Eddie Dickman’s Sunderland Development Squad dealt Terry Westley’s West Ham United Development Squad’s chances of making the top four of the Premier League Two Division One a significant blow with a narrow victory at the Chigwell Construction Stadium yesterday evening.
The affair’s defining moment came in the first period, on 14 minutes to be precise, 18-year-old Lee Connelly was the man to get it, beating Nathan Trott from range with a mighty effort.
The home side had their chances to get back into it, the likes of Skipper Marcus Browne, new signing Oladapo Afolayan, and midfielders Sead Haksabanovic and Grady Diangana all going close, never close enough, however.
As a result, the Hammers are now six points off Swansea in fourth position in the PL2 Division 1, while sitting sixth themselves with two games in hand, meanwhile, the Black Cats boosted their hopes of survival at the bottom, remaining tenth but moving within one of Manchester City directly above.
From the start in Dagenham, Irons Boss Westley decided on five alterations to his starting Xl in the wake of a League defeat away at Swansea last Monday evening in South Wales.
In defence, U18 stars Josh Okotcha and Reece Hammam came in for Alex Pike and Ajibola Alese, while Vashon Neufville and loanee Moses Makai saw their places taken up by Portuguese Domingos Quina and Sead Haksabanovic and Deadline Day signing from Solihull Moors Oladapo Afolayan replaced Anthony Scully, Marcus Browne took the Captain’s armband.
Meanwhile, AFC Manager Dickman made six changes from his side’s last encounter, a Durham County Cup exit at the hands of Dunston just under seven days ago.
In goal, Max Stryjek was ousted in favour of Jason Steele, while further up the field, Owen Gamble came in for Chris Allan, Alex Storey, Dan Wright and Jack Diamond were replaced by first-teamer Jack Rodwell, Elliot Embleton and Senior star Danny Williams, while Connor Shields came in for Swedish talent Benjamin Mbunga Kimpioka up-front.
In the early stages at the home of Dagenham & Redbridge, both sides made fast starts to the affair and the hosts could well have struck the first blow before the visitors did.
Haksabanovic firing over after a promising run and new man Afolayan having his first effort and seeing it saved by Steele, while Trott did well to keep out a close-range effort from Jake Hackett at the other end.
But, the away side grew into the game more and more as it went along and got their reward just before the 15 minutes mark, Connelly making the most of a poor Trott clearance, to receive a pass, turn well, and fire into the near top corner.
That advantage could have been doubled almost instantly by Dickman’s boys, Williams finding himself free in the area after a ball from the right, Trott somehow denying him with a magnificent save.
But, in an attacking sense, it soon became apparent that it just wasn’t going to be West Ham’s night with Steele somehow managing to deny Browne and Jahmal Hector-Ingram a combined three times in the space of ten minutes.
However, there would be one final opportunity for them before the half-time whilst, Hector-Ingram doing very well to tee up Afolayan from a tight angle, he could only find the side netting, the visitors held a narrow lead at the break.
The story of the second period would very much be the same, Steel getting in the way of early efforts from Afolayan and substitute Scully, while Browne couldn’t let his shot on target to finish off an impressive run.
The away side only offered the are counter-attack and never really looked like they were going to wrap up the points, with the East Londoners never giving up hope of a point.
Their evening was well and truly summed up on 85 minutes though, stand-out performer Browne working into an excellent position, his powerful shot cannoning off the post and with that, the equaliser race had been run.
The Irons will have a week to reflect back on the rare home disappointment before they are in action in East London once again, entertaining Tottenham Hotspur in a fixture that was re-arranged from December.
Whereas, the Black Cats don’t have long to bask in the glory of a triumph on the road at all, as they make the lengthy trip to face off with Exeter City in the Premier League Cup next Sunday.