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#U18 #MatchReport #WestHam

Under-18s iron out Hammers' comeback

Spurs 5-3 West Ham United (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 02 March 2019, 12:59|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s dispatched West Ham United 5-3 on Saturday morning to remain unbeaten in the league.

The football cliché ‘a game of two halves’ would be the perfect description of the contest at Hotspur Way as despite enjoying a commanding start to proceedings and building up a four-goal lead, a determined second-half comeback from West Ham made it a tense finish to the game.

In a rampant first-half performance, we put four past the visitors with strikes from Maurizio Pochettino, Rayan Clarke and two from trialist Kion Etete. In the second period, however, our lead was halved within six minutes as Bernardo Rosa and Amadou Diallo struck before Seb Nebyla made it 4-3. Late on, though, we found our attacking threat once again to make sure of the win, as substitute Tarrelle Whittaker fired home his first Under-18 Premier League goal to seal the victory.

Applying the pressure from the first whistle, we got ourselves in front on seven minutes through Pochettino. After Malachi Walcott had picked out Rayan Clarke on the left wing, the forward drove into the box where his pass, via a couple of deflections, fell to the feet of Pochettino, who had the easy job of tapping the ball in at the far post.

Just three minutes later, we made it 2-0. Debutant Nile John, who had started the game superbly in the heart of midfield upon his elevation from the Under-16s, picked up the ball before charging towards the centre of the West Ham defence. He found Etete in the box and after the striker saw his shot saved by Serine Sanneh in the Hammers' net, Clarke was alive to the loose ball and stabbed it home.

After more sustained pressure, we increased our lead further on 20 minutes and trialist Etete grabbed his first of the game as he was again picked out by John, before guiding the ball into the corner of the net. The striker bagged his second on 36 minutes as he steered in Clarke’s cross with a well-timed header.

Our strong hold on the game was quickly loosened after the break, though, as some sloppy play at the back saw our lead cut to two after Rosa and Diallo both fired in from just outside the box, with just six minutes gone in the second period.

The Hammers immediately pushed to find a quick third, but we managed to stem the tide and slow down the onslaught. As we started to get our passing rhythm back, we came agonisingly close to extending our lead but after a defiant run from Dilan Markanday, the midfielder could only drag his shot wide.

Moments later, the away side narrowed our lead further. On 69 minutes, Nebyla slotted in from close range after Louie Watson’s strike had cannoned off the crossbar.

With over 20 minutes still to play, we had to show a lot of courage and focus to keep on top in the game and hold out for the win. And, after a spell of sustained possession, we found a fifth goal through substitute striker Whittaker. The forward was released by a long, searching ball which he took down swiftly before confidently sending it home past Sanneh to give us all three points.

I was really impressed with how we applied ourselves mentally and the way we played technically.

Under-18s Coach Matt Wells

Key moment

After seeing our 4-0 lead quickly chipped away in the second period, we had to remain resilient and press for the killer goal that took the game away from a resurgent West Ham side.

Whittaker had remained on the shoulder of the defender throughout his time on the pitch and got his reward for his positioning as he beat the offside trap to deliver that much-needed fifth and seal our win.

Coach’s view

As delighted as he was with his side’s start to the game, Under-18s Coach Matt Wells couldn’t hide his frustration with the way the second period played out: “I thought we were very good in that first half - obviously four goals up and we could have scored a few more. Their keeper made a couple of good saves,” he explained. “I was really impressed with how we applied ourselves mentally and the way we played technically, in terms of the way we moved the ball and our end product – we scored some really good goals.

“Of course, then, on the flip side, I was extremely disappointed with the second half. The attitude of the performance when West Ham got on top was probably what disappointed me most – I don’t think we responded in the way we should have – and we didn’t look like, in that period, the strong team that we have done in the past. We made too many individual and collective errors and, as a result, the game could have gone either way, so it was a frustrating second half.

“Credit to young Tarrelle Whittaker, though. Coming off the bench, I thought he made a real difference to the performance and ultimately he scored the fifth goal that gave us a bit of breathing space and put the game to bed.”

Spurs 5-3 West Ham United (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Oluwayemi (Kurylowicz 23), Okedina, Statham, John, Walcott, Binks, Pochettino (Whittaker 69), A Shashoua (c), Etete, Markanday, Clarke (Pedder 84). Substitute (not used): Cooper.