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2013-04-30T10:00:00 Updated 2015-02-19T00:47:52

Potts proud of improving U18s

Steve Potts was brimming with pride after West Ham United's 2-1 Barclays U18 Premier League Tier One Stage win over Liverpool.

The Hammers completed their slate of home fixtures for 2012/13 with a deserved win over the Reds at Little Heath on Saturday.

West Ham went ahead on ten minutes when trialist Joe Ward directed Nathan Mavila's cross into the bottom left-hand corner. Mavila doubled the hosts' lead on 38 minutes, meaning Alex O'Hanlon's second-half goal was nothing more than a consolation.

"I'm very pleased with what I saw" said Potts, whose side finish their season with a trip to Stoke City on Saturday. "I thought we gave an all-round good performance in the first half. We worked very hard defensively and didn't let the Liverpool players settle on the ball. When we had the ball, we moved it around the pitch well and grabbed ourselves two goals. I think we deserved more goals.

"I thought the first goal was made very well. We moved the ball quickly from the middle out to the wing. Nathan put a good cross in and Joe finished it well. For the second goal, we had a long clearance aimed at Nathan, who shrugged off his defender before finishing with his weaker foot. They were two very impressive finishes.

"The second half was a little tougher on us as Liverpool started pressing forward and keeping hold of the ball in good areas. We had to dig in and work hard. We conceded a goal but held on at the back to take the win. Overall, I was pleased with the performance."

Victory lifted West Ham to fourth in the Tier One table, a point behind third-place Liverpool.

Potts was impressed with the start his side made in the first half, but knew that a team as strong as Liverpool were always going to be a threat in the second half. Despite this, the Hammers boss knew his side had the ability to ride out the danger.

"It's part of the game, especially when you are playing against decent opposition" he continued. "There are always going to be times when we are going to have to dig in and work hard defensively, which we did.

"As I said to the boys at the end, I felt we could have held the ball better in the second half as it would have helped take the pressure off us. That was probably the only criticism that I might have, but I was still impressed by how they held onto the result.

"You always have that thought in your head that, against good opposition, you might relax for that split-second and the ball will end up in the back of your net. When we needed to defend well, when Liverpool were putting crosses in and getting round the back, we defended very well."

Over the course of the season, some of the youth team's brightest talents have regularly been called up to feature in Nick Haycock's Development Squad, with the current U18s boss believing his players have benefited from the experience of playing under their former manager.

"When I watched the West Ham Development Squad match on Friday against Liverpool, I thought all the lads that played were excellent. I really did think it was a brilliant performance. Nick has got that team going really well and it's just nice to see some of the younger lads in there pushing on. They are getting pushed a lot but playing well at the same time.

"As my team showed in this game, there was a real mixture of ages, but like the Development Squad, we pushed on and beat Liverpool, so I am very happy from that point of view."

With Saturday's trip to Stoke City being the Hammers' final match of the current campaign, Potts is hoping that his side will end the season with back-to-back victories.

"I hope that we can end the season with a win at Stoke next week. The boys have performed well over the course of the season. Combine the performances with being organised and determined, also trying to make ourselves hard to beat and it's a good recipe."

The final game of this season also brings to a close Steve Potts' first half-season in charge of the U18s, after he took over from Haycock in December 2012.

"I have enjoyed the season. For the second half of the season, I've been in charge of the Under-18s team and you can notice the difference from the Under- 16s. The games with these lads have been more intense because they are that two years older and the competition get harder.

"It also isn't as easy to open up and break through opposition defences and you have to be more solid as a team when you move forward looking for goals. Tactically, the team is looking stronger because, with the younger teams, the games can be more end to end, whereas at this level, you may only get one or two chances in a game and you have to take them."

The final U18 match of the Tier One stage at Stoke takes place on Saturday 4 May, with kick-off at 11am.

West Ham United U18s: Nemrava, Knoyle, Harney, Onaraise, Burke, Page, Miles (Girdlestone) (Gogo), Makasi, Parfitt-Williams, Mavila, Ward (Boakye-Yiadom)
Subs not used: Brown, Pike


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