Remi Coddington and his West Ham United Under 21 teammates began their 2022/23 campaign preparations with a pre-season fixture away to Sporting CP, in a match that finished in a 2-1 defeat.
Kamarai Swyer’s cool finish for the Hammers, created by Keenan Appiah-Forson’s pull-back, gave the away side the advantage against their Portuguese opponents in the first half.
Sporting CP fired back in the second period with a well-taken header from a corner, before the home side found the net via the penalty spot in the final minute of regulation time.
The glorious surroundings of the Sporting CP Academy provided the backdrop, amid stunning Saturday morning sunshine, for the U21s’ opening fixture of pre-season.
Three new professionals were given their first starting opportunities of the season in Archie Woods, George Earthy and Regan Clayton, and it was the latter who had the first chance of the match just three minutes in.
Playmaker Earthy found Thierry Nevers, who slotted through Clayton on the overlap. The left-back’s narrow shot was tipped onto the near post by the Sporting CP goalkeeper.
Nevers himself had an opportunity from a set-play just minutes later after Appiah-Forson was fouled around 20 yards from goal, but the winger’s strike was claimed comfortably.
The Hammers had the ball in the net on 21 minutes as Archie Woods released Swyer on the left, with the playmaker’s cross being turned into the net by Nevers only for the former to be called for offside in the build-up.
Just seconds later though the development side had the advantage, breaking through the Sporting CP lines in similar fashion. This time Appiah-Forson won the ball up high and played across for Swyer, who tapped the finish in.
The home team looked to come back into the game, testing the West Ham defence with a fizzing, low cross that no attacker could reach. A minute after, Brian Kinnear was called on as a long-ranged effort threatened, with the Scotsman tipping over the bar.
With the first 45 minutes of pre-season under his team’s belt, lead coach Mark Robson opted to make a number of changes for the second half, with seven names coming off the bench and into the team.
It was the Portuguese youngsters who went closest first in the second half, as a header went narrowly wide of Jacob Knightbridge’s post; a warning sign for the visitors.
Swyer, moved into a No10 position, was tenacious in driving the team forward and perhaps should have been awarded a penalty for his efforts after appearing to be brought down in the box. Nothing given.
Sporting hit back on 62 minutes, finding an equaliser from a set-piece. The corner was whipped in towards the back post and a towering header was past Knightbridge, levelling the match at 1-1.
With the two coaching staffs agreeing to permit rolling substitutes for the first pre-season match, Woods and Goncalo Cardoso were reintroduced on 68 minutes.
Chances were limited in the closing exchanges, although Nevers fired an effort just over the bar from the left-flank, before Junior Robinson curled a shot just wide with five minutes to play.
A hard-fought and battling match seemed set to end all level, before Sporting broke on the right-flank in the final minute. Michael Forbes’ challenge was mistimed, giving the home side a penalty.
Knightbridge got a fingertip to the effort, but the shot squeezed home to give Sporting CP the win.