After a couple of near misses from the Hammers, Tunji Akinola put them ahead as the rain lashed down at the Training Centre but we went in level at the break thanks to a well-placed header from Under-16s defender Jon Dinzeyi.
Left-back Jaden Brown then swept us into the lead shortly after the hour mark, with goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman making some impressive stops as we held on to secure a 2-1 victory in the Barclays Under-18 Premier League.
Under-18s Coach Kieran was pleased to see our youngsters emerge triumphant, but still saw plenty of room for improvement.
“Obviously we had to deal with tough weather conditions and that made it challenging in the first half, but I thought we coped with that and managed to play out of West Ham’s pressure pretty well,” he said.
“We didn’t create as many chances as what we would have liked in that period and they had quite a bit of the territory, so all-in-all it was probably a first half that we were glad to get through.
“We were really expecting to kick on in the second half and, with the conditions in our favour, go on and dominate the game. We obviously got a goal relatively early in the second period but, in terms of the performance, we were disappointed that we didn’t go on from there, control the game more, create more chances and score more goals.
“In the end Alfie has had to produce some good saves and we produced some stout defending. It wasn’t a top performance on the ball as we’d hoped for – the players know that and they know we need to improve – but on the other side of it I think it was a good learning curve for the boys because it’s not often that we’ve been able to grind out a win when we’ve not been at our best.”
As for our goalscorers, Kieran was encouraged to see two defenders making the difference at the opposite end to where they usually operate.
“Our first goal was a really big header from Jon Dinzeyi – he’s been up and down between us and the Under-16s this season so I’m delighted for him,” he added.
“He’s progressing well, while the second goal was obviously a good breakaway and Jaden kept running and popped up with the goal, so there were positives in there for us.”