Nick Haycock admitted a slow start had cost his side dearly as the Development Squad slipped to a 2-0 Barclays Under-21 Premier League Elite Group defeat against Manchester United at Altrincham FC.

Former Crewe Alexandra youngster Nick Powell opened the scoring inside just five minutes, as West Ham United struggled to find their feet at a sodden Moss Lane.

It was 18-year-old Powell who settled matters a minute from full-time, profiting from a defensive muddle to double his tally for the evening and send Manchester United second in the Elite Group table.

Haycock subsequently conceded that he was none too impressed with the Hammers' first-half showing and accepts his side are perhaps short of inspiration in the final third, having struck just once in their last four outings.

"We can definitely do more creatively," he told West Ham TV. "I just think there might be a slight lack of spark at the minute, due to the volume of games. But we've got goalscorers in the team and as you saw in the second half, once we started to get the ball in the box a little more, we looked more of a threat.

"Maybe for the first 20 minutes Manchester United got on top. You know they're going to have plenty of the football, because you're playing away from home, like you would do if you were at Old Trafford. We were expecting that.

"We came in at half time and there were one or two who I was disappointed with, who didn't actually give me what I know they're capable of. I made it known at half time that I wasn't happy with the performance.

"In the second half I thought we came out and responded. They are a good set of lads and I knew I'd get that reaction. The plan was to try and stay in the game and obviously try to sneak something towards the end. Had we got the game's second goal it would have been game on but unfortunately there's a little mix up at the end which killed it."

The Hammers' task was made all the more difficult by the late withdrawal of Pelly Ruddock, who pulled up in the warm-up. It was a second injury blow in as many days, as midfielder Sebastian Lletget, too, had been ruled out with a slight knock. Haycock, however, was not about to bemoan his ill-fortune and instead hoped his side would make the best of a late reshuffle.

"Losing Pelly in the warm-up wasn't an ideal situation but that's part and parcel of football and we had to deal with it," he added. "I told the boys in the dressing room, 'The first team lost two players in the first eleven minutes but ultimately those two players came on and delivered the winning goal between them'. Sometimes things like that happen in football and you've got to be ready to slide people in.

"Callum Driver is only just back into his rehab so we knew he only had 60 minutes in him. We had only planned to play him for 30 or at most 45 minutes, but obviously we had to push it a bit longer. Leading up to the game, we lost Seb Lletget who has been an integral part of the midfield. So we've had to change the shape of the team as well in preparing for the game.

"People have got to bear in mind, we've got a young squad and one or two are finding the going tough with the back to back games. We'll patch ourselves up again and we've got to go again against Liverpool on Monday."

The Development Squad return to action on Monday 11 March, when they make another journey to the North West to take on Liverpool at the Reds' Kirby Training Ground.

West Bromwich Albion