Oscar Borg had fired the Hammers into a 13th-minute lead at their Little Heath facility, but Sterling struck back shortly before the break after good work in the build-up by Marcus Edwards and Charlie Hayford.
Unfortunately, we were unable to push on and win the game in the second period, despite enjoying the majority of the possession. Indeed, apart from Jaden Brown’s effort that went over the bar and a stoppage time save from home goalkeeper Sam Howes to deny Sterling, clear chances for us weren’t in great supply in the Barclays Under-18 Premier League contest.
Kieran McKenna made three changes to the side that thumped Brighton on the opening day of the season last week, with Alfie Whiteman making his first start at Under-18 level in goal, while Hayford and Keanan Bennetts took up attacking midfield roles.
Bennetts looked lively on the left-hand side in the opening stages and was the preferred target of Edwards on a couple of occasions as he lofted the ball forward.
Our first chance, however, arrived from a set piece as Joe Muscatt got on the end of a Charlie Owens corner and prodded the ball towards the far post, but Howes was able to gather with five minutes gone.
Whiteman made a fine save at the other end four minutes later, reacting quickly to tip Joe Powell’s rasper over the bar, but he was unable to prevent the Hammers from taking the lead on 13 minutes. Following a cross from the right, Matt Carter nodded the ball back into the danger zone with Borg turning in the area and lashing into the net.
We maintained our composure in spite of the setback with Edwards looking for Bennetts with a cross-field pass, only to see it cut out, while skipper Brown made a vital block to deny Jahmal Hector-Ingram with those in Lilywhite appealing for a free-kick after the Hammers forward had left George Marsh sprawling on the floor as he barged through into a shooting position.
Edwards’ curling set piece coaxed a fine one-handed save from Howes just beyond the half-hour mark, with the midfielder picking out Bennetts in the box three minutes afterwards – the latter being denied by the keeper as he tried to flick the ball beyond him.
We did hit the target on 38 minutes, though, as Edwards played the ball forward to Hayford who in turn found Sterling in the box – the latter making no mistake as he slammed the ball past Howes from a central position.
It was a deserved leveller but the game quietened down for a spell after that, with neither side able to fashion any clear chances for a considerable period.
Owens and Edwards went close with free-kicks either side of the half-time interval, while George Dobson’s speculative shot at the other end crept just past the far post.
Both sides made changes around the hour mark in an attempt to freshen things up with one of our substitutes, Samuel Shashoua, playing Sterling into a good position in the 69th minute. Unfortunately, though, the forward could only shoot over the bar after turning away from his marker.
As last week, centre-half Brown switched positions with left-back Muscatt for a spell towards the end of the game and it was a marauding run from Brown that led to a great chance with 81 minutes played. After exchanging passes with Zenon Stylianides, the young defender made it all the way to the edge of West Ham’s 18-yard box – only to scoop his eventual shot over the bar.
We picked up the pace again as the minutes ticked away, with Hammers left-back Vashon Neufville producing a last-ditch sliding tackle to deny substitute Ryan Loft after a quick counter-attack led by Sterling.
Armani Daly blazed over on the angle while Muscatt was off target with a free header from Chris Paul’s corner as the game entered stoppage time with our boys very much in the ascendancy.
There was one final chance in the dying seconds – one of the best of the whole game – as Shashoua sent Sterling through on goal, but Howes was out quickly to block and the points were shared.
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Paul, Muscatt, Owens, Marsh, Brown, Edwards (Shashoua 66), Stylianides, Sterling, Hayford (Loft 59), Bennetts (Daly 59). Substitutes (not used): Mukena, McDermott (GK).