Our under-23s maintained their place in the Premier League 2 for another season on Friday night as they salvaged a late 2-2 draw away to West Ham.
Steve Bould’s side came into this fixture knowing that a point would guarantee safety, and thanks to an impressive individual performance from Kido Taylor-Hart, we were able to secure a share of the spoils deep into stoppage time.
Marcelo Flores was handed his debut at this level, while Omar Rekik was named in his first matchday squad since joining the club in January.
The opening 45 minutes proved to be a tightly-contested affair with little to separate the two sides. Nikolaj Moller had the best chance of the first half as he was picked out by Folarin Balogun, but his powerful header sailed over the bar.
Following the restart, we knew that maintaining a 0-0 draw would guarantee our safety, but the hosts started brightly and opened the scoring through Ademipo Odubeko. A corner was whipped in to the back post and West Ham’s No 9 was on hand to provide the finishing touch.
Moments later, Balogun came agonisingly close to an equaliser, curling just around the post, before eventually winning a penalty after being played through on goal by Taylor-Hart and forcing a foul from the keeper. Moller stepped up and made no mistake in finding the bottom corner, sending the keeper the opposite way.
We looked set for a share of the spoils as we defended in numbers and the closing stages approached, but there would be late drama, as Andriy Yarmolenko crossed from the edge of the area and picked out Pierre Ekwah Elimby, who fired into the top corner.
By this stage, our safety rested in the hands of results elsewhere, but with one last roll of the dice, Miguel Azeez picked out Alex Kirk at the far post with an inch-perfect delivery, and there was Taylor-Hart to convert the knockdown from close range and guarantee safety on the final day of the season.
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