Development Squad coach Nick Haycock was left wondering what might have been after West Ham United U21s fell to a 2-1 home defeat by Southampton in the Barclays U21 Premier League on Friday evening.
The Saints surged into a two-goal lead at the Boleyn Ground, with the excellent Omar Rowe finishing tidily past Raphael Spiegel early on, before Ryan Seager blasted high into the Hammers net from a corner with ten first-half minutes still to play.
The Hammers, however, were transformed after the interval and substitute Adrian Wojcik Kosela had rattled the woodwork and fired over from eight yards before finally halving the deficit in added time.
It was scant reward for a dominant second-half display and having lost by the odd goal in three against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday as well, coach Haycock was understandably aggrieved.
"I'm disappointed with the result and that's now two games and two narrow defeats," he told West Ham TV. "Though I didn't think we were fully at it first half, I thought we were unlucky not to take the lead and we've had two cleared off the line. On another day they go in.
"We regrouped at half-time and we asked for more intensity, more individual responsibility, better care of the football and said the chances would come. We were proved right.
"When Adrian came on and hit the bar midway through the second half - that might have been the turning point. We needed to get that first goal early and then it would have given us a bit more of a chance, even though we still had the opportunities to get back in the game late on.
"We've had eleven shots to their one in the second half and the boys know we should have got something out of the game. We thought we should have come away with three points. You can see lots of good things there it just needs more of the second-half performance and a little bit of luck going our way."
While the Hammers have little to show for their two outings thus far, Haycock has every confidence in his young men and is looking forward to the tough tests that lie in wait.
He continued: "Of course you want to win football matches and teach them how to win, but the learning experiences they gain playing in this league is invaluable.
"It's Manchester City next, then Liverpool and then Manchester United. What more could you ask for and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's challenging me as a coach, it's challenging the staff in all departments to produce players who can shine at that level and ultimately knock on the gaffer's door.
"We're more than capable of competing in this league. We earned the right to be in it last year and we're delighted to be in that league. Wherever we finish, as long as we're competitive in every game and providing the right challenge for our players, then that's what we're all about."
FT - Dev Squad 1-2 Southampton U21