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#U18 #MatchReport #WestHam #JamieDonley

Under-18s mount stunning fightback at West Ham

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

Sat 09 April 2022, 15:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Jamie Donley scored twice, set up two more goals and could have had a hat-trick, but for a well-saved second-half penalty as our Under-18s roared back from 2-0 down to win 5-3 at league leaders West Ham on Saturday.

Wearing the captain’s armband against a Hammers outfit that hadn’t lost in the Under-18 Premier League since we beat them 3-0 in the reverse fixture in September, the forward led by example to inspire our fightback at Little Heath after we’d conceded twice inside the first 11 minutes to leave ourselves with a mountain to climb.

Initially halving the deficit with a penalty shortly before the break following a foul on Billy Heaps, the 17-year-old crossed for Heaps to equalise in the second period, then saw another well-struck penalty somehow kept out by Jacob Knightbridge as we looked to turn the game fully on its head.

But he wasn’t disappointed for long as he lashed into the top corner to give us a lead that our control of the game had fully warranted, Jaden Williams subsequently adding a composed fourth following a mistake by Knightbridge to put us in command with just under 10 minutes left. Donley was then involved in a penalty decision at the other end, adjudged to have handled the ball in the box as Divin Mubama gave the Hammers an 86th-minute lifeline, but we were unperturbed and Donley’s excellent cross-field ball was converted by substitute Max McKnight to make it 5-3 as we entered added time, rounding off an excellent day’s work from Stuart Lewis’ troops.

West Ham took a fifth-minute lead as George Earthy’s shot was diverted onto the post by goalkeeper Adam Hayton, the same player getting to the loose ball first to make sure it crossed the line. Hayton then gave the ball away at the edge of his box to allow Callum Marshall to double the hosts’ advantage, but we soon began to threaten with Jez Davies’ shot well saved by Knightbridge and Donley’s ball across the face of goal cleared by some last-ditch defending from Junior Robinson at the back post with Riley Owen ready to pounce.

Owen subsequently picked out Heaps in the box and defender Kaelan Casey was penalised for his challenge on him, allowing Donley to get us off the mark with the resulting spot-kick on 42 minutes, despite Knightbridge getting a hand to it down to his left, with Owen himself spurning a good chance after being set up by Jordan Hackett on the stroke of half-time.

Having controlled the last 25 minutes of the first period, we continued in the same vein after the break and following a couple of near-misses, we equalised on 62 minutes when Williams fed Donley on the left and his cross was nodded in at the far post by Heaps. Brandon Bryan-Waugh, who impressed on his return to the side, subsequently roamed diagonally forward from right-back and was fouled in the box by Asher Falase, but this time Knightbridge got the better of Donley from 12 yards with a stunning save away to his right.

Three minutes later, though, with just under a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, we finally took the lead, Bryan-Waugh involved again as he attacked down the right, West Ham couldn’t clear their lines in the box, Williams’ effort was blocked and Donley arrowed a shot into the far top corner from the left angle. And it got even better for us with nine minutes of normal time left as Williams collected Knightbridge’s wayward clearance, ran into the box and turned his marker inside out before tucking past the keeper at his near post.

Substitute Mubama threaten to derail our momentum when he netted a penalty on 86 minutes following a handball decision against Donley but in truth, the home side had hardly threatened at all in the second half and our grip on the three points was restored on the 90-minute mark when Donley played the ball across from left to right, with McKnight arriving at the back post to convert his first goal of the season from close range.

Ideal tonic after midweek heartbreak

This result and performance was just what was needed for this group of players in the wake of a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Under-17 Premier League Cup final at Loughborough on Wednesday night – sentiments that were underlined by coach Stuart Lewis, who was delighted with his side’s display.

“It was a really top performance and result from the boys and I thought we showed a great reaction to an unbelievably tough night on Wednesday for all involved, both staff and players,” he said. “To come to West Ham, which is always a really tough and aggressive London derby and who are top of the league, and to beat them the way we did, was outstanding and a real testament to the boys’ character. I was really proud of the players. After coming off of the emotions they felt in the dressing room after the game on Wednesday and to be 2-0 down within 15 minutes, but to then go on to win the game and dominate the game with our football, I can’t praise the boys’ character and mentality enough. To drive through those though moments, to be 2-0 down and to come back and win 5-3 was a great outcome for everyone.”

On Donley’s display, Stuart added: “Jamie has those captain’s attributes, he leads from the front with his attitude and his standards and I thought today, along with some other individuals, he was outstanding. It was a real captain’s performance from him and I thought he was very good again. There were other players who weren’t involved on Wednesday who also felt disappointment because of not being in the squad or the team, and I thought the way they came into the team today – Brandon Bryan-Waugh, Billy Heaps, Riley Owen, the boys from the bench who had a really good impact and Jez Davies, who hasn’t played much in recent weeks – their contributions were also really, really pleasing.”

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

Spurs: Hayton, Bryan-Waugh, Hackett, Kyerematen (Cassanova 87), Dorrington, Sayers, Heaps (McKnight 87), J Davies, Williams, Donley (c), Owen (Bloxham 68). Substitutes (not used): Maguire, Linton.