Terry Westley’s West Ham United U23 side proved too strong for Ricky Sbragia’s ten-man Manchester United Development Squad at the Leigh Sports Village Stadium last night, as they romped to victory in the Premier League 2 Division One clash.
The rampant visitors, many of whom were included in the first-time Squad to face Shrewsbury Town at the weekend, first took the lead early in the second period after threatening in the first, skillful midfielder Grady Diangana netting, just prior to being on the receiving end of a high boot from Luca Ercolani that warranted the youngster a straight red card.
That advantage was then doubled a short while after through prolific Spanish forward Antonio Martinez, his 12th of the campaign, before Norwegian International winger Martin Samuelsen scored the pick of the bunch to put the cherry on the cake mere moments later.
A sixth League loss of the campaign so far sees United fall back into second from last place in the Standings, 11th, while the Irons’ first victory in any Competition since October means that they remain sixth, but now level on points with Swansea City and Everton above, possessing a game in hand.
From the start in Lancashire, home Boss Sbragia decided on four alterations from his team’s final match before the Christmas break, a 1-1 PL2 point at home to Leicester City.
Coming into the starting team was goalkeeper Theo Richardson, midfielder Devonte Redmond, and pacey prodigies Josh Bohui and Matthew Olosunde, they took the places of Kieran O’Hara, Tom Sang, Callum Gribbin and occasional first-team forward Tosin Kehinde.
Meanwhile, visiting Manager Westley made just two changes to his starting Xl from the Checkatrade Trophy Round Two defeat at the hands of Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in early December.
Both of them came in defence as full-backs Ben Johnson and Joe Powell departed in favour of Reece Hammam and England youth star Ajibola Alese, who has been out since August, up-front Toni Martinez started despite appearing at the New Meadow on Sunday.
On a chilly night in Greater Manchester, the away side had to grow into a game that the hosts had the better of in the early stages, and they should have led before the 20-minute mark.
Bright starlet Joe Riley was able to burst forward twice, getting a sight at goal on both occasions, the first bring blocked and the second well held onto by Nathan Trott.
But, then Westley’s boys found their stride, creating two superb opportunities as Conor Coventry played in Sead Haksabanovic on the left and Richardson was just able to stop his powerful effort.
And, Martinez, just over 24 hours after making his Senior competitive debut, got himself on the end of a clever delivery from Samuelsen, only to nod the ball just over the bar.
United could only ever really threaten on the counter-attack after that and that’s exactly what they did, with Riley in the thick of the action yet again drive inches wide with James Wilson only able to fire wayward from a great position.
The Hammers were having a lot of the play, however, problems finding the final ball and they were very nearly punished for this after the break, the ever-present Riley forcing Trott to tip over from range.
But, it would only take six second-half minutes for the team in black and blue to seize a deserved advantage and lay the foundations for completing the double over their opposition.
Hammam did excellently to win a corner on the counter, when it was delivered, a Martinez flick-on fell to Diangana, whose first attempt cannoned off the bar leaving him to nod home neatly with the second stab.
Ironically, he was the scorer of his side’s last goal back in November, a consolation in a home thrashing by Derby County, although this time around, the circumstances were far different.
After Martinez and Domingos Quina had somehow not already made it 0-3, the game was killed off with two strikes in the space of 120 seconds that came 20 minutes after the first.
It could only ever be one man to make it two, yes that’s right, Martinez was there to meet a precise Diangana chip, nodding the ball low into the back of the net from close-range and scoring his fourth goal against MUFC of the season, having netted a hat-trick in a 4-2 London Stadium triumph against them in October.
Former Manchester City attacker Samuelsen popped up to put the tie to bed in quick succession, finishing off a quite superb run by drilling the ball high above Richardson to the delight of the few travelling Claret & Blue Army members.
Sandwiched in between the three notches was the nasty incident of Ercolani’s sending off, the Referee showing little hesitation pulling out his red card after a dangerous kick to the head of goal-scorer Diangana in the centre of the park.
Both teams had further opportunities although they would have had little impact on the outcome, Martinez being denied a second by Richardson heroics and Trott keeping his clean sheet intact by getting across well to stop substitute Angel Gomes’ free-kick.
Yet another humiliation for the Manchester club leaves them in considerable slumber, they will be hoping for a ray of light at the end of the Relegation tunnel when they face off with Arsenal in the League away from home next Monday.
While Westley’s men will now be brimming with confidence heading into the Friday evening visit of Leicester City to the Chigwell Construction Stadium, a match in which they could go fourth in the PL2 Division 1 standings.