manchester City in the next round.
You'd have to say that this fixture was secured by an impressive showing from Fin Herrick, who was proud of the character the U18s showed to get over the line in an even game.
“They were all outstanding penalties,” Herrick praised. “There is so much bravery to step up and take them as well.
"We practised them a lot in training…and I could back anyone in a West Ham shirt to score them. They were all unreal pens but there is so much bravery to step up.”
Herrick of course stood tall to deny Aston Daley, with a stunning save midway through the shootout.
He dived to his right to put the Irons ahead – a save that no doubt saw the Irons secure a memorable win in east London.
He added: “It was a nice save. He was walking up…and I think when the referee asked his number he looked at where he was going to go.
“I thought I know where he was going, so I am happy to make the save!"
Coggin full of praise for resilient Hammers
A hugely impressive win was the verdict from U18s assistant coach Lauris Coggin.
In east London, the Irons eventually showed their quality from the penalty spot and Coggin was full of praise for the mentality of the group.
“Tonight is a real testament to the character and togetherness of the group,” Coggin began. “It was a tough game against a high-level opposition and it’s no easy feat to come through a game like that after over two hours of football.
“We showed quality, the boys put their bodies on the line and we showed a great endeavour. It was a brilliant performance. This is a great group of players and we had to dig in at times with injuries and cramp but the players came through against a really good Southampton side so we are delighted.”
Coggin was also keen to discuss the importance of squad depth with Airidas Golambeckis stepping up from the U16s and Favour Fawunmi coming off the bench to score a crucial equaliser at the start of the second half.
He continued: “Airidas was one of the best players on the pitch today. He’s come back from a long-term injury and this is only his second game with the U18s so it is a great effort to play as he did today.
“Favour was maybe a little bit disappointed not to start the match but he came onto the pitch and showed his quality.
"He gave everything for the team and he made a big impact off the bench, as did the rest of the subs. It was a brilliant performance from everyone and the type of win that we can use as a learning experience.”
West Ham U18s return to U18 Premier League South Division action on Saturday 16 December.
Keen's side will travel to Tottenham Hotspur, with kick-off set for 11am.