Filed: Saturday, 2nd August 2008
By: Staff Writer
A goal in the final minute of each half at the New Rec condemned Kevin Keen's reserves to their first defeat of pre-season.
A youthful looking Hammers side - featuring just Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington and Jack Collison from the first team squad plus trialist Michalis Konstantinou - suffered their first defeat in four thanks to a last minute winner from Athletic's Charlie Ide.
Jeffrey, Bowyer and Collison line up to face a free-kick
Zavon Hines had given United a first half lead from the penalty spot against the run of play after 39 minutes when smashing the ball low into the bottom corner after being pulled down in the box by former Leicester trainee Jon Ashton. It was no more than the young striker had deserved, having been denied a cast-iron penalty for a similar infringement two minutes earlier.
But the home side were back on level terms with virtually the last kick of the first half; Ishmael Welsh, a former Hammers trainee who left the club in 2006 had given Jordan Spence a torrid time on the left flank in the first half and was duly rewarded for his efforts with a goal, scoring from close range with the United defence all at sea.
Welsh levels the scores on the stroke of half-time
Trialist Konstantinou was replaced by Tony Stokes at the break after failing to impress, as the Hammers began the second period in much better shape than they ended the first.
Hines - who has now hit five goals in his last five games - thought he had notched his second of the afternoon after sliding the ball home from close range. However the referee's assistant thought differently and his effort was ruled out for offside.
Hines finds the net but his effort is ruled out
As the half wore on Kevin Keen decided to ring the changes further, introducing Tom Harvey, Joe Widdowson, Ryan O'Neill and Junior Stanislas for Holmar Eyjolfsson, Jack Collison, Lee Bowyer and Matthew Etherington. The home side began to dictate play once again but it was Zavon Hines who had the best chance of the second half with just seven minutes remaining when put clean through on goal - only to fire his shot straight at Athletic's 18-year-old keeper Steve Arnold.
Hines blows a chance to make it 2-1 when clean through
As both sides traded blows with the final whistle drawing closer , the Hammers saw chances from Tony Stokes and Jack Jeffrey fail to break the deadlock. At the other end, United keeper Adam Street had to be alert to deny Athletic twice within two minutes as the Blue Square Premier side threatened to snatch victory.
Substitute Stokes with a speculative effort
But Street was unable to prevent Grays from snatching victory in the final few seconds of the game when new Grays signing Ide pounced on a rebound to fire the winner from the edge of the six-yard box much to the delight of the home fans behind the goal. It was a disappointing finale to the game for the Hammers, but one that the home side just about deserved on balance of play.
However there were plenty of positives to come from the game; another goal for Zavon Hines plus the return to action of Messrs Etherington and Bowyer, both of whom could be called upon by Alan Curbishley next weekend when United take on Villarreal at the Boleyn Ground.
Next up for the reserves is the trip to Bishops Stortford on Tuesday night. The first team squad are next in action at Ipswich on Monday night.
West Ham United: Street, Spence, Eyjolfsson (Harvey 75), N'Gala, Miller, Jeffery, Bowyer (Widdowson 67), Collison (O'Neill 75), Etherington (Stanislas 54), Konstantinou (Stokes 46), Hines.
Subs not used: Miklosko, Edgar.
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