By Scott Taylor
OKERA SIMMONDS scored an 85th minute opener but Liverpool U18s were held to a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham at the Kirkby Academy on Friday evening.
The Liverpool playmaker netted his fifth goal of the season and it looked as if Neil Critchley’s side had won it, but Joe Powell’s late penalty shared the spoils.
The Reds remain unbeaten in the U18 Premier League play-offs after their opening three games, and stay second, a point behind the leaders Chelsea who have a game in hand.
Critchley made three changes from the 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers a fortnight ago, with Rhys Williams, Glen McAuley and Luis Longstaff coming into the side, with the latter making his first start at this level for Liverpool.
However, it was one of the mainstays in the Reds line-up who was called into action early on, with Danny Atherton being forced into a save from Jamahl Hector-Ingram’s effort.
The hosts responded midway through the first half, with Longstaff, who netted in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United earlier in the competition, setting up the returning McAuley, but the Irishman could not convert his 17th goal of the season.
Liverpool were soon under pressure again, and were indebted to their goalkeeper Atherton, who produced a superb reaction save to get the better of Hector-Ingram again with the home side lucky to be level at the half-time whistle.
West Ham continued their onslaught on the Reds goal in the 49th minute, with Anthony Scully firing over and looking a disappointed figure as Liverpool survived another scare.
Hector-Ingram had another chance to find an opener, but the striker again couldn’t convert as West Ham looked the mostly likely to grab an opener.
However, as the saying goes, you have to score when you are on top, and this couldn’t be more true for the Hammers, as Simmonds latched onto a loose ball to put Liverpool ahead with five minutes of the tie remaining.
There was still a late twist, and Hector-Ingram’s persistent effort was rewarded as he eventually got the better of Atherton, who brought down the West Ham forward inside the penalty area in added time.
Despite the pressure, Powell kept his cool to give the visitors what was on the balance of play a well deserved point.
Liverpool will travel to third-placed Reading next Saturday, with the Royals having picked up four points from their opening three games.
LIVERPOOL U18s: Atherton; N. Williams, R. Williams, Johnston, Glennon; Coyle, Sharif, Jones; Longstaff (Camacho 77’), McAuley (Simmonds 69’), Millar.