George Earthy U18s v Man City

U18s narrowly beaten by Man City in Premier League National final

Manchester City U18s 2-1 West Ham United U18s
U18 Premier League National final, Etihad Stadium, Wednesday 10 May

West Ham United U18s’ incredible 2022/23 season came to a close with a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City after extra time in the U18s Premier League National final.

Captain Gideon Kodua put the Irons in front with his 16th goal of the season for the U18s, smartly finishing a first-time effort from Patrick Kelly’s exquisite pass.

Kaelan Casey saw a header cleared off the line as West Ham looked to make the most of their opportunities, but City levelled through Justin Oboavwoduo in the second half, forcing extra time in Manchester.

The same City forward would grab the winner on 102 minutes, turning home on the rebound after a smart save from Finn Herrick, to deny the Hammers a historic treble at the end of a brilliant campaign. 

Despite defeat, Kevin Keen’s young side can take great pride in an immense season; one which saw the team win 27 of their 32 matches in all competitions, win the U18 Premier League South and lift a fourth FA Youth Cup in West Ham United history.

City, winners of the U18 Premier League north for a fourth successive season, welcomed Keen’s young Irons to Manchester for a meeting that promised excitement and goals, with the two top scoring youth sides in the country meeting at the Etihad.

Kodua v City

The two division winners took to the Etihad Stadium pitch amid cool conditions, and it was a cool effort by Kane Taylor on three minutes that almost opened the scoring for City. The marauding defender’s low effort was claimed by Finn Herrick. 

The prolific Divin Mubama forced George Murray-Jones into his first save of the evening not long after, blasting on goal after combining with George Earthy and Lewis Orford. 

Kodua fired over from just inside the area in an opening period which saw the two sides swap dominance, similar to two chess players allowing each other to take their respective turns, with City’s top goalscorer Justin Oboavwoduo taking the next effort, only for Herrick to collect. 

Kelly, ever his industrious self, glanced a header goalward which was turned away, before the deep-lying midfielder played a key role in the opening finish. The No7’s sensational pass split open the City defence. 

Kodua, cutting in from the right, showed the composure he has developed throughout the season to slot in his 16th goal of the season in all competitions for Kevin Keen’s side.

Cele v Man City

Eager to level the tie before the interval, City pushed forward in numbers. Oboavwoduo’s clever, tricky run caught out the Hammers defence, with the winger testing Herrick again. The Irons shot-stopper again came out on top, punching away the strike.

As the final seconds of the first half drew to a close, the big opportunity for the hosts presented itself. A hopeful cross fell for Will Dickinson, who was unmarked at the back post. The midfielder struck wide from the narrow angle, with the oncoming Jaden Heskey unable to meet the ball at the back post.

City have been the leading goalscorers among the U18s Premier League sides this season and the Irons had to be wary of the home side’s attacking threat and pressure into the second half. 

It was actually the Hammers who got the better chance in the opening exchanges of the second half, as Ollie Scarles was permitted to travel deep into City territory. The left-back threaded in Earthy, who had time to turn, but his shot was blocked away.

The home side looked to make their dominance in possession count but the Hammers were ready to pounce when City drove forward, with the visitors’ goalscoring prowess from counter attacks always an option. It almost paid off when Callum Marshall found Earthy, with his effort again blocked away.

Kaelan Casey rose highest from the resulting corner and, much like in the FA Youth Cup final, powered a header goalward. This time, his goal-bound attempt was cleared off the line. A moment of relief for the hosts. 

Jones very Man City

Herrick was forced into an outstanding save on 73 minutes when substitute Ashton Muir volleyed on target from close range, but the goalkeeper was unable to stop City’s leveller just minutes later. Oboavwoduo rose highest to meet a cross, heading downwards. Herrick got down low but was unable to keep the shot out and could only watch as the ball squirmed across the rain-sodden pitch and over the line.

City, buoyed by their leveller, pressed West Ham hard in the search of a winning strike. Dickinson blasted a powerful strike wide, while Oboavwoduo continued to threaten. 

As the second half ticked into its final additional minute, the Hammers thought they had found the late winner. Marshall found Mubama with a clever, dinked ball, and the No11 chested down into a dangerous area. His low shot was somehow kept out by Murray-Jones, and the final match of the 2022/23 season ticked into extra time.

The pleasant spring evening had turned into a downpour as extra time commenced at the Etihad Stadium, and it was City who went on the attack from the off.

Tom Galvez’s wicked shot from the right side was expertly saved by Herrick, after a rebound from a free-kick fell kindly to the winger, before the Hammers goalkeeper made a sensational stop from Muir’s curling effort.

Extra time

But the home side would find their second on 102 minutes. Taylor had again driven forward, releasing a strike that Herrick excellently kept out, but the ball fell nicely for Oboavwoduo, who gratefully gobbled up his second with a powerful finish.

With 15 minutes left of the game, and indeed of the season, the U18s went on the attack. Blaise Uwandji came on to add more impetus to the attack, while Marshall started the second period of extra time with a curling ball that Mubama came close to meeting.

While the minutes ticked away, City retained dominance of the ball, holding on to secure the National final trophy at the expense of the Hammers.

Manchester City U18s: Murray-Jones, Wright (Samuel 70), Simpson-Pusey, Alleyne, Taylor, Dada-Mascoll, Oboavwoduo (Alfa-Ruprec 116), Dickson, Heskey (Muir 70), O'Reilly © (Okeke 91), Galvez
Subs not used: Grant

Goals: Oboavwoduo 76, 102

Booked: Wright, 

West Ham United U18s: Herrick, Tarima (Battrum 70), Casey, Clayton, Scarles (Jones 91), Orford, Kelly (Rigge 85), Earthy, Marshall, Kodua (c), Mubama
Subs not used: Terry

Goals: Kodua 30

Booked: Clayton

Referee: Alex Sawden