YOUTH TEAM REPORT: WEST HAM UNITED 2 CHELSEA 0
The Under-18s went down to their first defeat since the end of November as first half goals from West Ham pair Jordan Brown and Kieron Bywater secured all three points for the young Hammers. The hosts defended resolutely throughout and Adi Viveah's team were unable to find a way through as they surrendered ground on the side above them in secend in the Under-18 Premier League South table.
There were three schoolboys involved from the start for Viveash's side as Isaac Christie-Davies came into midfield and Tammy Abraham provided the width on the flank, while top goalscorer Dominic Solanke continued to lead the line up front.
Charlie Colkett captained the side from midfield alongside Christie-Davies and Charly Musonda, while Kasey Palmer supported the attack from the left wing. Dion Conroy and George Brady kept their places in central defence, as did Bradley Collins in goal, with Ola Aina and Isak Ssewankambo at left-back and right-back respectively.
It was a difficult start for the visitors on a somewhat sticky and muddy pitch and they found themselves a goal behind inside the opening five minutes. Striker Jordan Brown demonstrated all his strength to hold off the challenge of Conroy with his back to goal, before supplying a pass out left to Kieron Bywater. The midfielder's touch was perfect to tee the opportunity up and he duly dispatched the ball into the far bottom corner, beyond the despairing dive of Collins in the Chelsea goal.
The hosts were buoyed by the early lead and threatened again as Josh Cullen fired over the bar, though the Blues did respond through Musonda (pictured above) set-pieces. Firstly, the young Belgian arrowed a free-kick narrowly wide, before an attempt from further wide, after Aina had been felled midway through one his trademark bursts forward, found Abraham at the back post. The schoolboy's header was again just wide.
Sam Howes in the West Ham goal was finally tested after 15 minutes of action as Musonda once again stood over a free-kick 25 yards out and whipped it dangerously towards the top corner. The goalkeeper had to be alert and stretched high to tip the dipping ball over the bar.
Several minutes after that chance, Steve Potts' side doubled their advantage through the impressive Brown. The forward capitalised on some defensive confusion at the back from Chelsea and pounced to finish low underneath the onrushing Collins.
The remainder of the half saw the Blues struggling to impose themselves on the game in midfield, with the majority of forward forays breaking down as they attempted to unlock the West Ham defence in the final third.
Conroy was forced to make a crucial sliding intervention after Nathan Mavila had got in behind Brady down the left channel and was searching for Brown in the middle, while the speedy Brown once again caused problems down the left side in the moments before the interval, though Bywater's final touch let him down.
There was no change in luck for Chelsea after the restart as the hosts continued to defend deep and doggedly, while also remaining threatening themselves as they looked for a killer third goal. Pask fired over Collins's bar and Manny Onariase headed narrowly over at the back post as West Ham underlined their credentials as one of the league's strongest outfits.
The visitors altered their approach slightly as they continued to find it difficult to break through their opponents' rearguard, aiming longer diagonal balls forward to attacking runners as the half wore on. One such ploy saw Collins kick long to Solanke after comfortably plucking a Hammers corner from the air, though the schoolboy striker, despite initially doing well to bring the bouncing ball under control, found his opening quickly snuffed out by recovering defenders.
Viveash introduced both Kevin Wright, back from a recent injury layoff, and Jordan Houghton after an hour as he tried to inject something different into his side's weaponry. Solanke had a shot well blocked behind, before Brown ought to have grabbed his second goal of the game down the opposite end, though skewed his effort wide having found space in behind.
Abraham dragged a shot wide after good play in the build-up by Solanke, while substitute Chike Kandi hit the bar late on after taking the ball beyond the goalkeeper after receiving another high ball forward.
However, it was to be West Ham's day as Viveash's youth team endured a frustrating morning in Essex. Collins denied Brown again in stoppage time, while Houghton picked up a booking for a late tackle high up the field.
Next up for our Under-18s is a league trip to Southampton next Saturday, 1 February.
Chelsea Bradley Collins; Isak Ssewankambo (Kevin Wright 60), Dion Conroy, George Brady, Ola Aina; Isaac Christie-Davies (Jordan Houghton 60), Charlie Colkett (c), Charly Musonda; Tammy Abraham, Kasey Palmer (Chike Kandi 77), Dominic Solanke
Unused subs Jared Thompson, Reece Mitchell
West Ham Sam Howes; Alex Pike, Manny Onariase, Josh Pack, Lewis Page; Amos Nasha, Moses Makasi, Josh Cullen; Nathan Mavila, Kieron Bywater (c) (Djair Parfitt-Williams 76), Jordan Brown
Unused subs Gines Guzman, Reece Oxford, Marcio Martins, Jerry Amoo
Goals Bywater 4, Brown 23
By Sam Poplett.