Nick Haycock heaped praise on 19-year-old midfielder George Moncur, as his exceptional efforts paved the way for an impressive 2-1 Barclays Under-21 Premier League win over Liverpool at the Boleyn Ground.

A rare Ben Marlow header and a typically clinical Elliot Lee finish saw the Hammers two goals to the good at the break, as they closed in on a second successive Elite Group Stage victory.

But for a late Krisztian Adorjan penalty, it would have been a whole lot more comfortable, though Haycock's young charges clung on for a crucial three points to boost their hopes of a top-three finish.

Under-21s boss Haycock was rightly proud of one and all wearing claret and blue on the night, though he could hardly help but single out Moncur's mature and responsible display.

He told West Ham TV: "I think that was the best we've played. We went out on the pitch before kick-off to just touch upon how we were going to play in and out of possession and I have to say the players were brilliant in response to that. They are growing up as young players and as young men.

"You saw a few leaders out there and I think I should give George Moncur a special mention. I thought his energy, his appetite, his play in tight areas, his decision making with the ball was excellent. He's just got to keep going. He has been like that most of the season anyway. He's had a very good season, he's very good around the dressing room and out on the pitch he's now pushing and pushing and he can do no more.

"The two front lads were lively and caused them problems. They played exactly where I asked them to play. Worked hard behind the ball, but got into areas where we could hit them early and play on the counter-attack. And if we could establish play in their half, it was about quality in and around the edge of their box. That's where Elliot and Sean come alive."

Lee's first-half goal, his second in as many outings, was quite brilliant, as he left Stephen Sama in his wake, before slotting into the far corner. The teenage forward is fast acquiring a reputation for his fine finishing and Haycock was as enthused as ever with his No9.

He added: "Fantastic! That's what he's about. His magic is in the box. He comes alive, he twists and turns. We did an individual session with him and it pays dividends because he listens to what you say and he has got good game intelligence about him.

"That's what he is, he's a finisher, aligned with the hard work we've asked him to put in. That was on the back of an illness that he had, so he's just finding his feet again and hopefully he can finish the season strongly."

An eye-catching team display proved a timely reminder of the talent Haycock has at his disposal and with Sam Allardyce's side flying high, he harbours hopes of a debut or two before the season is out.

"Sam, Macca, Hendo and the team support us massively. Sam will do what he sees fit but he knows there are young, hungry lads waiting and I'm obviously pushing him behind the scenes and champing at the bit to get them in there. But I appreciate the job he has done this season. That's a decision he has to make and like he has done many times this season, he'll make the right one."

Meanwhile, the three points lift the Hammers into fourth, four points behind Liverpool with two games to play. The Reds have Manchester United and Arsenal still to come, which could yet make for a thrilling end to the campaign, with the top three progressing to the end-of-season Play-Offs.

"I kept it alive in there. We challenged them when we spoke two games ago, that we're going to have to go and win four games, playing the way we try and play. We deserved the win tonight and Wolves have beaten Manchester United as well, which keeps it open. Liverpool have got to play Manchester United, so if we can beat Southampton we can take it to the last game."

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