Under-18s suffer defeat to Norwich

Iyiola Adebayo

West Ham United U18s 0-3 Norwich City U18s
U18 Premier League South

West Ham United Under-18s suffered only their second defeat in seven games on Saturday morning, losing 3-0 to Norwich City at Little Heath.

Kevin Keen’s U18s went into the game off the back of a triumphant result in the FA Youth Cup a week ago, when they overcame Luton Town U18s 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 3-3 draw after extra-time at Kenilworth Road.

Accordingly, it was the Hammers who made the brighter start in east London, striking the outside of the post after just three minutes through Sonny Perkins’ shot from the edge of the box.

Their confidence continued to swell as U16s midfielder George Earthy came close after going one-on-one with Norwich ‘keeper Sam Blair; his effort beat the shot-stopper, but also the far post.

The game gradually evened out, leading to Oscar Thorn – with his third shooting opportunity in the first 18 minutes – putting Norwich ahead, finding the bottom corner with a controlled finish after Alex Matos’ lay-off.

A combative – yet quiet in terms of chances – U18 Premier League South match developed, with West Ham playing with plenty of intent, if not always the final ball to match.

Just five minutes before half-time, however, Norwich’s lead began to look insurmountable. Following a West Ham corner, the Canaries countered at pace and after a strike towards his near post was parried away by Serine Sanneh, Joe Duffy powered the ball home.

A 2-0 deficit was a harsh reflection on a half in which the Hammers had more than played their part, but the match slipped further away from them in the opening minutes of the second period.

Moments after second-half substitute goalkeeper Jacob Knightbridge had done brilliantly to deny Thorn with his legs from a one-on-one, Manos made no mistake from outside the box with a low curling effort.

The Hammers continued to press forwards in the remainder of the match, coming close through Divin Mubama and Isaac Evans while being denied on several other occasions by some fine last-ditch defending.

Yet ultimately, West Ham were unable to grab the consolation goal their general play at the very least deserved.

“I think we started well in the first 15 minutes of the game but after Norwich scored against the run of play, they were the better side for the duration of the game,” assistant coach Mark Phillips conceded. 

“It’s the old adage that goals change games. Norwich’s goal gave them a bit of belief and they ran out worthy winners, if I’m honest.

“We still made chances and we showed a good response after half-time, but their third goal changed the game again, taking the wind out of our sails.

“Once again we had quite a few 16-year-olds playing, which is a positive – getting schoolboys ready for youth football - and you can learn a lot at this level from a defeat.

“I want us to end before Christmas on a high and bounce back from this disappointing performance, so let’s go to Southampton next week and get the three points.”

West Ham U18s’ next game is against the Saints on Saturday 19 December at Staplewood Training Ground.

West Ham United: Sanneh (Knightbridge 46), Woods, Adebayo (c), Forbes, Evans (Kileba 70), Potts (Adu 46), Trialist, Earthy, Coddington, Mubama, Perkins
Subs: Casey, Thomas

Booked: Woods

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