The Academy of Football has been firing on all cylinders this season, with no fewer than seven graduates appearing for West Ham United's first team so far.

Meanwhile, a host of scholars have already graduated to the Development Squad, helping Ian Hendon's side to reach the top of the Barclays U21 Premier League Group 1 table.

With so many youngsters playing 'up' at a higher level, a number of first-year scholars and schoolboys have found themselves playing regularly for Nick Haycock's Under-18s. Fifteen-year-old Manny Onnariase has appeared in all ten Barclays U18 Premier League Group 1 matches, while first-years Kieran Bywater, Amos Nasha, Josh Cullen, Jamie Harney, Nana Boakye-Yiadom, Taylor Tombides, Rob Girdlestone, Nathan Mavila, Ben Marlow, Moses Makasi and Lewis Page have all played their part.

However, Haycock (pictured) admitted that his players' lack of experience has seen them come up short against teams full of second-year scholars, many of whom are more physically developed and used to life as full-time footballers.

The coach said those factors played a part in Saturday's 2-1 defeat by Reading at Little Heath, when he was without first-team squad member Leo Chambers and Development Squad players Frazer Shaw and Elliot Lee.

"The game was pretty similar to the others we have had in recent weeks," said Haycock. "We have basically been fielding an Under-17 team in an Under-18 league, save for two or three second-year scholars, so the boys are still getting used to playing 'up' and are giving away a lot in terms of age and experience.

"We have been in the game in each of our last three matches, but have come out with just one point from nine. At Everton the previous weekend, we looked back at the DVD and we should have had four penalties, while Reading's first goal this week was clearly offside.

"To their credit, the boys kept their shape well and worked hard to get back into the game, but Reading then scored a second through a 25-yarder just before half-time. At half-time, we told them we could get something if we did things better in the final third. We put on Manny Onnariase at half-time and he headed in a free-kick at the near post to get us back in it and I felt we could easily have gone on and won the game.

"We had two second-year scholars playing but Reading had at least seven. Their extra physicality showed and had a hand in the game, definitely. Despite the result, we are happy to be able to give the younger players the chance to play against the older players because it will stand them in great stead for next season.

"Our goal is to get as many players as possible up to the Under-21s and then on the bench for the first team. They have just got to use the experince they are getting and become a little bit more clinical in the final third and then the results will definitely start to come."

West Ham United: Sam Baxter, Cheye Alexander, Jamie Harney, Amos Nasha, Lewis Page, Taylor Miles, Josh Cullen, Kieran Bywater, Tom Gogo (Manny Onariase - 45mins), Nathan Mavilla (Josh Siafa - 65 mins), Moses Makasi (Nana Boakye-Yiadom - 45 mins)

Subs not used: Sam Howes, and Courtney Homans

Stoke City