Kaelan Casey

U18s Hammers hit Baggies for five

West Bromwich Albion U18s 2-5 West Ham United U18s
U18 Premier League South

West Ham United U18s got their 2022 calendar year off to an outstanding start with a 5-2 away win over West Bromwich Albion U18s on Saturday morning.

Possessing a game in hand over all of the sides above them in U18 Premier League South prior to kick-off, lead coach Kevin Keen’s youth team moved up to sixth in the table with an impressive victory in the Midlands, capped by Academy of Football debutant Callum Marshall’s first goal in Claret and Blue.

With just their league campaign left to focus on, West Ham’s U18s demonstrated their intent from the off, winning a penalty kick in the fourth minute which Divin Mubama dispatched into the bottom-right corner for his ninth goal of the season.

And things got even better for the young Hammers inside the opening ten minutes when 17-year-old Marshall – who joined the Academy on a Scholarship deal earlier this week – got off the mark for his new side.

Goalkeeper Jacob Knightbridge’s long ball forward was volleyed onwards by George Earthy in midfield and Marshall, outpacing his marker, took full advantage of some indecisive positioning from West Bromwich Albion’s ‘keeper to neatly tuck the ball beneath him from 25 yards and open his West Ham account.

Despite continuing to create presentable opportunities, the Hammers were pegged back a quarter-of-an-hour later when a diagonal ball from West Brom’s Alex Williams freed Fenton Hoard in behind, the forward slipping a finish from a tight angle beneath the sprawling Knightbridge.

And whilst the Hammers were the better team for the remainder of the first half, it was the Baggies who went on to score the next goal ten minutes into the second. After West Ham failed to clear their lines, the ball found its way to Mackenzie Lamb on the edge of the area, who picked out Knightbridge’s top-right corner with an impressive finish which kissed the woodwork on its way in.

Rather than deflate West Ham, however, West Brom’s equaliser only seemed to galvanise them, and they regained the lead nine minutes later.

A poor throw out from West Brom’s goalkeeper was intercepted by right-back Junior Robinson, whose dangerous delivery was missed at the near post by Mubama – but not at the far by the sliding Earthy, who converted clinically.

In the 75th minute, centre-back Kaelen Casey restored the Hammers’ two-goal lead, scrambling home Oliver Scarles’ in-swinging free-kick from inside the six-yard box.

And the points were well and truly sealed with five minutes remaining by 16-year-old Jemiah Umolu, the U16s forward making just his second appearance at youth-team level.

Umolu’s first U18s goal came at the culmination of a well-worked move in which Mubama held the ball up well on the halfway line, laying off for Scarles to slip an incisive pass down the channel for Earthy to run onto. The attacking midfielder played an inch-perfect square pass himself to Umolu, who took a touch and swiped a left-footed finish across the ‘keeper.

The move encapsulated the confidence flowing throughout the Hammers’ ranks, with morale high ahead of next Saturady’s trip to fifth-placed Arsenal.

“It was a good performance,” U18s lead coach Kevin Keen told whufc.com. “It was our first game back in the New Year and we were a young team, travelling up to West Brom on a very cold, wet and windy day. 

“We played some fantastic football in the first half and perhaps should have been a bit further in front than 2-1 at half-time. I think that gave West Brom a little bit of a boost because they then came out at the start of the second half and played probably their best football for ten minutes, equalising with a fantastic goal. 

“Then, for us, it was a little bit of ‘ooh, how have we got here, 2-2 having played really well’? We put a twist on our formation and from there we dominated the game, scoring a couple of fantastic, fantastic goals. 

“We ended up winning 5-2 and I think it was deserved. I was really pleased with the lads.”

Keen was pleased to see Marshall score on his U18s debut, with the 17-year-old having joined the Academy following a successful trial period prior to the festive break.

“Callum played up front with Divin,” Keen explained. “He’s really bright. 

“I think you could see he’s been playing amongst adults [for Linfield] because he’s got a bit about him. He’s clever, sharp, bright and knows the game. 

“It was a good debut, and for him to get a goal topped it off. I’m really pleased for him.”

Keen also feels his team, on the basis of Saturday’s performance, are prepared for the testing fixture schedule ahead of them.

He reflected: “We’ve been on a decent run in the league, if you look back. 

“We’ve had some decent results with a young team. We’re playing a couple of 16-year-olds each week, which I don’t think many other youth teams have been doing. We’re a good little squad, very much together. 

“We’ve got a couple of tough games coming up now – Arsenal and Fulham, a couple of the teams above us – but we go into them confident that we can really, really give it a go. 

“We’re playing some good football, and have had some clean sheets of late, so we’ll go into those games confident we can have a right go.”

West Ham United: Knightbridge; Robinson, Tarima, Casey, Scarles, Clayton (Evans 82), Woods, Orford (Kodua 59), Earthy, Mubama, Marshall (Umolu 75)
Subs: Terry, Battrum

Goals: Mubama 4 (pen), Marshall 10, Earthy 63, Casey 75, Umolu 85

Booked: Robinson, Clayton