Express & Star

EFL Trophy: Walsall 0 West Ham U21's 1 - Report

Walsall suffered their third straight defeat in all competitions as an abject display saw them beaten by West Ham Under-21s in the Papa John's Trophy.


The Saddlers started with a whimper in Southern Group C as Michael Flynn's much-changed team failed to impress, with the youthful Hammers well worth their 1-0 victory at Bescot.

Kamarai Swyer confidently found the net for the visitors in the second half, capping off a performance where they showed calmness in possession and bags of enthusiasm without it.

Timmy Abraham

Walsall, conversely, looked well off the pace as they consistently gave the ball away and were unable to carve out any clear-cut opportunities.

It is six games without victory for the Saddlers after a performance that provided very little to shout about.


Walsall took the opportunity to rotate, with this being the eighth game of a jam-packed August.

Adam Przybek made his competitive debut for the Saddlers between the sticks amid seven changes from Saturday's loss to Grimsby Town.

Douglas James-Taylor and Flynn Clarke – on loan from Stoke City and Norwich City respectively – were also given the chance to impress against the youthful Hammers.

Seven-goal top scorer Danny Johnson was among the substitutes if needed.

West Ham made the brighter start to the clash. The well-coached youngsters stroked the ball around confidently and enjoyed the lion's share of possession.

They went close to opening the scoring on a couple of occasions early on as well.

Ronan Maher

Regan Clayton surged forward from left-back and saw an attempted cross almost sneak in at the far post, before Dirin Mubama's toe-poked effort was gathered sharply by the onrushing Przybek.

Walsall's spells on the ball were not coming to much as they were gifting it back to the visitors too cheaply in the final third.

Clarke was guilty of it on several occasions with heavy touches and unsuccessful flicks, while strike pair James-Taylor and Timmy Abraham struggled to get involved.

The Saddlers should have been behind just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark but were somehow let off the hook.

Pierre Ekwah's left-footed drive forced a quick reaction save from Przybek. The ball would drop perfectly for Mubama, who dragged his attempt wide with the goal gaping.

Walsall needed to buck up their ideas, but they continued to perform poorly for the rest of the first half.

Douglas James-Taylor

Jack Earing, Ronan Maher and Isaac Hutchinson were failing to assert themselves in the middle of the park and all misplacing passes.

Manny Monthe headed one wide shortly before the break, but a vast improvement was required to have any chance of grabbing a win. They had been really poor.

Unfortunately, the Saddlers began the second half as badly as they ended the first – and the Hammers took full advantage.

Swyer pounced on a loose ball and after a fine first touch, he rifled his shot beyond Przybek at the keeper's near post to give the young side, all things considered, a deserved lead.

Flynn immediately turned to his bench following the opener and made a triple substitution, with Johnson, Tom Knowles and Andy Williams coming on for the ineffective Clarke, James-Taylor and Abraham.

Another switch soon followed as Liam Kinsella replaced Earing in midfield.

Walsall did look a little more lively thanks to those changes.

Monthe had another headed chance but could not get the necessary contact. Williams and Maher then combined well, with the former's volley forcing Krusztan Heggi to palm clear.

The Saddlers threatened to grab a late goal and force a penalty shootout, with Maher and Taylor Allen both having attempts blocked.

West Ham, though, were able to hold on for the victory, which was no more than they deserved.

Credit must go to the Hammers for how they applied themselves both on and off the ball. They can return to the capital with their heads held high.

Walsall, meanwhile, will need to perform a hell of a lot better if they want to get anything back in the league at Bradford City on Saturday.


Walsall (4-1-2-1-2): Przybek; Bennett, White (c), Monthe, Allen; Earing (Kinsella, 66); Hutchinson, Maher; F Clarke (Knowles, 60); Abraham (Williams, 60), James-Taylor (Johnson, 60)

Subs not used: Evans (gk), P Clarke, Comley

West Ham U21s (4-3-3): Heggi (c); Greenidge, Laing, Forbes, Clayton (Coddington, 86); Ekwah, Potts, Appiah-Forson (Woods, 90); Earthy, Swyer (Kelly, 90), Mubama

Subs not used: Kinnear (gk), Cardoso, Peake, Casey

Goal: Swyer (57)

Attendance: 1,582 (32 West Ham fans)

Referee: Simon Mather