West Ham United U18s continued their recent excellent form with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Birmingham City.
Goals from Callum Marshall, Divin Mubama and Lewis Orford secured a sixth consecutive league win for the young Irons, pushing Kevin Keen’s side up to second in the U18 Premier League South table, only behind Chelsea on goal difference.
U18s Head Coach Keen made four changes to his young side from the 3-1 victory over Fulham at the weekend as Asher Falase, Jamal Baptiste, Regan Clayton and Marshall all came into the starting XI, and the team’s attacking intent was clear in the opening exchanges.
Mubama registered the game’s first shot on target in the second minute, receiving the ball from Orford at the back post. The forward did well to find the target, but Birmingham shot-stopper Bradley Mayo was equal to the effort.
The Hammers were then almost gifted an opener as The Blues sought to play out from the back, only for George Earthy to rob possession on the edge on the area before playing in Marshall. The forward saw his effort blocked.
After a frantic opening ten minutes in the first period, chances were at a premium although the Hammers will have been disappointed not to secure an advantage as the game went to half-time.
While Keen’s side may have been perhaps been missing their cutting edge in the first half, the U18s certainly found it in the second.
Just six minutes into the second period, the Irons took a deserved lead as Marshall found the net. Falase collected the ball on the edge of the box, following a cleared corner, with his blocked effort falling to the forward, who poked past Mayo for the game’s opener.
Despite West Ham’s pressure, the home side would come back into the game just minutes later as Rico Patterson swung in a deep cross for Niall Rushton to meet, slotting the ball into the corner to level the score just before the hour mark.
Rather than deter the young Hammers, Birmingham’s equaliser only galvanised the away team, who would re-establish their lead just four minutes later. The combination of Marshall and Mubama’s high press led to chaos in the Blues’ back-line, resulting in the Irons being awarded a spot-kick. Mubama would step up and confidently put West Ham 2-1 ahead.
The three points were secured with 15 minutes remaining as Orford added West Ham’s third, skipping around the Birmingham defender and netting in the left corner.
West Ham’s lead should have been greater, in truth, as Mubama had the chance to double his personal tally from the penalty spot again, only for goalkeeper Mayo to save the effort from 12 yards.
Despite the spot-kick save, West Ham were able to hold onto their well-earned advantage and claim all three points for a sixth-consecutive league outing.
Having gone undefeated in league football since September, U18s lead coach Keen was delighted with how his side upped the pace in the second period.
“I thought that we were average in the first half, whereas in the second half we played some really good football and deserved the win”, Kevin Keen told whufc.com. “We upped the tempo a little bit, upped the quality so we got what we deserved.
“We changed a couple of things at half-time, we got to grips with their playing out and our pressing was much better. A couple of our players realised at half time that they hadn’t been at their best and in the second half they produced more”.
Keen also noted that, while his side did not necessarily play their best football in Tuesday’s match, the ability to win matches in different styles would serve his team well going forward.
He continued: “The football wasn’t as great as some of the other games- the pitch was more of a normal pitch as opposed to the high-quality Premier League pitches. They still tried to play their football though and so did we in the right moments, but it was tough. It is pleasing to win a game like that, the first goal was a scramble after a corner and the second goal was a penalty, so it is nice to dig in like that.
“Midweek games are tough, the lads had to get up early and play their second game in four days, so it was a little bit different for these boys. We restricted their attack, they didn’t have many shots and we managed to create quite a bit ourselves, so it was a very pleasing win.”
Birmingham City U18s: Mayo; Browne, Fogarty, Hamilton (Williams 64), Home, Manton (Dodd 68), Ogor, Patterson (O’Shea 83), Pendleton, Rushton, Wakefield (c)
Subs not used: Bereford, Brooks
West Ham United U18s: Knightbridge, Robinson, Clayton (Fawunmi 84), Falase, Baptiste, Forbes, Scarles, Earthy, Mubama (Kadua 74), Marshall, Orford
Subs not used: Terry, Evans, Woods
Goals: Marshall 51, Mubama 63 (pen), Orford 75