I thought this week I’d break the mould and not go to another Friday non league fixture, instead coming to the Rush Green Stadium, formerly the home of Ford United (now Redbridge) and Romford, to watch a Premier League 2 match.
This league replaced the Under 21 Premier league in 2016/17, with a focus on technical skills, intensity and physicality, which the FA hoped expose more young players to the environments that would allow them to slot seamlessly into first team scenarios.
The league has two tiers, with 14 teams in Division 1 and 11 in Division 2. Promotion and relegation are applied. All players born after 1 January 2001 are eligible to play in the 2022-23 season.
West Ham United sat at the bottom of the Premier League 2 table at kick off, with 5 points from 12 games. Tottenham Hotspurs we’re just a place above with 6 points from their 12 games. West Ham are coached by ex-hammer Mark Robson and Spurs by Wayne Burnett, once of Huddersfield Town.
The Rush Green Stadium in Romford, has a large grandstand and a beautiful playing surface, as befitting for the training facility of a Premier League side. Facilities for fans are limited but the terracing around the ground provides good standing views.
The first twenty minutes were quietly fought, with both sides passing beautifully on the billiard table quality surface. While Kamarai Swyer for West Ham and Romain Mundle for Spurs looked dangerous when they ran with the ball, but as the game approached the 45 minute mark, it was the defences who held firm. Spurs’ Malachi Fagan-Walcott shepherded play confidently at the back, while for West Ham it was Kaelan Casey who stood out for his mature decision making and precision tackling.
Then, just as half time looked to arrive goalless, West Ham won a free kick, when Kamarai Swyer was pulled down on the edge of the box. Up stepped Oliver Scarles, with a beautifully curled free kick, past Josh Keeley in the Spurs’ goal, to put the Hammers ahead.
At the half time whistle the teams went in with the scores separated by a solitary goal, West Ham United holding a narrow 1-0 lead.
The second half had only just got going when on 56 minutes a foul on Romain Mundle in the West Ham penalty area led to a spot kick. Tottenham’s Jamie Donley struck a reasonable penalty, but this drew a fine save by Krisztian Hegyi, in goal for the Hammers.
Both sides threw everything into the game with chance after chance at both ends. The stand out players in the second half were Levi Laing who worked tirelessly at the back for the home side and Pape Matar Starr for Spurs.
Sadly, despite the increased attacking play, there were no more goals in the game. At the final whistle it was the Hammers who clawed themselves off the bottom rung of the league, consigning Spurs to that unwanted place.