Fulham U18s 1-3 West Ham United U18s
U18 Premier League South
West Ham United’s youth team recorded a fifth straight win in U18 Premier League South with a highly impressive 3-1 win away at last season’s champions Fulham on Saturday.
Off the back of consecutive three-goal margin victories over West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal, Kevin Keen’s U18s were once again in fine fettle in front of goal, with George Earthy, Divin Mubama and Callum Marshall all striking to record a memorable win at Motspur Park.
The win saw the Hammers rise up to fourth in the table and, given the right combination of results, they could even go top with a win away at Birmingham City U18s on Tuesday.
It was a hard-fought result, however, with Fulham – traditionally high challengers at this level – forcing Jacob Knightbridge into a superb early save to keep out Oliver Sanderson’s crisp low strike, with West Ham’s Sean Tarima following up to clear up the rebound.
Shortly after, however, the Hammers took the lead. A storming run into the box of Mubama saw him bundle the ball past a defender and shoot, deflecting it over the keeper – but also against the far post. No matter, however, as Earthy stole in to slot home a simple goal from a matter of yards.
Gideon Kodua threatened to increase the Irons’ lead moments later, but was denied a run into the area by Fulham right-back Luc de Fougerolles.
And it was the hosts who created the best remaining chance of a scrappy first half when Michael Olakigbe found space inside the box but dragged his effort across goal and wide.
Fulham continued to create opportunities upon play’s resumption, and levelled 15 minutes into the second half when a cross from deep found its way to Imani Lanquedoc, who calmly laid off for George Okkas to sidefoot high into the top corner of the net.
The Hammers demonstrated their resilience once more in U18 Premier League South by refusing to allow their heads to drop, and – after several half-chances were squandered – regained the lead through a curious goal from Mubama 20 minutes from time.
Credit must go to the No9, however, for his crafty play, lurking in the blind spot of Fulham goalkeeper Alexander Borto. The Fulham ‘stopper will regret placing the ball in front of him to kick – but Mubama gobbled up the chance with glee to roll it into an unguarded net.
As the match ticked into injury time and West Ham looked to counter at pace, Lewis Orford – on the stretch – missed a glorious opportunity to wrap up the points as he somehow conspired to steer the ball wide after Borto had beaten away a fierce Mubama effort.
But it was to prove inconsequential as the Hammers scored their third – and Marshall’s third in three games since joining the Academy of Football – deep into injury time.
A storming run from the influential Mubama down the right channel saw his low effort squirm up off the body of Borto and be bundled over the line by second-half substitute Marshall.
Divin’s goal doesn’t surprise me. He’s so clever. It wasn’t just a goalkeeping mistake, you could see the way Divin positioned himself
An outstanding team performance from back to front yielded a fantastic result, but U18s assistant coach Gerard Prenderville is keen that his players keep their feet on the ground.
“It was a tough game,” Prenderville admitted. “It was always going to be against Fulham, who have won the league for the last two years.
“I think we did alright. We started the game really well, went 1-0 up and had a couple of chances on the counter-attack, but Fulham came out in the second half, had a real go at us and got it back to 1-1.
“Divin’s goal doesn’t surprise me. He’s so clever. It wasn’t just a goalkeeping mistake, you could see the way Divin positioned himself behind the centre-back, and then Callum Marshall came on and scored again.
“As a performance with the ball, it wasn’t our best, but we’ve played really well in other games and not won, so the determination and resilience we showed – they all showed a willingness to get back and defend – was a real positive and plus for the U18s.
“We’re really proud of all of their performances, from goalkeeper to centre forward, because they all dug in and did a shift for the team.”
Prenderville was also delighted with the clinical nature of his side’s display in front of goal.
“What was brilliant for me was that all of the goals were in and around the six-yard box or the penalty spot,” he smiled. “They weren’t fantastic goals from outside or screamers, they were all scrappy, determined ones.
“It’s the scrappy ones that Divin and George and Callum are adding to their game, being in the right place at the right time.
“You can get the beautiful ones too, but the scrappy ones count just as much – I think all three goals would have had a combined distance of about 12 yards!”
A quick turnaround, in the shape of a trip to Birmingham City U18s on Tuesday, awaits, with Prenderville concluding: “We’re trying to take one game at a time, to be honest. We go again against Birmingham on Tuesday.
“We’re not getting carried away with our form. We’re just preparing, working hard on the training pitch and taking each game as it comes.”
West Ham United U18s: Knightbridge; Robinson, Tarima (Marshall 62), Casey, Forbes (c), Scarles (Falase 53), Woods, Earthy, Orford, Mubama, Kodua (Evans 69)
Goals: Earthy 15, Mubama 76, Marshall 90