Bennett brace sends Under-23s top
West Ham 1-2 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Fri 22 January 2021, 18:29|Tottenham Hotspur
J'Neil Bennett stepped off the bench to score twice and send our Under-23s to the top of the Premier League 2 table with a 2-1 win at West Ham on Friday.
Following a goalless first half in which Alfie Devine went closest to breaking the deadlock, Tobi Omole's header was well saved by Hammers goalkeeper Joseph Anang before Bennett fired in with his first touch after coming on with just over 20 minutes left to play.
Fellow substitute Jamie Bowden then picked out the winger with a fabulous first-time pass for him to make it 2-0 just three minutes later, but Jayden Fevrier's reply for West Ham eight minutes from time meant we had to dig deep in the closing stages, goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi's double save in stoppage time preserving maximum points. The result sees us move into pole position in the standings, one point clear of Chelsea and two ahead of both Manchester City and Blackburn, although they've all played two games fewer.
Defender Malachi Fagan-Walcott made his first league start of the season after injury and played at right-back while midfielder Devine returned from suspension, and it was he who was at the centre of our best first-half opportunities. Kion Etete's low drive was tipped around the post by Anang in our first real attempt 19 minutes in and Devine's header from the resulting corner was off-target, before the 16-year-old saw a fantastic attempt - again a header - spin just wide from Maurizio Pochettino's right-wing delivery a few minutes later.
Fevrier fired just past the far post in West Ham's best opportunity of the first period but as the game went on, it was centre-back Omole who was involved at both ends. He combined with Etete on the second phase following a corner but West Ham scrambled the ball behind and five minutes after the break saw a powerful header from a corner well saved by Anang. Following a couple of near misses from Dan Chesters, the defender was there again to deny Sam Caiger with a great covering tackle before heading Kai Corbett's cross behind via the outside of the post as he provided impressive resistance against West Ham's pressure.
We opened the scoring on 69 minutes as George Marsh sent a right-footed delivery towards the back post from the left-hand corner of the 18-yard box where Bennett ghosted in to convert within moments of coming off the bench. Freddie Potts was inches away from an equaliser for the Hammers with a dipping strike from distance but three minutes later we were two goals ahead, Bowden fizzing a sumptuous first-time pass out to Bennett on the right, who took on left-back Emmanuel Longelo and fired inside the near post via a deflection.
Caiger played the ball inside to Fevrier who reduced the arrears for the hosts on 82 minutes, but we managed the game well to see out the victory, Oluwayemi saying no to West Ham's best chance in the 91st minute when he parried Longelo's effort and then scrambled down to his left to somehow keep out Fevrier's follow-up.
'Understanding the requirements that are needed in order to win'
Our Under-23s have now won four of their last five games in the league, much to the delight of coach Wayne Burnett: "I'm really pleased that we're winning football matches. Winning is something that we want to instil in these players and it's vital because that's why everyone plays the game," he said.
"Up to the 70-minute mark today, I thought we were very good at times and we deserved to score two goals, but those goals then seemed to change the game slightly, West Ham got into the ascendancy and we didn't have a hold on the game like we should have done. But we found a way to win - that's game management, that's understanding the requirements that are needed in order to win and that's part of the players' development and our progression. We were 2-0 up against Chelsea last month and lost 3-2 so hopefully we've learned from it - that's all part of the players' growth."
West Ham 1-2 Spurs (Premier League 2)
West Ham: Anang (c), Caiger, Longelo, Forson, Alves, Baptiste, Fevrier, Swyer, Corbett, Afolayan (Potts 62), Chesters. Substitutes (not used): Hegyi, Okotcha, Adebayo.
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Fagan-Walcott, Lavinier, Marsh, Lyons-Foster (c), Omole, Pochettino (Bowden 67), Thorpe (Bennett 67), Etete, Devine, Markanday. Substitutes (not used): Kurylowicz, Mukendi.
Goals: West Ham - Fevrier 82; Spurs - Bennett 69, 72.
Yellow cards: West Ham - Forson 37, Afolayan 51; Spurs - Markanday 60, Marsh 77, Devine 90+3.
Referee: Daniel Lamport.
Venue: Rush Green.
Weather: Sunny intervals, gentle breeze, seven degrees.