Under-18s coach Nick Haycock said his players had risen to the challenge in Monday's 3-1 FA Youth Cup third-round victory at Aldershot Town.

Playing on a bitterly cold night against useful and determined opponents, West Ham United recovered from a nervous first half to score three second-half goals and win through to the last-32.

Striker Elliot Lee scored twice, either side of a thumping header from Northern Ireland U17 international centre-back Jamie Harney, as the Hammers completed a hard-fought success.

Speaking to West Ham TV afterwards, Haycock discussed the tie and the club's positive approach to bring young players through from the Academy to the first-team squad.

Nick, what was your assessment of a victory earned on a cold and, at times, tricky night at the Ebb Stadium?

NH - "In the end it was a great victory. All credit to Aldershot because I thought they were well-organised and had a game plan to try to upset us. I thought there were a lot of niggly tackles and fouls but, at the end of the day, our boys have got to learn that sometimes decisions don't go your way.

"I just felt that the younger lads, particularly the first-year scholars, looked a little bit apprehensive, which is understandable and all part of the development process that they are going through. It's probably the first game in their lives which is a must-win game and if they lose they are out of the competition. We set up to win every game but on a Saturday, win, lose or draw it is in a league. The FA Youth Cup is different. You put your best team out to try to win it.

"I think we missed the experience of Leo Chambers at the back, which is a big miss both for him and for the club because he was pushing down the lines of the first team. Dymon Labonne is another one who has an injury. He is a second-year whose experience we could have done with in the forward line. I think it told during the game.

"As the game went on, we got more and more into it. I still think we had the better chances and had we scored in the first five minutes when we had two great chances, it may have settled the lads down. Sometimes coming away to a smaller club in an environment that the boys aren't used to, it took them time to adapt. Fair play to them, though, because they avoided a giant-killing. It could have gone a different way at various stages of the game so, all-in, I'm pleased."

Elliot Lee scored two typically clinical goals, while Jamie Harney's header was a real thumping effort, wasn't it?

NH - "One of Jamie's main attributes is his heading and, in a game like that where there was a lot of aerial stuff when they put the ball in our box, I thought he was very good in the air. I said to him as we came off the pitch that I thought he was one of our better performers and I felt that the game suited him.

"Fair play to Elliot. I said to him at half-time that they had a game plan to try to upset him. They had watched him play and credit to him because a few years ago he'd have probably snapped and got himself a booking for retaliating. At half-time, we said to him that 'They are nudging you and the ref isn't giving everything, but if you keep your cool you will get your chances' and that is what he is about - he's a clinical finisher and he took both of his goals well."

Under-18s

It may sound silly, but did Aldershot Town's goal to make it 2-1 with 15 minutes to go give you a welcome opportunity to see how your players would react to a difficult situation - especially as they did well and made it 3-1 to kill the game off?

NH - "I'd have preferred it if it had stayed 2-0! No, they could have had a little wobble and Aldershot were getting balls into the box and they dealt with it in the main. Aldershot did play the game the right way, but their main threat came from set pieces. They had a little height advantage over us, as most teams do at the minute as we are developing our players.

"I have to give Josh Cullen a mention as I brought him off but I could have brought anyone off at half-time. I just felt we needed to get Kieran Bywater into his best position in the middle of the park. We tried him out wide because he's been doing well there but I think the change gave us a bit more stability. I said to Josh that it is part of his development and that it could have been one of eleven at half-time. He was the one I replaced mainly because I felt that their major danger would come from set pieces and I needed height out there and Josh is still physically developing. Josh is a terrific player and a terrific lad and I told him that it was all part of his experience."

The Under-18s now take a break for Christmas and the New Year before returning for the Barclays U18 Premier League Tier One Stage and the next round of the FA Youth Cup. How do you keep the boys ticking over?

NH - "It was brilliant that the assistant manager Neil McDonald and the Development Squad coach Ian Hendon both came along and watched the whole game on Monday. We have got a great feeling going through the club and a great relationship with the senior set-up and it's always been the main aim to have to have a strong development side because those players could be the next first team.

"The second-year scholars will be in with the Development Squad, as will some first-years as well. The final Development Squad game is at Norwich City on Monday and that will be a young side because Hendo wants to have a look at the players he will be blooding after Christmas. As has always been the plan, he will take the players he wants and I will be left with the others, who we will then blend with the Under-16s and Under-15s in the youth team. We have got some good schoolboys coming through.

"It was always all about the development process, whichever league we ended up in. It will probably suit us being in the Tier One league because we will be young, as we were at Blackburn Rovers in our last Group 1. We want to see more players pushing on because the more players we can get near to the first team on a regular basis, that's what we're all about.

"Macca and Hendo would want us to go out to win the FA Youth Cup and the Development Squad will obviously go out to win the Elite Group Stage after Christmas, but the overall aim is to keep an eye on the ones who can train with the first team and go on the bench."

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