A Ben Brereton strike was not enough as West Ham came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest Under 23s 2-1 in the Premier League Cup at Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena.
The forward’s first half header was cancelled out by a deflected Marcus Browne effort, before the midfielder struck the winner with four minutes left.
Forest started on the front foot and Elvis Otim had the game’s first effort on four minutes, picking up the loose ball in midfield and driving towards goal, but his effort from 25 yards was deflected just wide of Raphael Spiegel’s post.
Charlie Jemson came closer to breaking the deadlock moments later as he fired over from inside the six yard box under pressure from a West Ham defender following a corner, and Toby Edser hit a superb long-range effort just wide as The Reds went in search of an early opener.
West Ham grew into the first half, playing some neat football on the edge of the Forest box but were unable to create any clear openings. Alfie Lewis had a shot from the edge of the box which went wide on 24 minutes but some resolute defending kept the Hammers at bay.
The opening goal came on 36 minutes as a powerful Ben Brereton header nestled into the far corner after a superb delivery from Choz Charlesworth. The full-back linked well with Yassine En-Neyah on the right wing before delivering to the unmarked striker to head past Spiegel from 12 yards.
But the Hammers were level on 43 as Marcus Browne drove forward from midfield and shot from 25 yards. His effort took a wicked deflection off a Forest defender, wrong-footing Tim Erlandsson in The Reds’ goal and finding the back of the net.
Dani Pinillos put in another assured performance as he continued his comeback from injury, and he was replaced at half-time by Danny Preston.
West Ham started the second half the much stronger side, pinning Forest in their own half and dominating possession. Browne had a good chance for his second goal as he broke the offside trap on 55 minutes, but shot straight at Erlandsson.
Brereton nearly found his second on 59, as a swift counter-attack from a West Ham corner left the forward one-on-one with Vashon Neufville. Brereton went past the defender but Spiegel was equal to his powerful attempt to tip it over the bar.
Substitute Virgil Gomis provided a fresh approach in attack for Forest and he should have done better on 70 minutes as he found himself in space on the edge of the box after a smart pass by Brereton. Gomis allowed the ball to bounce before striking on the half-volley, but dragged his shot wide of the target.
Gomis almost found the decisive goal on 80, shrugging off the challenge of Alex Pike and hitting a great shot towards the far corner only to be denied by a fine fingertip-stop by Spiegel.
A superb clearance on the goal line by Charlesworth prevented Jahmal Hector-Ingram from tapping home on 83, and Browne almost superbly found the top corner with a free-kick two minutes later with Erlandsson beaten.
Browne was not to be denied though as he found the winner on 86. A driving run by Domingos Quina led to the midfielder forcing a low save from Erlandsson, and Browne was on hand to fire in the rebound from a tight angle.
Gomis had a chance to equalise in injury time, latching on to a through ball from Kyle McClean but his effort was well saved by Spiegel.
The Hammers held out for the win, consigning Forest to a second defeat in the Premier League Cup group stage, but The Reds had a lot of positives to take from the performance against a strong West Ham side.
:Forest Erlandsson, Charlesworth, Pinillos (Preston 45’), Neilsen, Jemson, McClean, En-Neyah, Edser, Brereton, Otim (Crookes 88’), Wright (Gomis 64’)
Unused subs: Marques, R. Worrall
Goal: Brereton 36’
Yellow card: McClean 85’
West Ham: Spiegel, Sylvestre, Neufville (Ford 75’), Quina, Pike, Rice, Kemp (Akinola 88’), Lewis, Hector-Ingram, Browne, Diangana (Parfitt-Williams 62’)
Unused subs: Forde, Gordon
Goals: Browne 43’, 86’
Yellow card: Browne 90’