Bristol Rovers 1-3 West Ham United U21s
EFL Trophy, Memorial Stadium, Tuesday 19 September, 7.45pm BST
West Ham United U21s produced a stunning comeback to beat EFL League One outfit Bristol Rovers 3-1 in the EFL Trophy and record a sixth straight win in all competitions on Tuesday evening.
With the rain pouring in Bristol, the hosts took the lead at Memorial Stadium, but it was all West Ham after Sam Finley found the bottom corner from inside the area with 24 minutes played.
The development side had chances to equalise through Patrick Kelly, Callum Marshall, and Gideon Kodua in the first half, but it was after the break that this talented group showed their class to stroll to a second win in five days.
The comeback was set in motion when Dan Chesters’ swashbuckling run won a penalty with 70 minutes played.
George Earthy then shaped to take the penalty, before handing the ball to Marshall, who found the bottom corner from 12 yards.
And a second quickly followed when Kodua found Earthy, who completed a quick counter-attack with a deft finish from inside the area.
But the Hammers weren’t done there and had chances to net a third too, despite Joe Anang preserving the lead with a string of superb stops.
By the time the game rolled into stoppage time, Marshall found the net from close range, poking the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs to secure a win that takes the U21s top of Group H in the EFL Trophy Southern Section.
West Ham United U21s: Anang, Chesters (Robinson 90+1), Laing, Casey ©, Luizao, Scarles, Orford, Kelly, Earthy (Moore 90+4), Marshall, Kodua (Clayton 90+4)
Subs not used: Knightbridge (GK), Forbes, Battrum, Nevers
Goals: Marshall pen 70, 90+3 Earthy 79
Potts: We started to show our quality in the second half
Sam Finley’s goal left West Ham with work to do at the break but the U21s responded in impressive fashion.
Lead coach Steve Potts challenged his side to believe in their ability, play without fear, and attack the second half.
And, in truth, they did just that. Three goals – Callum Marshall (twice) and George Earthy on the scoresheet – and the comeback was complete.
“We weren’t performing like we have been in the first half,” Potts explained. “I felt the occasion had maybe got to us a bit.
“But in the second half, we got on the front foot, settled down, and started to move the ball like we have been.
“The equaliser was the key to the game. As soon as that went in, there was a massive uplift in belief from our team.
“They had chances after we went 2-1 up but we had chances as well. They are a good team, but I know we are a good team as well, I just wanted them to go and show that – and they did against a very good League One team.”
The quality needed to pull off that comeback should not be underestimated. The U21s held their own and took their chances clinically.
And best of all, the win moves the U21s to six wins on the bounce and top of their EFL trophy group, with fixtures against Newport County and Cheltenham Town to come, and Southampton next up in the Premier League 2 on Friday.
Potts added: “It’s a great competition for the U21s and a great experience for them to come up against League One teams.
“The beauty of this competition is that it gives us a three-game week. And if you are going to go on to play for our first team or go out on loan you need to get used to that and handle that.
“That is the other test. They have got to recover after tonight and a tough game on Friday and try and go again against Southampton.”