West Ham United U21s 3-1 Everton
Premier League 2, Rush Green Stadium, Friday 1 September, 7pm BST
Four wins on the bounce now as West Ham United U21s came from behind to beat Everton at Rush Green Stadium on Friday evening.
After an early strike from Everton’s Katia Kouyate, who found the bottom corner from close range, the Irons responded impeccably after the break to secure the victory.
Shaking off a sluggish first half, the U21s pulled level through a curling strike from Lewis Orford, who left goalkeeper Billy Crellin stranded as he found the bottom corner.
Ollie Scarles continued to threaten down the left to see Callum Marshall fouled inside the area, with Toffees’ skipper Ryan Astley receiving his second booking of the night – and sent off – for a clumsy challenge.
Marshall then struck his fifth goal in his last three Premier League games from the spot to give his side a deserved advantage.
And chances continued to fall to those in east London, before Gideon Kodua headed home a game-settling third from close range.
At times it wasn’t pretty from the U21s, but finding a way to win is a pleasing trait, and one they have shown in abundance over the past fews weeks.
Plenty of momentum then, as the young Irons head into the September international break, sitting fifth in the Premier League 2 table, as it stands.
West Ham United U21s: Knightbridge, Chesters, Laing (Tarima 90+3), Casey © , Luizão, Scarles, Kelly (Appiah-Forson 88), Orford, Kodua, Marshall (Moore 81), Earthy (Robinson 88)
Subs not used: Terry (GK)
Goals: Orford 48 Marshall pen 67 Kodua 84
Orford's first PL2 goal of the season leads the comeback
A moment of magic was needed with the young Irons trailing at the break.
And let’s face it, if you want the ball to drop to any on the edge of the area, then Lewis Orford is well and truly up there.
A free-kick maestro, Orford, as he has repeatedly shown in training, has a fair shot on him too.
Tonight, was no different. The bottom corner was found. A sweet strike to set the comeback in motion.
Orford explained: “It’s my first goal for the U21s this year, so hopefully I can get a few more. As soon as I got it out of my feet I knew where it was going.
“It was big moment to get our first goal. Gerard Prenderville [U21s assistant coach] and me practice that a lot in training and he always talks about getting that shot right.”
From that moment on, it was all West Ham. Callum Marshall converted a penalty, before Gideon Kodua wrapped up a fourth win with a header late on.
Confidence is high then, the U21s are a happy camp.
“It’s a great feeling winning four on the bounce,” Orford added, “but we have to keep that mentality going now. We showed character to bounce back and win the game, so it is good to get the win.
“Steve said: ‘We needed a reaction in the second half,’ and I think we showed that. We communicated a lot better after the break and we gelled more and got the three goals to show for it. We won the game and that is the main thing.”
Potts: Second half showing was a really pleasing response
A strong second-half showing that saw three goals for the U21s was the highlight of the evening, according to lead coach Steve Potts.
The former Hammer was disappointed by his side’s performance in the first half but was proud of the way the U21s reflected at the break – and then bounced back.
Potts said: “We were a bit reactive rather than being on the front foot in the first half, but in the second half it was the opposite.
“We were more together and we didn’t give them anything in the second half. It was then about if we could create in-possession and the early goal helped that…as we got the equaliser and then we dominated a lot of play.”
Four wins on the bounce – and three wins from four in the PL2 - is great feeling for the lead coach too.
But Potts has challenged his side to keep pushing to a higher and higher level.
There is a two-week break for the September internationals, but the lead coach wants his side to maintain those levels against Celtic on Friday 15 September.
“They are a really honest bunch,” he added. “When you give them some information, they are really receptive to it.
“When you have a slow start, you need one or two to get the team going. The message after the game was that games will slip away from you if you start like that as you go higher up the levels.”
Following a break for September internationals, it is a little while before the U21s are back in action.
The U21s will play Celtic in the Premier League International Cup. The fixture will be played at Chigwell Construction Stadium on Friday 15 September. Kick-off is set for 7pm.