Alvaro Fernandez on the ball.

Under-23s come unstuck at West Ham

Manchester United's five-game unbeaten run in Premier League 2 came to an end with a 2-0 reverse for the Under-23s away to West Ham United.

Neil Wood's team were in good form ahead of the trip south but did not get the rub of the green in Romford and were unable to respond to Will Fish's unfortunate own-goal and, at the start of the second half, a contentious penalty by Oladapo Afolayan. Facundo Pellistri was denied a spot-kick at the other end and Hannibal was shown a straight red card in the closing stages.

The youngsters showed much of the artistry and endeavour which had been a feature of recent matches but a mixture of poor luck and stoic Hammers’ defending in front of goal sentenced United to our third loss of the season.

Elanga unlucky not to scoreVideo

These teams were promoted from Premier League 2's second tier at the end of the close of the truncated 2019/20 season but they have been encountering contrasting fortunes this time around. The Hammers approached this game still awaiting their first win of the campaign after having completed eight games. On the other hand United, who opened the season with a couple of defeats, racked up a sequence of two draws and three victories.

United showed just one change in personnel from the side that took three points off Spurs in our previous outing, Ethan Laird returning after injury to take up the right-back spot with Lukasz Bejger named among the substitutes.

There can be no doubting that this youthful side have been growing in confidence over recent weeks and that was evident from the off in this match against the Irons. The Reds were certainly looking the more likely to open the scoring with Anthony Elanga, Hannibal and Arnau Puigmal looking dangerous each time they went forward. 

And there was another setback waiting for the Reds when game restarted as, within 20 seconds of the restart, the home side had been awarded a penalty.

Referee Alan Dale pointed to spot without hesitation when Chesters went down as Puigmal and Laird closed him down, even if replays showed any contact was minimal. Afalayan stepped forward confidently to send Paul Woolston the wrong way. It was a bitter pill for the visitors to swallow and the mood did not get any better when Pellistri had a strong penalty claim rejected when appearing to be tripped inside the box.

United did everything we could to pull the game around during the second half but, ultimately, it wasn't to be our night. Pellistri had a shot saved and Elanga bent an effort just wide, while the ball pinged around the home box on several occasions. Substitute Joe Hugill also had a decent effort as the clock ticked on.

However, there was another blow when Hannibal was involved in a tangle of legs with Kai Corbett, who once had a trial match with our Under-18s, in the 87th minute. Despite the Frenchman earning the free-kick, he was sent off after a brief discussion between referee Dale and his assistant.

Ethan Laird.
Ethan Laird played for 58 minutes on his return from injury.

MATCH DETAILS

United: Woolston; Laird (Hugill 58), Fish, Mengi, Fernandez; Galbraith (Helm 58), Hannibal, Puigmal; Pellistri (Bejger 82), Shoretire, Elanga.

Substitutes not used: Carney, McCann.

Scorers: Fish 33 (og), Afolayan 46 (pen). 

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